40 Below

Subj: 40 below
Date: 95-12-07 21:38:13 EST
To: El Polvo

Dear Fred,

It is 40 degrees below and we just got in from dragging the kids on sleds in the snow. We're in the converted garage now getting warm by the new pellet stove. Pebbles and the black pup are hanging out in here too, pup treating Pebs like her mother, Pebs growling as she nibbles at the ice between her toe pads. Funny thing about this weather, saw more people in the streets downtown than on a clement day. Kerry at the post office asked me if it was cold enough for me and I told her five below wasn't cold enough, she says five below? It's 30 below with the wind chill. I was so impressed that I went next door to Allen's Manix store and got one of those things that covers the face and neck, has a little rectangle across the nose area like a bunker lookout slot, got one for Marilyn too and on the walk home I was really comfy, wanted the wind to blow harder but it refused. Was wearing the old burnt orange down jacket I've had since the wood business days.

At choir practice sunday Suzie said she'd make tapes for anyone who wasn't all that good a sight reader and on Wednesday I went into her store to buy a tape for her to dupe with the bass part. It was around nine, this was yesterday, and there was Suzie at the counter, her mother in the background holding and cherishing Cody's little girl and there was Cody holding her baby. Everyone smiled so big and warm, even the kids, I felt so good, I mean that movement that used to move Fred Astaire so much sneaked up my legs and I was on the balls of my feet, decades younger, it was springtime, there was this good talk going on and these women with the chilluns visiting and all welcoming of me, Suzie is saying how it is so good to have us in Augusta and being so community minded. I'm writing a check and look up at her and over at Cody and then the mother cradling the little girl in her arms and they are looking directly at me in one of those intimate moments, I mean they are loving me, they are. It's one of those times when it'd be equally appropriate to burst into tears, hug everyone and kiss them, faint or go blind. Jesus. Cody pats my back, sort of the equivalent of a man punching you in the shoulder and saying some friendly cuss words, only this is outright friendly. Suzie tells me the tape will be ready Sunday with the accompaniment, we say goodbye and for the rest of the day my legs dance me around.

I've never been community minded, wondered at people who were. Like who'd ever want to go to a PTA meeting, or a bazaar, or any fund raising thing? Me. Being part of this community is so natural, it's small so you always hear about what's going on and if it's fun or interesting in some way you want to take part. And that boils down to civic responsibility? I love it. I thought there'd be meetings and papers and polling and collecting and evaluating, evenings down the drain, phone calls, battles, attacks, that was my idea of community minded. We sat in on a school board meeting way back in the first of September to see what they would do with an opportunity that Sarah Cobb was bringing their way, a chance for the kids to have a real artist in residence for a few weeks, and in this one adventure we became part of the town. We went to a fund raiser for the two churches in town, fantastic buffet! When we went to be part of the Christmas sing we apparently proved that we love the town. And its people. And this is true.

You hear about women talking and how intense it can get? Marilyn was to drive Laurie her friend south to the Great Falls airport to catch a plane back to Minneapolis, instead she went to Choteau which is north. Discovering her mistake when she couldn't find the international airport anywhere in the town of 3,000 she sped off south at 90 mph to try and get there in time but they arrived as the plane was backing up from the terminal and brodying out of there on two wheels. I'd planned to meet M. at the table in front of Waldenbooks in the Mall on 10th south and when I see Laurie I know things didn't go as planned. We go drown our sorrows in a pitcher of Miller's draft and a huge pepperoni pizza. That night Laurie dresses up in my St. Nicholas costume and pastes little cotton balls onto double edged tape on her jaw, does a fabulous presentation to the kids of some gifts, this is on December 4 when St. Nicholas upon whom Santa is based evaluates all the world's kids and to those who have been bad he has to let Rupert give them sticks, and to those who have been good he fills their shoes with candy. Well I was not looking forward to playing the part so Laurie who loves to dress up in costume took over and when we went over to Pastor Dave's and Millie's house next door--she played Rupert, all in black and black faced as with soot and despair--I was really happy. Laurie comes in and the kids are delighted and really don't know who she is altho she's been living with us for three days, she has these pillows under these maroon sweats and this Santa cap that covers her eyes, got these sacks over her shoulders holding hand-made quilts M's sister Kathy and her friend Kay have made especially for Cristina and Zachary back in Minneapolis, there's this repartee going on; What have you done that is good? Well I did my math, No no no no, says Rupert, she didn't make her bed the other day and she left her hairbrush on the floor and she sassed Marilyn, and St. N. counters with Well that's not the end of the world is it, let's see what we have here for her, No no no no no, you ancient dumpy dwarf, there's only sticks for the little brat, and not very good ones at that, and this went on for awhile then Laurie who is speaking in a basso profundo and side speaking to me, My voice is giving out, can't go on, goes up stairs to give some candy to Millie's teenagers who eventually come down to be part of this drama, except for Dave Jr. who only comes out to go to school and to return. The transformation in the other two, Betty and the dark haired one is beautiful, the child in them comes out and they really let themselves go into the mood, unlike me who is recording this thing on a camcorder and all but crawling into the eyepiece. St. Nick and Rupert leave out the backdoor and when we get back to our house Laurie is sitting on the easy chair with one leg up over the armrest reading. very casual, looks up idly and says, How'd it go, the old guy show up? Cristina moves in with this outrageous charge that she was St. N. but you can tell she's not sure, she is going by evidence that is circumstantial, a hunch more than anything, but she is not positive that this woman was playing that man. All night she is sniffing around for clues, listening in on conversations. When she overhears M. talking to Barbara Coates in San Diego on the phone recounting the St. Nicholas thing she pops up from behind the chair where she is hiding from me so she doesn't have to do her homework and announces loudly with this great satisfaction, I told you so!! I knew it all along!!!

Laurie got to the plane on time the next day, but I was so glad she missed it the day before, we had those great times together that without her would not have had quite the excellence

Wind was up to 110 yesterday, temperature down to 40 below today, if the Chinook comes up we'll maybe end up with a spring day tomorrow. Love this place!!!

Joe Montana.

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