This morning, I woke to sunshine, chirping birds, barking dogs. When I went to bed it was winter, but I woke up to spring. I walked to the train station with my jacket unbuttoned, grinning like a fool in a way I usually reserve for giggling babies, fat puppies and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Spring creates a visceral happiness that starts someplace in the bottom of my belly.
As I drank my coffee, I mentally ticked off options for the coming weekend. Maybe we’ll explore Obuda, the oldest of the three cities which formed Budapest – along with the more famous Buda and Pest. Perhaps we will head a bit north to Szentendre before the tourist swarms return like the swallows to Capistrano. Now that I am more familiar with the cultural nuances of this region, I want to search out the deeply rooted Bulgarian and Serbian influences in this artist colony – particularly the Serbian Orthodox churches.
During the winter, I drink my coffee and plot a weekend of homemade soups and stews, breads, a good book and a nap. I never willingly venture outside in the winter. I dress in sweat pants,thick socks and a ratty sweater sending an unspoken message, “Don’t even ask me to take a walk.”
The older I get, the more I hate winter. Everything about it. Snow, ice, cold, dark mornings, darker evenings. I could erase January and February from my calendar and never look back. They serve no useful purpose in my book.
Then it dawned on me. As soon as I retire, Pat and I will be completely free to live where we want, when we want – to flit around like the swallows chasing warmth and sunshine. Our goal is to spend two or three months in a place before moving on to the next with an eye toward seeking perpetually sunny days. Perhaps I’ll tire of nice weather, but I’m willing to take that risk.
I mapped out an itinerary for the next few years starting as soon as we leave Budapest. The first winter, I penciled in Morocco. The next, Southeast Asia. “Perhaps”, I suggested to Pat, “We could return to Europe through India.” Pat balked at this idea.
Pat: No, I can’t do India.
Me: Why not?
Pat: I’m afraid of snakes.
Pat: That’s why I want to move to Ireland.
Me: You can’t be a photographer without pictures from India.
That last comment scored a few points. Pat paused, thinking. No need to push too hard just yet. We have time.
This afternoon, I rifled through our closet looking for a jacket. How two people can stuff a moderate sized closet so full of coats is beyond me. Of course, we need options which cover all the permutations of temperature AND precipitation. Pat is more fabric savvy than me. If I wear my down jacket on a rainy day, he looks at me the way I look at people who drink Mountain Dew for breakfast. Shock, embarrassment, pity, and finally a kind of “you’ll never change” acceptance.
As I look for my “fairly warm and no rain” jacket, I momentarily touch my down coat. I bought this the first year we lived in Europe. With no car, we walked everywhere and I was constantly freezing. “Excuse me”, I told the Eddie Bauer sales clerk, “I’ll take the warmest coat you sell.” As I look at my coat, I remember a miserable, frigid first winter. I had an thought.
Me (yelling to Pat in the bedroom): Hey Pat. When we leave Budapest, let’s give away our down jackets. That way we can never live in a cold place again.
Pat (yelling back): That’s fine Julie, but I’m not moving to India.
(Insert emoticon of person banging head against wall)
Pat will come around, he always does. I’ll start to wear him down. One day, I’ll send him an exceptional photo essay on India. A month later, we’ll watch The Most Amazing Marigold Hotel.
Before I know it, Pat will say, “I forget, what year are we moving to India?”…. “Pat, we aren’t moving there. Just passing through for a few months.”
Today, India can wait. Outside, the sun is shining, flowers are blooming, the trees are green. I drop my down coat, grab my jacket and run outside to enjoy the first day of spring.