Sunday, March 28, 2010

Crossing the Potomac

I always thought that George Washington crossed the Potomac for some reason or other. Apparently he didn’t. He crossed the Delaware River in the dead of an icy cold December night to attack the British. The myth is that he skipped a silver dollar across the Potomac – even though there were no silver dollars at that time and the chances that he managed to throw one almost a mile from shore to shore is, well, unlikely at best.

This morning I had to find an alternative route across the Potomac. Funded in all likelihood by the Recovery Act, a large crew of workmen has taken up residence on one half of the bridge on Route 81 where it links Maryland and West Virginia. They are obviously setting in for a long campaign of repair and renewal. It is entirely possible that the bridge needs repair. Beginning said repairs the weekend before a large holiday weekend ( Easter and Passover) is about par for course with road crews I suspect,, the world over. The traffic back ups extend for miles along Route 81 as frustrated motorists slam on their brakes and wonder why there was no warning for an alternative route. I think it is due to some kind of subliminal power/revenge thing that is a psychological prerequisite for employment on a road crew.

Normally I wouldn’t care less about the closing of half a bridge between Maryland and West Virginia but these days it has taken on a new importance. West Virginia is now my new home. I finally moved. Someone, God bless her, bought my old house in Chambersburg, PA enabling me to purchase my little townhouse in Falling Waters, WV.

I moved out on one of the coldest evenings of a long, snowbound winter. It was nine o’clock and about minus five degrees by the time my small band of helpers completed the loading of the U-Haul truck. It was another hour by the time I made it to my friend’s house, usually only 10 minutes away. Chambersburg is both blessed and cursed by quaint, old railway overpass bridges that necessitate detours by most trucks approaching 12 feet in height. Through blizzard like conditions with snow whirling across the back roads, I struggled to navigate the U-Haul driving almost blind because the cabin and dashboard lights were dark.

I considered it an almost superhuman feat. The brakes on the truck were making very strange wheezing noises, the road kept disappearing before my night myopic eyes, nothing looked familiar. But, eventually I was seated in my pajamas before the fire eating a large plate of spaghetti while dancers floated and gyrated across the ice of the winter Olympics. It was done; I was out of my house. It snowed again that night; it blew fiercely the next morning as I drove to the first of two closings.

The power of friends to drag one over the finish line of great feats should never be underestimated. My friend’s son drove the U-haul across the Potomac to my new home while I followed in my car and went on to closing number two. It seems fate and the Angels of Mirth decided for a punctuation mark on this less than smooth transition. Part way through the second closing, the lawyer came in and put a telephone on the table.

“It’s for you.” How could it possibly be for me? There was no reason I could think of except for really, really bad ones, why anyone would contact me at the lawyer’s office while I am in the middle of closing on my house.

“Did my buyer change her mind after the papers were signed? Could she do that? Would I have to get a lawyer to fight it? Did I have to drive everything back to Chambersburg and live there forever? Did somebody die?”

As it turned out, the agents at closing number one had made a mistake and a lesser amount of money was wired to closing number two. I would have to write a check for the difference. As fate and maybe the Angels would have it, I had one remaining check that I was saving to pay Joey the flooring guy who I was expecting at six the following morning. My body was beginning to go into adrenaline overdrive for the umpteenth time that week. I wrote the check, the papers were signed, I took the keys and drove to my new home.

It was snowing, again, as the truck was unloaded by yet another band of friends. We managed to find my sheets and comforter and create a bed in the bedroom where I slept amid boxes and chaos that first night. I had crossed the Potomac.

I doubt there will be any portraits painted of the feat. I couldn’t find my camera so there were no photos except for the few I took a couple of days later with my laptop showing the sofa still on its side surrounded by a small mountain range of boxes, blankets, carpets, and stuff I was not sure I owned.

Unlike the painting of George Washington’s feat, I hope the tale will be told with me at least going in the right direction with the correct stalwart friends at my side. I hope no-one will exaggerate the cold, the time, the craziness of each piece as it unfolded – there is no need to exaggerate. It was a great feat accomplished by a small but determined band that contributed to the freedom of one middle-aged, exhausted, and extremely grateful woman.

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