Looking out the office window Saturday I cringed. Rough winds and heavily falling snow presaged only one thing: it would be “rough sledding” shopping with Helen that day.

“Aunt Helen,” I queried, “You sure you want to schlep in this weather?”
“I must get to the bank.”
(WHY? I wondered. If she doesn’t go out she doesn’t need cash). Gales whistled  outside as I mumbled “Pick you up at 1”. 64 years and 6 weeks old and… emasculated once more.

I was wrong, though. Very wrong. It was a wondrous day.

Something happened, I swear: a paradigm shift our first moments together. Yes, I’d arrived minutes early. Yes, I’d poached, idling in my car but houses away…until 12:58. And yes, at the appropriate moment I’d pulled in her driveway—the final approach.

It was 1PM—precisely—as I rang her bell.

Yet something was different. Gingerly we traversed her  steps. My left hand in her right, my right hand in her left…dancing like Von Trapp and Maria…slowly navigating unshoveled snow. And Yes, she reminded me–even as we walked— that her landlord “is evil”.

Yet something was different. Call it karma. It was in the air—the fresh air we both needed.

“We must go to the bank first,” she told me at Mayfield and Green.
(Already ten holiday shopping Saturday afternoon driving minutes from her home, the traffic was stubborn like her).
“There’s a PNC at Richmond,” I noted.
“I must use my branch.”
“Why?” I asked half-heartedly, already laughing, accepting, and turning around.

So we talked, smiled, and as we drove past Rowland School for the second time that day, we shared.

“Why is Harold so close with Harriet?” asked Helen. I gave her MY answer, placing the genesis in the early 60’s.
“We didn’t know her then,” my aunt noted. I tendered then, a Cliffs Notes version of our parents’ divorce, the interaction between our father and Grandpa Irv, and how the latter’d pushed the ball down the hill. I theorized how H’s closeness to Irv played out over many years and kept him closer to Harriet. (It was utter nonsense of course, and in some ways I was telling it just so I could repeat it to Hal. Still, with just enough fact thrown in ‘twas 20% plausible…and she grasped it).

“There was no reason for the divorce,” she asserted.
“I know,” I lamented. “And poor Harold was the ‘child of divorce’,” I bemoaned. Nodding in agreement, she’d apparently forgotten that I’d also been hurt. On this beautiful day that was Saturday though, her priorities bothered me not. Myopic she was; and he was Raymond, me Robert. Ah, but all was good.

We finally hit Marc’s, her home court: that favorite grocery she loved to hate….

“Do you have any more good stories?” she asked after shopping. (We were heading to Jack’s, her home deli. You know— that deli she loves to hate).

So we shared yet some more—

About last week in Chicago. And Lucy. And how on Saturday night we got lost in the city. How Stacy put some idiot from the restaurant on the phone to guide us in, but that the person spoke “broken English” and I couldn’t understand. And how the clown asked me where I was and I told her the intersection and she told me to just make a left turn and I’d be there and how, exasperated I kept saying “If you don’t know which way I am facing how do you know which way I should turn? And how ultimately Jason had to leave the restaurant and come and get us.

She devoured the story!

And she loved it too as I told of the mathematics involved figuring the appropriate way to split the check. There were, after all, three of us (Carrie, Leesa et moi), and Stace and Jace, and then Jason’s Dad and Stacy’s Mom. What was appropriate? How I’d gone to the bathroom to Google it but couldn’t get help. And I’d phoned a friend. And I’d even asked the audience (in part)….

Yes, she savored the tale, my aunt did. And moreover, the lady stayed true to form.

“What did you do?” she asked, (and I told her).
“You were wrong!” she pronounced.

The good news is that I too stayed true to form. Grimacing a bit, I laughed and accepted.

Flurries were falling as I dropped her off. It was darker and colder, but we danced…

Up the walk…to her steps…oh so slowly—Von Trapp and Maria.

—And then I drove back… up Cedar—through the wind and the cold— glowing. Why would anyone, I wondered, complain about weather? Indeed! Not if on a day like today—where even in snow, it was 99 and warm.

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