Unexpected snow day brings more unexpected gifts
"Mom!" The continued pounding on the door grew more urgent.
"Mom! It snowed! It snowed! Come see. Mom?" said the voice from the other side of the bedroom door.
Ruby tightened into a fetal position.
Seven year old Mark, followed by Matthew, his twin sibling burst opened the door to their parents' room, ran across the flamingo-pink throw rug and leapt onto the sleeping 26 year old Ruby's twin-sized flamingo-laden bed. The boys pushed away the over-sized stuffed pink birds onto their father's twin bed, which rested up against their mom's.
Consciousness sprang into Ruby's head and she sat up, panicked. She looked at her lamp stand for the time on the clock. It read 7:45.
"Oh my God!" Fear propelled her as she removed her earplugs and tried to place them on the water-soaked lamp stand. Confused, she wondered how the picture fell there to knock over her cup. "Ugh."
"Mom, it snowed," Mark said, bouncing back and forth between the two beds.
Ruby turned towards her husband's bed and noticed he wasn't there. Instead she saw a paper note on his pillow next to Matthew who sat criss-cross apple-sauced and stared at her. She reached over to the note and learned Joe had to leave in the middle of the night because the northern snow storm had shifted south and all drivers were needed to push snow off the streets and cover them with salt.
"Ok, ok! Stop jumping around and be quiet. I need to listen to the news." Ruby grabbed a hold of the TV remote and aimed it across the room. Business and school closings scrolled across the bottom of the screen. While the lady on the news gave street conditions, Ruby got up to look out the window.
"Oh, wow!" White snow covered everything outside. The early morning sunlight cast a slight orange hue to the world against a light blue clear sky and the world seemed to have stopped. Ruby remembered many mornings like this from her childhood and now she felt connected to that time and place, excited about the promises of hot cocoa and snowball fights, like the ones she'd have with her brothers and dad.
"It's a beautiful day and the clouds are gone, but not before leaving five inches of snow in the metropolitan area. And there you go, kids, no school today." continued the news lady.
Relieved, Ruby turned and tried to act and sound sad. "Darn, there's no school today." The kids looked over to their mom, puzzled. "I guess this means we'll have to stay home." Ruby hung her head low and had to work hard not to scream with joy. "What are we going to do?"
"Play outside!" hollered Mark as he started to bounce around again.
"Yes!" Ruby lifted her head and chased him out of the room.
For the next several hours, the three of them made snow forts, dozens of snowballs, had mother against sons snowball fights, made snow angels and tried to swim across the yard. They went inside twice to have hot chocolate, topped with as many miniature marshmallows as their cups would hold. At noon, the snow-covered threesome grew hungry. After stamping and brushing snow off themselves, they entered the kitchen from the backyard.
"You two go wash up, I'll make something for lunch." Ruby glanced over the pantry and decided on a big can of Chef Boyardee Ravioli and three glasses of milk.
During their meal, the mom and her twin sons talked and laughed about the fun they had that day when they were interrupted by a phone call.
"Hello?" Ruby listened as her next door neighbor spoke to her over the phone. Mark started to get too loud with his spoon smacking against his bowlful of lunch. Ruby snapped her fingers to get his attention and gave him the "be quiet" sign by placing her forefinger over her lips. "Oh, ok, yes, I can come over." She looked back at her sons. "Wait, on second thought, would you mind coming over instead? There's no school today and my boys will be in the backyard." She paused for a moment, then continued. "No, they'll be fine. They've been outside all morning. It's no problem."
A moment later Ruby said her goodbyes and hung up. "Ok, listen, kids. Mrs. Sander's is visiting in a few minutes. Finish your lunch and then go play some more in the backyard."
By the time Ruby had put away the dishes, sent her boys back outside and made a pot of coffee, she heard the doorbell ring.
"Mrs. Sanders, good to see you. Please, come in." Ruby tried to be as mature sounding as possible. "May I take your coat? I've got some coffee made."
"Coffee sounds great!" Her neighbor took off her full-length cashmere coat, matching cashmere beanie and dark pink scarf.
and handed them to Ruby. "Thanks."
Ruby collected them and hung the items on the coat rack by the door and couldn't help but notice the contrast between her faux fur coat and the ones of her neighbor.
"Oh my gosh, it is cold," agonized Mrs. Sanders, emphasizing the last three words.
"I know, right? My husband, Joe, had to leave before I woke up to help clear the streets. Why couldn't this happen three weeks ago when it was Christmas?" asked Ruby rhetorically, as she led them to the kitchen.
"Have a seat, Mrs. Sanders, and I'll get us some coffee."
"Oh, please. Call me Linda."
"Well, OK." Ruby searched for the most guest-appropriate coffee cup she could find among the collection of Snoopy, Garfield and related cups. She felt a twinge of shame by having to choose two soup-bowl sized coffee cups and noted to herself to get at least one set of grown-up cups.
The two women made small talk about the weather and the holidays while taking in the warmth and the aroma of french vanilla from their drinks. Linda and her boyfriend had visited his parents for Christmas, and welcomed the new year on a cruise ship off the warm coast of Florida before returning to manage his chain of restaurants he owned across his city, which was several hours away. Ruby traded how she spent the holidays by making Mickey Mouse pancakes and trying out new recipes from her new cookbook she got for Christmas.
