Some Like It Hot

irreconciable differences

Coming in not quite sweating, but pretty warm from my morning

Cat in red blanket
Photo by Francesco Ungaro

walk on a recent morning I opened our front door to a blast of heat.  My beloved sat on the living room couch, cuddled under a blanket with a space heater going full blast.  It was July 8. I just shook my head.  I knew better than to be flabbergasted. Our incompatibility about what constitutes a comfortable, livable temperature is well over fifty years in the making.

This discordance is drastic enough to almost fall into the Person typing on computercategory of irresoluble differences, but not quite. One lesson love has taught us is that in truly committed relationships “for better, for worse” sometimes means “for hotter, for colder.”  This irreconcilability rears its menacing head both at home and abroad. During this time of enforced seclusion, Jay  keeps warm in the overheated (my definition) living room while I work at my desk in our frigid (his definition) bedroom. I leave the windows wide open. We have discovered this is a difference shared by many couples. Most, like Jay and I, have found ways to live with it.

which way to go?

The topic, however, always gets laid on the table whenever we

Beach Resort
Photo by Claudia Altamimi

plan a trip. It is no exaggeration to say that for Jay, any place without palm trees isn’t worth the money and effort it  takes to get there. I have a much broader range of dream destinations. Hot beaches falls to the bottom of the list. Various compromises over the years have led to three ways of solving this vacation conundrum.

every sunset a celebration

The first of these is the time-honored “separate vacation.” For us, that took a very special form. For over a decade, every February, Jay would head to Florida to help his retired mother celebrate her birthday, which coincided closely with the President’s Day holiday. (Her actual birthday was February 12.  All through her childhood, it coincided with Lincoln’s Birthday, a national holiday and a day off school.  She did not take well to that date being clumped together with Washington’s birthday.) Having shaken off the wintry blasts and slushy snow of Chicago, Jay reveled in Florida’s balmy winter.  He and his mother packed their suitcases in his car, headed out the driveway of her condo building, flipped a coin and headed in the direction indicated by the toss.

Street in Key West
Photo by Brian Urso

Often, they ended up in Key West,  at the very tip of the chain of islands off the southern tip of Florida. There they could enjoy not just pleasantly warm weather, but fantastic sunsets and an amazing night life – a passion his mom didn’t have many other opportunities to indulge. Among Key West’s many bars, they had favorite haunts they returned to year after year. There, they drank a lot of margaritas. While sharing stories with friends they’d never see again, they listened to the Jazz Age music they both adored. In other years, they visited the west coast of Florida or went to Disney World.  One year they even ended up in New Orleans – a story I’ll have to let him tell you sometime.

some like it cold

Where was I? In Minnesota.  I took advantage of his escape to the south to visit my sister, Mary Beth Welter. She lived in a rambling Craftsman-style home in old St. Paul, just a few blocks away from the elegant Summit Avenue. Many years it was as cold as twelve below zero.  I loved it.  Minnesotans know how to deal with cold, snow and ice.  They revel in it. In fact, if I got lucky, I landed in the Elephant ice sculptureTwin Cities in time for Winter Carnival, the northern version of Mardi Gras. That meant more fun than we could possibly take advantage of.  There were bar-stool ski races, a giant snow slide, the Minnesota State snow sculpting competition, polar plunges, a snow maze and snow mountain play area.  Best of all was the fabulous King Boreas Grand Day Parade that we could walk to from her home.

bread and chocolate

But it didn’t have to be winter carnival time for me to enjoy being in a city that embraced the cold. Just fitting myself into the rhythms of a family other than my own was a respite.  I woke before everyone and bundled myself in layers of warm clothes. I slipped out the front and hiked the half mile past Coffee cake and coffeedozens of Craftsman Style bungalows, each one unique.  My destination was the steamy bakery, Bread and Chocolate. There I settled into my favorite corner chair to enjoy dark, strong coffee and pastries so mouth-watering I get hungry just writing about them.

I remained at the bakery, alternating between watching the morning crowd and reading a novel for an hour or so. Once I felt certain my nieces and nephew were off to school, I ordered fresh pastries – chocolate croissants for me and pecan rolls for her.  On the way back I walked down Grand Avenue, strolling past shops specializing in everything from kites to jewelry.

Store fronts
Photo by Becca Dilley

My visits signaled a break of sorts for my sister as well.  She ran a daycare center in her home. By the time, I arrived back at her home, the four children she cared for had arrived. Their parent had taken off for work and the kids were settled into morning activities.  Beth and I could enjoy a long chat over coffee, a change from her usual day-long toddler conversations. Then, weather permitting – and in

Plowing snow in St. Paul
Photo by Caroline Yang

Minnesota that is a very broad range – we took the toddlers to the park. After lunch, they settled down for nap time, giving us time for another cozy sister-to sister chat.

families are forever

Around three-thirty, Beth’s four children streamed in from school, shedding boots, mittens, scarves, and jackets in a stream across the living and dining room. Chaos reigned until the daycare kids were picked up by their parents after work. During that time, I escaped to the snug upstairs enclosed porch that served as a guest bedroom to read, nap or call Jay. When the front door closed after the last daycare family, I returned to the kitchen to help prepare dinner, a lively affair at which the Welter children vied with one Green Mill pizzeriaanother to grab their parents’ attention.  On my last night there, we would all go out to the Green Mill for pizza.  A Chicagoan never admits that anywhere else in the world has better pizza than the Windy City. But I really enjoyed every bite of every Green Mill Il Primo, I was privileged to share with my sister and her family.

absence makes the heart grow fonder

The next day I boarded the Empire Builder at the train station for the seven-hour journey back to Chicago.  Traveling by train was one of the top perks of the trip for me. I loved having breakfast along the Mississippi River and often shared that meal with people from outside the States. I arrived home, relaxed and refueled. At home I was the engine and the energy that kept that engine going.  Having an opportunity to spend a week where I had simply been a passenger was, for me, as refreshing as a trip to a luxury resort.

Jay and I were always thrilled to see each other on Sunday.  A week apart was more than enough.  He had had his palm tree fever somewhat relieved.  I had been energized by my foray into the frozen tundra.  Time to get back to “normal,” whatever that was.

That’s one way we dealt with our differences over what constituted an ideal getaway.  Other blogs will let you in on some more solutions we discovered.

Christ Taylor explores interesting ways that other couples have solved this problem in his article, “See You in Two Weeks.”

Winter Carnival
Photo by Ethan Hu

“People are learning that it’s OK to rewrite the rules of marriage for their own needs, and not just do what their grandparents did. It’s a gift my husband gives me, to be able to fly solo once in a while.” Iris Krasnow, The Secret Lives of Wives.

When have you and a dear one clashed on where to go for a getaway?  How did you solve the conundrum? I’d really like to know.