The ice storm was dripping into its third day. I wasn’t content to stay inside my apartment practicing the Vivaldi flute solo or reading Tolstoy, so I wrapped three woolen scarves around my ears and scarred neck, tucked the edges under my orange fleece jacket, and declared to Sam, my well-fed cat—
“I refuse to be held a captive any longer.” Closed spaces brought back tremors in my hands and I had seen them tremble a few minutes earlier.
Out the door and into the cold. But not for long. My favorite café was just around the corner and I walked into the warm setting with a smile.
“Hi, Nate. Busy day today for you, right?”
Pressing steamed coffee into a latte, Nate nodded, his brown eyes flashing a welcome to me.
After ordering my chai latte and warmed up from the inside, I made this a quick café visit and hailed a cab as I exited.
“Where to, miss? Somewhere warm for you, I hope,” the cabbie asked as I slid into the back seat.
He switched on the meter and turned the heat fan up to high.
“Art Institute, please. And thanks for that extra blast. It feels good.”
Driving down the slick roads took the usual ten minute ride a bit longer, but I was cozy in the cab and finishing my latte. I began to anticipate my usual visit to the museum. It was a favorite place to enjoy afternoons with Mama, and, since her passing three years ago, it had become a more important “artist’s date” to keep.
Mama had shown her own watercolors at small suburban galleries, but I hadn’t inherited the visual talent. Instead, I’d watch her paint to classical music and felt soothed by flute sonatas even as a toddler. So, when the time came to pursue my artistic training, I left my crayons in my desk and started elementary school Saturday lessons with Mr. Petri. He was first flutist in the Chicago Symphony and, Mama had insisted to Papa, “We want the best for our little, Vivi.”
“The best for her at this age is to listen to her Papa and not fuss when we go to Mass,” was his reply. But Mama had scoffed at the reminder of my rebellious shortcomings and so began my twenty year journey to first chair in the Symphony.
“Here we are, safe and sound,” repeated the cabbie. He may have announced our arrival twice, but I was caught up in my memories.
“Oh, sorry. Here you go.” I paid the driver and scrambled out the cab, watching my steps on the slick steps. The paired lions had frost on their manes and ice formed on their moustached mouths. I gently patted one of the paws—a habit I’d learned from Mama and kept through the years.
“Thanks for guarding the beauties inside,” I whispered as I passed the regal statues.
Inside the lobby, I sighed as I shook off the scarves, unbuttoned my coat and walked over to the coat checker. My heart fluttered a bit as I anticipated my walk through the hallways to the painting that linked me to my past.