Ode to Spring, by Candance Booth | An Unexpected Rebate

IF IT’S STILL WINTER WHERE you live, enjoy your sleep while you can. Spring started in February where I live, and the energy kept waking me up. Everything’s blooming. Instead of spitting over the side of a bridge, you can toss yellow Florida Jasmine blossoms which twirl like helicopters. Oak tree buds unwind into green coils. As I drove across the dam, I passed a group of 26 bicyclists dressed in brightly colored shirts and helmets, like migrating Amazon butterflies. At work I subscribe to a service that mails computer news, and there was a little spring wake-up call at the bottom of the latest posting:

E-MAIL CAN MAKE YOU FAT. In her “Personal Health” column in the New York Times, Jane E. Brody reports that Stanford University exercise expert Dr. William Haskell has calculated that if you spend just two minutes an hour of each workday sending email to office mates rather than walking down the hall to talk with them, you will accumulate the caloric equivalent of 11 pounds of body fat in a decade. (New York Times 2 Feb 99) [just to see if anyone is actually reading these postings, Polley is offering a trivial prize to the first respondent citing this offer.]

I met a guy named Michael in my art class. He owns Chuy’s, a Tex-Mex restaurant that opened in Austin 25 years ago. Now it has three locations in Austin, plus San Antonio and Houston. He told us about a 25-year service party he just put on for one of his employees. The party was at a posh restaurant with valet parking. About 40 people turned out. Afterward the employee walked out and gave his keys to the parking attendant, who returned driving a brand new Cadillac.

“No, that’s not my car,” the employee says.

“Yes, this is your car,” says the parking attendant. By now just about everyone in the restaurant has started to pour through the front door. They’re milling around the curb.

“No, that’s really not my car,” says the employee.

“These are your keys,” the attendant insists.

“No, I wish that were my car. But really, it’s not my car,” says the employee.

And now the parking attendant comes up and leads the employee over to the car and hands him the keys and says, “Believe me, this is your car.” And everyone starts cheering. And Michael says it was worth everything to see the look on that employee’s face when he figured out what he was getting instead of a gold watch. Spring’s energy just came all at once for that employee.

My art teacher, Lisa, thought that was the greatest story, and she needed the spark. She’s worked long days all winter and traveled long distance to nurse a sick mother. About a week after Michael told us the Cadillac story, she sat in her office looking at a business card. It belonged to a man that a friend thought she’d enjoy meeting. She’d done nothing with the card for two months, too busy and tired for even a phone conversation. Now she looked at the card again and realized the man had an email address.

Outside, robins all over Austin are eating berries that ripen overnight in the sudden warm weather.

I saw Lisa last weekend, and she told me how she’d exchanged email with this stranger about four times in two days, talked on the phone, met once or twice, and is now engaged. He trains horses and has a ranch and they might be married in Crete in April and she feels thrilled and scared and like everything she’s ever dreamed of has come true and also she can’t sleep.

In the Austin American Statesmen newspaper, people report that robins are falling to the ground in a drunken stupor, because some of the berries they are eating have fermented in an unexpected race toward summer bounty.

I’ve been working a lot of overtime on a big project and worrying about the fact that my period was late. I didn’t have time to do anything about it until the weekend, though, because of the spring rush. Finally I bought one of those pregnancy test kits on Saturday afternoon. Then I proceeded to develop an awful sense of dread. I know that Garrison Keillor is enjoying a new baby late in his life, but I think this is partly because he wasn’t the one to give birth to a 10-pound bowling ball and partly because he has enough income to pay for someone else to clean up the diapers and vomit. Not to mention the fact that I would have to work until I’m about a hundred to put the kid through college. Also, I kept thinking about my bed. I haven’t had a real bed since I left home. I’ve either slept on the floor or on a futon (worse than the floor because it looks like it ought to be soft). Now I’d be looking at a mattress, all right—for a crib. So I bought the pregnancy test kit. A friend advised me to wait until morning to get the urine sample. At 3:00 a.m. I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer. My husband manned the stop watch.

The weather down here is really beautiful, the kind of sunny days you remember, incorrectly, to have filled your childhood—strong shadows and light and the scent of lemon blossoms. You can wear shorts, but it’s not too hot to sit in the park on a bench. You open all the windows and putter around in the yard. In the morning you go for a run along the lake, and everyone seems to be out for a friendly walk, smiling and carefree.

I just danced over the grass, because I was not pregnant. Boy, what a relief! Now I understand how people feel when they finish their taxes and find they have an enormous rebate coming. Of course we would have come to love the experience and the stretch marks and the treading of bare feet on sharp plastic toys as you make your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Of course we would have cherished the lung capacity of the baby who cries. Yet, and not to put too fine a point on it, I felt that my life had been restored and I had returned from the underworld with my pomegranate intact.

At work on Monday I got this email message:

Congratulations to Schlumberger’s Candance Booth, who took all of 34 minutes to read and respond to the prize offering in Friday’s “Misc.IT-Related News” (nice try, those of you who had incorrectly set your system clocks and/or time zones!).

This month’s prize: a fruit and cheese basket from Harry and David’s.

I love spring. So unpredictable.    

Visit the Index for more essays by Candance Booth and other witty Iowa writers.