A snowball clipped the wind chime hanging by the back patio glass door and a wild pattern of tones hammered for the startled women's attention. The subject changed to children.
"We don't visit enough. How old are the boys now?" asked Linda as she looked out the fogging back door.
"My babies are seven years old. I keep telling them to stop growing older, but year by year they disobey," joked Ruby.
Linda smiled and kept watching the twins. Ruby looked at her, then at the boys and then back at Linda. "Kids. They, um, just kinda grow on you, huh?"
"Yeah. You know, I had a son once."
"Once?" asked Ruby, surprised and anticipated an answer she wasn't sure she wanted to know.
"I don't talk about it much anymore. I never forget though." Ruby refilled their cups and for several minutes, Linda revealed how her son, Dean, had loved to swim and gone to church retreats each summer. She told of his swim meets in high school and work as a lifeguard at camp. The summer before his senior year, he broke his leg on a freak misstep going down the stairs at home. Despite that, he still went to camp. It was to be his last year and didn't want to miss it.
"Some boy from a foster home took a boat out on the last night before the season ended. I guess Dean had decided to have a few moments to himself and had managed to get to his beloved lifeguard station. What happened next is from what the boy told the camp staff and police." Linda stopped and took a deep breath. " Dean had noticed him and told him to come back to shore. The boy told him to try and make him and decided to stand up in defiance. That's when he fell over. The kid couldn't even swim!"
Ruby held still.
"Dean yelled for help, but it was late and the camp was quiet. That's when Dean took his life in his hands and went into the water. Dean kept calling out for help while he attempted a rescue. They say the cast became too heavy and pulled Dean under. He never even got close. Rescuers found the boy clinging to the boat and pulled my boy out of the water."
Linda never gazed away from the boys and Ruby wished she never asked as she shuffled around in her chair.
After a moment of stilled silence, Linda sat up straight and smiled. "I'm sorry. That was too deep."
"No, no, please," lied Ruby. "I had no idea. I'm so sorry. I can't even imagine what you went through. I would just die," She sputtered.
"Speaking of that, the kids have to be frozen stiff by now. Can we bring them in now?"
"Uh, yeah, sure." Ruby got up and went to the door. Flustered and desperate to change the subject, her eyes searched for anything to cling to for an idea. Ruby asked, "You mentioned on the phone something about a business idea you wanted to talk about? Boys! Come on in!"
"Yeah, so," Before Linda could continue, the boys barged into the room and Ruby instructed them to change into their pajamas for a well-earned nap. She'd be there in a few minutes.
Linda stopped and watched the two curly redheaded boys stamp and brush off snow. Once the boys were gone, she gestured for Ruby to sit down, and then proceeded. "Ron's opening a family-oriented fun palace, which will serve classic sandwiches from all over the country, making it unique. Think of Chuck E. Cheese, but with sandwiches." Linda went on to describe sandwiches and their proposed names. "He wants an interactive experience for the kids and he'd like your kids to be in commercials, virtual reality games, comics, menus--well, be the face of his new venture."
"Seriously? That's exciting--I think--but why us?" Ruby stood back up, shaking with excitement and walked to the coffee pot.
"I suggested to him twins are unique and could offer many opportunities for marketing. Your boys are the age he's looking for and I mentioned I knew of two who lived right next door to me." Linda sipped the last of her coffee.
Ruby noticed and went to refill the cup. "I still don't understand."
Linda continued to explain her proposal and its benefits: free trips to new cities, overnight stays in hotels, royalties, free food and games. It would be a revolutionary way to market to a younger generation, leading to possible lifelong customers who would eventually have children of their own.
As Ruby sorted and organized her thoughts, Mark's voice interrupted, "Mom!"
"Hold on," replied his mother.
Linda stood up and went towards her coat in the living room. "I don't mean to keep you from your kids. Listen, think about it. We could give you a tour and show concept art of marketing proposals."
"I will. It's all so new and shocking, but I'm excited. I'll be sure to tell Joe when he gets home," answered Ruby as she helped Linda with her garments.
Once Linda had left, Ruby danced and skipped around the room, whooping all along.
Ruby pretended to read from a book as she told her nap time story of two young boys who lived in a magical land of games, fun and unlimited sandwiches. Once they were asleep, Ruby quietly went to prepare dinner and then rested on the couch for a nap of her own.
Ruby was awaken at the sound of the front door opening. "Joe!" She got up and greeted her husband. "Oh my! It's cold." She kissed him. "I've got dinner ready."
Joe hung his coat on the rack and followed his wife into the dining room. His eyes scanned each of the place settings on the small, round, white covered table. "I don't get it. Are we that bad off?"
Ruby burst into a little dance and laughed.
Each plate had a different sandwich: a peanut butter sandwich and a ham and cheese for the boys, a BLT for Joe and a Reuben for Ruby.
"Boys! Dad's home!" hammered Ruby between choking breaths of laughter . Ruby turned towards her husband, and weak from laughing, helped push him down into his seat. Once she had collected herself enough, she offered "Have I got a story to tell you."
Puzzled, Joe sat and waited.
"Don't worry. This is an appetizer. The real treat is yet to come." Ruby sat across from him, grinned a big knowing grin, picked up her sandwich and took a huge bite into her Reuben.