Last week I enjoyed a rare and wonderful three-day weekend. I took Monday as a vacation day and my night classes were bumped a day from the normal Monday-Thursday nights to Tuesday-Friday nights because of the state and federal holiday celebrating a lost Italian sailor. Not only was the extra day welcome, but the weekend was full of little and fun activities. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
My weekend started a little early, beginning on Thursday night after class. We finished our anatomy final and spent the rest of class, once everything was graded, chatting and learning the landmarks of the scapula. It was the end of the “quarter” (This is despite the fact that our year-long program includes five quarters; imprecision bugs me a little). One class graduated that night and while there is no big commencement ceremony, there is a neat tradition where all the other classes and staff line the halls as the graduating class leaves the building for the last time, slapping hands and sneaking hugs in a joyous ritual of good wishes and hopes for a positive future. I love rituals and things like this. Following that, a few members of our class went out for drinks at the bar around the corner from the school. We drank, chatted, and played pool. It was fun and a great way to blow off some leftover steam after the grinding week of finals and work. I bid adieu a little after 1 a.m., feeling young and celebratory. It’s been years since I have stayed out that late, minus my late-night walks in the dark or the rare concert night. With one drink in two and a half hours, I was fine to take my much younger and slightly inebriated classmate home. I pulled into the parking lot of her apartment, made sure she made it inside, and then pointed the car north for home. I rolled down the windows, turned up the radio, and enjoyed the late-night drive on a mostly empty highway. Once home, I plopped into bed, exhausted, knowing I still needed to work on Friday.
Friday morning dawned earlier than I wanted, but I rolled out of bed quickly, brewed coffee, and jumped into a long-sleeved shirt and jeans, wrapped a batik-printed scarf around my neck, and stepped into flats. These were comfy Friday teaching clothes! I slammed coffee and chewed on a bagel and two plums on the beautiful fall Friday morning commute into Boulder. It was a pleasurable and easy day of teaching, on one of my favorite topics, for one of my favorite teachers. I had six classes of sixth grade science, which can be exhausting but was exhilarating. It was peaceful to be in one room, and not moving between multiple rooms or schools with teaching props spilling out of my arms. I had lovely, curious sixth graders, most of whom recognized me from visiting their classes in elementary school. It’s fun to see them grow up and it’s nice to get recognized, in a job where I see as many as 8,000-10,000 students in a teaching year. I love what I do, moving between multiple schools in the county, but I know I miss developing relationships with all of these learners!
After teaching, I swung by the office to pick up my paycheck and to drop off my teaching props. Coincidentally, my colleague was in a school bus on the same stretch of road, in the final few minutes of her field trip with cute third graders, whom I had just seen a couple of weeks before when I visited their school with a lesson on composting to prepare them for the field trip. When I thought I could hear someone yelling my name, I looked up to see sweet A.B. waving wildly. The funny eight and nine-year-olds took up her example, waving and making faces from the school bus window. For once I was quick enough to roll down the window, honk, and wave, sharing my own goofy faces. That sweet gesture put me in a moment of euphoric bliss, a great way to start the weekend.
Not far from the office and the middle school is a Chinese restaurant tucked into a supermarket strip mall. I hadn’t eaten there in years, as it used to be the spot considered “our place” by my at-the-time-boyfriend and me. It was in walking distance from his home and the restaurant stayed open late most days. We ate there on one of our first dates and at least once a week in our two-and-a-half-year courtship. Despite the strip mall location, it’s a really good restaurant with well-prepared, but cheap food. They even have all Chinese menus for Chinese speakers and serve some food not found on the menus of most “American Chinese” places. The fall day was cooling in the late afternoon, so I decided to drop in after a four-year absence. I ordered a pot of green tea and a bowl of egg drop soup. I relished the quiet corner and luxuriated in nourishing hot liquids. It slipped me into a moment of nostalgia, remembering that relationship and the man who introduced me to that restaurant. We are still friends, but only keep in touch sporadically, and I realized how grateful I was for him, our relationship, and the memories that have framed me and shaped me. When I got home, I sent him a quick message, and while I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling, I could at least say I was thinking of him. Sometimes it is good to reach out to those who are part of our past, as our pasts form our futures.
