“What’s this?” Lauren asked. She was holding up a plastic stick that was in the back seat of our rental car in Minneapolis.
“That’s a windshield scraper,” my husband told her. “In some places, like here, it gets so cold that people actually have to scrape ice and snow off their windows so they can see to drive.”
“Wow, that is so cool!” Lauren exclaimed. “I can’t believe they included it for free with the car.”
“Well, we signed up for an extra fancy rental,” Gary quipped.
I flashed back to my Missouri days when I regularly planted high-heeled, nylon-clad feet into snowdrifts on my way to a Sentra that would be sluggish to start, hoping I’d allowed myself enough time to make it to work without being late. Back then, my job required women to defy winter with stockings and impractical shoes despite windchill factors that left frost in my hair.
So, for me to leave the sunny comfort of California in the middle of January for the chilly wonderland of Minnesota, there had to be a compelling reason. And believe me, there was.
When we arrived at our hotel, I felt the minus-6-degree air slap my face again on our way from the parking lot to the front door. How do people do it? Along the way, Lauren insisted on making snow angels on top of landscapes hidden under puffy whiteness. My husband groaned when he took off his gloves to snap a few photos. “Just hurry,” I told them both as I jumped up and down in place, trying to keep my blood moving.
At the front desk, I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm about our travels and told the elegantly uniformed ladies all about the reason for our trip. They must have thought it odd for a grown woman to babble on about her excitement. But all three of them — the concierge, the check-in person, and a third whose function I couldn’t guess — huddled around us and listened.
Suddenly aware I was holding busy professionals captive, I felt awkward. What am I doing? These people don’t need to know why we’re here.
But one of the ladies teared up. She left her post behind the counter, walked into the lobby, and embraced me in a bear hug that left endorphins running through my bloodstream. “You made my day,” she said, kissing my cheeks. “I hope you love every minute of your visit.”
By that time, I was teary too, and so was my husband. All of us stood there, laughing and crying.
That night, we went to dinner at a restaurant on the other side of the hotel’s parking lot. As we trudged across the snowy tundra, wind whipping our scarves into our eyes, I felt like I was in a scene from “Little House on the Prairie,” except that we wore heated socks and walked over pavement from one brightly lit building to another.
As soon as we got there, I did it again. I told our server all about why we were there. Something had come over me, and I couldn’t help myself. Minutes later, that waitress delivered complimentary glasses of wine, a Shirley Temple for Lauren, and appetizers for us to share.
My heart was overflowing.
“I’m so glad you told me,” the waitress said. “Please, please, please, come back tomorrow so you can tell me more.”
Gary and I enjoyed the wine while Lauren tucked into potato skins.
All that weekend, I shared my story. Blinded with excitement, I told everyone I met about the crazy, extravagant, beautiful reason that Minneapolis was exactly where I wanted to be that insanely cold January afternoon.
And everyone listened. Often, they reciprocated with astounding stories of their own. I traded contact information with strangers I still keep in touch with. This year, our family received a Christmas card from a lady who worked at a cash register at St. Paul International.
Maya Angelou wrote, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story.” Stories bind us together, lift us up and connect us.
Next week? Why I braved the Minneapolis winter in the first place, what it has to do with breast cancer, and how I ended up sipping a fruity drink on a sandy beach 2,500 miles to the south. Until then, I encourage you to unburden yourself. Share a tale of your own, a lesson you’ve learned along cancer’s path that’s been our bane and blessing to experience.
Note: Breast Cancer News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Breast Cancer News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to breast cancer.