As my alarm clock dinged and morning came into focus, it occurred to me that today is the first of March, my first Minnesota March in twenty years.
I soon recalled how almost exactly twenty-two years ago, a weather system changed the trajectory of my life.
The memory begins a month earlier, though, on a bright snowy day, when I went to lunch with a friend. We had been lunching together semi-regularly—I escaping the noisy newsroom where I worked as a reporter, he taking breaks from his graduate studies. We had once even combined lunch with cross-country skiing.
But this early-February day came with a twist. When he dropped me off outside the newspaper building, he suggested we meet up for supper sometime.
The truth was, another guy was on my supper plan, and I was dating him.
When I told my lunch-friend this, his face froze, and that is when I realized our get-togethers had meant more than just lunch to him. There was a long pause.
OK, he said, as I reached for the door handle. Let me know if you ever want to go skiing again.
As my lunch-friend drove away, I felt the loss instantly.
February rolled on and somewhere around Valentine’s Day things began to sour with Mr. Supper. (Doesn’t Valentine’s Day tend to bring conflict to a head?) A few days after Valentine’s, I stuffed every note and gift from our short-lived relationship into a paper grocery sack, marched it over to Mr. Supper’s apartment and, when he opened his door, shoved it into his arms.
My thoughts soon turned back to Mr. Lunch, but now I had a problem. Between that bright-white February day when we last ate together and the mid-February day when I said farewell to Mr. Supper, the Red River Valley had moved toward a gray, gritty spring. The snow had melted, leaving mounds of grit in its wake.
Mr. Lunch had told me to get in touch if I ever wanted to go skiing together again, but there was no skiing to be had.
The situation seemed as bleak as the landscape. What had I done, sacrificing my unexpectedly promising lunch dates for a supper situation with no future?
Then, one early-March afternoon as I was cranking out stories, I happened to glance out the newsroom windows. Huge flakes of wet snow were falling past the third-floor and—wonder of wonders—starting to stick on the sidewalks and streets below.
I went back to my desk and thought: Do I reach out to Mr. Lunch?
This surprise late-winter snow was sloppy, but it was snow nonetheless, and I knew it wouldn’t last long. Surely this would be my last chance to take Mr. Lunch up on his offer.
I dashed off a quick email and tried to refocus on my writing, wondering if he would see my message in time and, if he did, whether he would reply.
Not too many minutes passed before my phone rang: What time?
We met up early that evening for a messy ski through a deserted park. And then over the coming weeks and months we met up again for lunch. And for supper. And for movies. And more.
This morning, twenty-two years later, one of the first things the guy who became Mr. Everything said was that it had snowed during the night.
Still swimming in memories, I asked him what would have happened if it hadn’t snowed twenty-two Marches ago, if I hadn’t emailed him and asked him to go skiing.
He thought about it for a moment: I don’t know, he said. I probably wouldn’t have seen you again.
But it did snow. And here we are.
With plans to go cross-country skiing.
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Resuming a Minnesota life after 19 years in Washington
Sometimes you have to run far, far away to find your way home.