I met her on a Friday night, two weeks after she escaped winter’s end in Australia. It was just after the late August sun descended into the swamp and the New Orleans sky morphed into the deepest indigo you could imagine…the time of evening when the very air changes and the sultry sets in. Beth had already seen more of the States in those two weeks than I had seen in my half century. She and her travel companion were working their way from the East Coast to the West Coast, stopping at strategic points along the way– mostly for the music.
I thought nothing of it when she checked into Olivier House attired in bikini bottoms and tank top. We were in New Orleans. If you tend toward judgmental when you arrive, you probably won’t by the time you leave. Or maybe that’s just my best-case-scenario, cup-half-full perspective. It didn’t hurt one bit that I was in my favorite house in my favorite city feasting on all the nutrients vital to my soul. And also, the delicious homemade Sour Cream Dill Potato Salad I was currently enjoying as I broke bread with one of my dearest friends right there in the parlor.
Beth took her old school brass key and headed to her two-bedroom suite just off the courtyard bursting with ferns and banana trees.
She came back moments later, holding her wrist with pain in her eye…the kind of pain you can’t bear to see when you’re born to be a mom.
Sometimes I embarrass people. I just do things that don’t make sense to them. Usually things that have to do with people who appear to be strangers and yet they’re not. They are kindred spirits of some sort and I’m not sure how I know this but I always do.
I set down my plate, went to Beth, and took her wrist in my hand.
Are you a nurse? She whispered.
No, I answered.
Are you a mom?
And that’s how this Oklahoma girl came to spend the next 8 hours of a sultry New Orleans summer night at Tulane Medical Center with the beautiful girl who escaped winter’s end in Australia in one of those quintessential, only-in-New-Orleans pieces of time.
Isn’t it funny how love can be so instant and sweet and safe? That’s how I felt with Beth. We both have an intense love for music that, beyond a doubt, transcends the norm. We love vintage fashion, décor, and red lips. And Ginger Ale. But this was bigger than all of that.
Two days later, we went our separate ways. I went back home. Beth continued her adventure toward the West Coast. I thought of her everyday. If I didn’t thrive on instinct poured with a heavy hand of discernment, I would never have had the joy of knowing her. I never doubted I would see her again someday when that wrist, broken in 3 places, was a distant memory and I could give her a proper tour of the place I call my home-away-from-home.
It is summer now in Australia and winter here. I could love winter with a passion if only the sun would break through that thick layer of grey. Since I cannot escape it, I give myself permission to indulge winter in ways that make it endurable. Hot Chocolate spiked with Cinnamon & Ancho Chili… Cioccolata Calda… or homemade French Vanilla Cream for morning coffee.
I was whisking the latter when there was a persistent knock on the door of yet another Friday. On my front porch stood a man with beautiful flowers I was certain were for someone else– but they weren’t. I opened the attached card…and there was Beth…all the way from summertime in Sydney…bursting through the grey of my winter sky and making me feel Christmas for the first time of the season.