It's a record setting year in the Vandenberg funhouse. I took the Christmas tree down Friday and reset the living room.
I like it when that happens because it creates space. Christmas can be claustrophobic, but for me so can a walk in the park. Or a wedding ring that won't come off. That's not an analogy
Christmas notoriously runs long in our home. When we had both girls at home they would sleep downstairs in front of the tree. One year, we didn't even take it down. Now in recollection, that may have been two years in a row.
But spending an afternoon taking it down, putting all the keepsakes in their respective boxes with tissue paper and then putting all the boxes in the plastic bins is tedious work. I dismantle the tree and place it in this nylon bag, that you could put a body in, and haul it thumping down the basement stairs.
But on the other side of the work is the welcome of spring and the renewed space of the home. Windows open and fresh, cool air circulating through the home.
It also means its time to clean all the windows and dust the furniture, vacuum and a fresh set of eyes. This year it meant several trips to the landfill with out-of-date decor.
Spring means more walks and maybe even some jogs around town. Saturday my daughter and I did about 5 miles and waved to city big wigs like Councilwoman Rebecca Bowker getting in road work, Jason Lynk of King-Lynk Funeral Home, who's family, like ours, was taking in the new trail behind FMHS, and Lincoln Neighborhood Watch's Larry Lee Stewart hanging a new door.
Jason Lynk was in a hat and shorts with the family and I gave a slight wave as I didn't realize who it was until he passed. I felt bad about that. I'm sure he recognized this thug walking with his daughter.
I got a pass when we circled around and ran into each other again on Avenue E and I could make amends. We both laughed as we seemed incognito away from the weekly grinds of the business world.
I ran into FMHS head tennis coach Dean Hogan, who eternally is working with someone on a western grip and cart full of tennis balls. One of my favorite sights. But Coach won't read this. He still calls me with results. I love that.
"Hey... how are you guys this fine day," he replied.
"Coach, I wanna do a preview on the season since we're in the break," I said through the fence, while a little girl chased down a missed backhand at the FMHS' courts.
"We haven't played for two years. I don't even know who I've got," he said.
Coach Hogan is a very matter-of-fact man.
On Avenue E we ran into a black and white Great Dane. He came out shyly to greet us as we walked. We stopped. He looked up at us with some extremely sad eyes so we stopped and rubbed his snout. My daughter gave him a full body scratch.
We walked away and he didn't want us to leave and let us know that. But we had ambitions on this day.
The next block was a calico kitty named Peaches, with a glistening collar. She reminded me of our Snickers that we lost last year. I bent down and rubbed her up and yanked on her tail for a few minutes. She curled up on the warm cement and scrubbed her coat on the rough concrete.
Timid, but friendly and vocal.
We finished our walk and moved to the refrigerator for hydration. A box of cold pizza whispered at my belly, but I'm planning on fish for dinner and didn't want to spoil it.
So...COVID seems, and I use that reluctantly, to be loosening its grip and although we have always been able to get out and exercise and move around, spring seems to be bringing more hope than usual this year.
Take care and be smart. Let's hope with spring we can start to put this behind us, remember those that we've lost, and learn that a better focus on handwashing, higher cleaning standards and getting vaccinations are probably a bigger part of all our futures.
But it's okay to put the tree away and welcome spring, with the walks and talks, the pets and tennis, and a deep sigh from what used to be the exhaling of winter. This year, honestly, it probably means a little more.
And when you're on your walks just take a second look at what's going on downtown. There have been lots of ribbon cuttings in the past few weeks and people are starting to get a sniff, not just of Chris Swed's coffee, but of something greater happening - but that's Beside the Point.
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