My sister was working late on Friday, so I had the apartment to myself. I curled up with a book, grateful it was finally cool enough to cuddle under a quilt. I dozed in a nap of late afternoon-early evening splendor. I woke up to the phone ringing, and my sister offered to bring home dinner from her own favorite Chinese place. I put in my order for vegetable fried rice and an egg roll, and then got the living room ready for a Friday night dinner, clearing the coffee table and getting drinks ready. Kelly and I chatted, sharing dinner while catching up on the week’s details and upcoming weekend plans. Sharing food with a loved one is a great way to end the week.
Saturday morning, after a night sleeping like a log, I woke up at 7:15 a.m. I made coffee and sat cross-legged on the bed with my battered laptop for a board meeting via Skype. Normally, technology is not my thing, but it amazes me that eight people in China, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California, and Iowa can get together via computers and smart phones and meet to govern a tiny nonprofit with a small budget. No gas, no travel, just a two-hour meeting to get things done. It was my first board meeting for a group that a dear friend from my college days founded. We only got back in touch about seven or eight months ago, but that flurry of e-mails and instant messages of a renewed friendship, and my offer to help out over the summer, turned into an invitation to be the secretary of the board. It’s great to work with him again, and for a cause that I love, even though he’s halfway around the world. It’s also nice to be asked to contribute one’s time, talents, and skills. I am looking forward to the challenges of working with others to reenergize an organization that is small and mighty.
Following the meeting, I jumped into clothes and drove to a neighboring town to meet other friends with whom I had only recently gotten back in touch. I had worked with this couple and really enjoyed their friendship, but with job changes on their end and busy schedules all around, I don’t see them any more. It was only after a chance encounter at the recycling drop-off center a month ago that I bumped into them, we exchanged phone numbers and made those vague promises to keep in touch. They called a couple of weeks ago, wondering if I knew anyone who might want to buy their daughter’s slightly-used massage chair, since I had updated them on my night school activities. I said, “Yes, me!” We made a date to meet for coffee and a chair purchase at their house. Saturday morning, we drank coffee, talked about nothing and everything, ate breakfast pastries, and played with their dogs. I didn’t want the morning to end, but since our conversation flowed as easily as the coffee, I think the friendship is there and renewed. I now need to make it a point to reach out, to keep those threads strong and unbroken. I loaded up the car with the massage chair in its big bulky black nylon bag, along with a small bag of goodies, including homemade grape jelly from their backyard grapes, from my open-hearted friends who never want you to leave empty-handed. I drove home happy with the visit and my new-to-me-bargain-priced massage chair.
One of the joys of a long weekend is the extra time for a nap and more time for reading. I curled up in the warmth of a sunspot on my bed with a book for a little afternoon read-and-snooze. After an hour or so, I gathered up my bags for errands. I needed to run to the library and the grocery store and to the post office and after completing those run-of-the-mill errands, I headed north for a little wardrobe renewal (read clothes shopping). I window shopped, wandered around, and watched people, enjoying the solitary experience of my own schedule. I could take my time, rushing or lingering based on my own clock. I got just what I needed for work and school and all for less than I had calculated, not counting on the store-wide sale.
Saturday night was a quiet night of a home-cooked dinner, online streamed episodes of two of my favorite guilty pleasure shows–Nashville and Parenthood–and then more reading. Sunday morning, I got up early for a workout and then got ready for an appointment with my camera. I showered and dressed in jeans, sweater, and hiking boots and made a thermos-ful of coffee. I went to my favorite restaurant to pick up a $2 breakfast burrito and started a little road trip around the county to take pictures of silos. I didn’t plan out my driving route, instead opting to look and stop as I went. Most of my photography adventures have involved walking or standing, so it was a challenge to figure out where to pull over safely, out of the way of Sunday bicyclists and Sunday drivers. Since I didn’t always have a lot of time before the next car or bicycle would pass by, I kept my camera turned on in the front seat next to me, with both front windows rolled down completely to keep the grime of my windows out of the picturesque shots. It was a fun four-hour day of just looking at old silos and imagining the history of these area farms. Photography is an interesting hobby to me, and I love the low-stakes effort of trying a hundred different snaps of the camera and hoping that at least one or two turn out okay. I made it home for lunch and then a little light cleaning and organizing.
