Sunday, February 23, 2014

Home is where the frozen wasteland is

In retrospect, I should have known that the quickly approaching man was angry with me. 

“Oh, sorry, is this your coat?” I asked, removing the napkins I’d set on top of it.  I’d thought it was my wife’s coat in the seat next to me.  We were psyching ourselves up to board a plane with our two small kids, so I wasn’t paying much attention to anything that didn’t directly relate to keeping them from making a scene.  When you’re traveling with kids, any second that they’re not screaming is a second that you are winning. 

“It’s a jacket on a seat.  This isn’t brain surgery,” the guy replied, yanking his coat off the seat and grabbing his roller-suitcase that sat on the other side of me.  As he stormed off, I realized that his jacket and suitcase were social cues stating, “This is my seat.”  Though he was nasty about it, in his defense, without urinating on the legs of the chairs, he probably couldn’t have marked his territory any more obviously.  What I did with those social cues, after returning with the overpriced bagels I’d procured for my family, was sit on them.

“Neither is being a nice person,” I called after him.  He looked back and started to say something, then realized I was right, shook his head at himself, reevaluated his life, and left the airport to join a monastery, the kind where they flagellate themselves often and with vigor.

Not really.  Our brief altercation occurred at 11:15am, and I thought of my comeback at around 8:30pm, just a few beats too late.

“You think that guy is from Florida or home?” I asked my wife Kara.

“Probably home,” she said.

“Yeah, probably.  I want to blame him on Florida, though,” I said.

After a week of eighty-degree days, palm trees and white sand, I needed something to knock Florida down a couple notches.  We’d been visiting Kara’s parents, who picked a great year to become fledgling snowbirds, at their new place near the beach. 

“I don’t wanna go home!” our four year-old-son Evan had wailed that morning as we packed our suitcases, a sentiment shared by us all, in part because we knew what awaited us at home. 

We’d spent the previous week washing sand out of our children’s nooks and crannies, watching skinny birds with cowlicks strut by and eating ice cream as if the world’s supply was melting.

Then we’d sit in the warm evening breeze on the porch, scrolling through our Facebook news feeds, watching updates from our friends back home as they weathered a blizzard that the Weather Channel had decided to name Trixie or Max Power or something.

“Guess the dog’s not going out until I shovel,” one friend wrote, posting a picture of the snow piled halfway up her screen door.

Earlier in the week, as I’d sipped coffee in the morning light, I checked the temperature back home.  Negative eight degrees.  Just thinking about it chilled me all the way down to my sun-dappled sandals.

“Time to head back to the tundra,” I said to Kara as we hoisted our children and headed down the jetway to our plane, which would be landing at a different airport than we’d intended, on account of the horrible weather that we’d chosen to live in.

Kara and I looked at each other and considered bolting back past security, into the Florida sunshine.  Sure, we couldn’t live with Kara’s folks indefinitely, but there were plenty of coconuts down there.  We’d get by.

But we decided to tough it out and fly back where we belonged, avoiding eye contact with the new friend I’d made out at the gate.

When we arrived home that evening, exhausted and hours behind schedule, we found a path that our neighbors had dug to our garage for us as a welcome-home present.  Sometimes, even in two feet of snow, you can find a ray of sunshine.

You can stomp on Mike Todd’s snow fort at

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