Sunday night, I met my sister for dinner at my dad and stepmom’s house. They live nearby, but with work and school schedules, I haven’t seen them to chat for more than once in the last month or so. My stepmom made a wonderful fall meal and we sat around the table talking all things politics, the local flood, and our day-to-day routines, while eating oven-baked chicken, wild rice, fall roasted vegetables, and dinner rolls. The meal and evening passed quickly and I remembered that as important as it is to catch up with old friends and renew friendships, family bonds are also there to keep strong and supported.
After dinner and clean up, Kelly and I headed to the movie theatre on the way home to watch Gravity. Our theatre is in a dying mall, and while there are plans for rebuilding and rejuvenation, the theater has bargain prices on Sundays and Tuesdays, $5 for any movie or $8 for 3-D. I had not been to the movies in a while, but we were eager to try out the 3-D version of the Sandra Bullock-George Clooney space thriller. The movie lives up to the hype, with amazing special effects, but it thrilled me more because it seemed almost like a play with two characters and lots of emotion. I came out of the movie feeling like I had emerged from another world, grateful to be part of humanity, and in awe of the autumnal night sky, still able to see a few stars despite some interference from cloud cover and the parking lot lights. Kelly and I came home and talked about the movie, each sharing our favorite parts and our opinions. I decided my only critique of the movie was that while Bullock was brilliant, and it’s clear the movie is hers, it needed more Clooney. It’s kind of like how Christopher Walken needed more cowbell in the much-loved Saturday Night Live skit.
Monday morning dawned with clouds and cooling weather. I relished a few extra minutes in bed to read, knowing it was the last day of my mini-fall vacation. I got up, making a leisurely breakfast to go with the Sunday paper I had ignored the day before. Dressed in old ratty jeans and a t-shirt, I took my blissfully empty car (free of dead weight) for a thorough cleaning, making a list while I waited for it to be spruced up. For a quick wash and vacuum, it’s almost like getting a full car detailing at a fraction of the price. As I’ve said before, I love when my car, office, and home are simultaneously clean and organized. Well, at least two out of three isn’t bad, I decided. After car cleaning, I took my two-year-old-but-looks-like-it’s-fifty laptop to a small computer repair shop, hoping they could perform miracles on a screen sprinkled with giant cracks and screen bleeds, a broken e-key, and a filthy keyboard. The woman at the counter looked unphased at my computer’s sorry state and said they would call by the end of the day with an estimate for repairs. I was finally free of an errand that I had delayed for months.
Later that afternoon, I had made a self-appointed appointment for writing at a cute, downtown coffee shop. I ordered a large cafe olé (café au lait) to justify my space at a table, and sat down with a pen and an old leather-bound notebook, which I occasionally use for writing adventures. There’s a local meet-up group of writers that convenes weekly, but I never seem to make their meetings, partly out of shyness and partly out of forgetfulness and partly because I think I might be a poser. I decided that for now, I’ll make my own solo writing appointments at my favorite coffeehouse, at least once every couple of weeks. I could write at home, but there’s something about getting out of the house and shedding my own baggage, or at least shedding my own list of chores that I should do around the house. When there’s an open table in a quiet corner, it tempts me to be brave in my head and heart. I also find that writing with a pen and paper is another way to get creative and make the writing more of an occasion. I want it to be separate from the daily e-mail checking and wrapping up assignments from work. I want it to be separate from my daily computer leisure time of looking at my favorite blogs, my Facebook account, the Runnersworld.com website, news sites, or the stats page of this blog, while hoping that a long personal letter from a friend will pop up in my e-mail. I wrote for five hours, finishing my second-ever short story, which may pop up here after some typing and editing. The long time in the coffee shop ended with the Monday bluegrass night, so I was putting the finishing touches on the story with my caffeine buzz slowly winding down to the tunes and talents of a local bluegrass band. I love bluegrass and I skated out of the coffee shop, my middle finger writer’s bump throbbing and my heart singing with a nasal twang and the hum of mandolin in my ears. The evening was calm and cold, as I reached for my sweater and headed home.
Three days with time for people and things and activities I love. Blissful and beautiful. I realize how much I have to be grateful for in this life, including rare and resplendent three day weekends.