Sunday 4 December 2022

December by Jim Bates, camomile tea


“Well, that’s it,” I said to Meg. “Done deal.”

She looked over my shoulder. “The purchase agreement?”

“Yep, signed, sealed, and delivered.”

She hugged me. “Great!

And with that, the circle had been completed. Our home in Minneapolis had been sold. Pretty easy all the way around.

My brother had been watching the house while we’d been renting our cabin in the small town of Esker. Every now and then a realtor would leave a card on the door asking him (or someone) to connect them. Just for fun, he started doing it. In September, I got a call from him.

“Lee. I’ve got to tell you. If you are thinking of selling, now’s the time.”

So, Meg and I talked about it. We’d already decided to stay in Esker. Now the decision even made more sense. Why rent for another year when we could use the proceeds from the sale and buy the cabin? The conversation didn’t take long. The Minneapolis house went on the market on November first, and five days later it sold for ten percent above the asking price. The realtor was happy. The new owners were happy. We, of course, we ecstatic.

“What’s next? Meg asked, referring to the sale. We were working together in the kitchen making dinner. I was doing the spaghetti and Meg was putting together a salad.

“Nothing, really. The paperwork is all done. We just need to go down to Minneapolis and pack up everything.”

Meg paused in cutting up some carrots. “What do we need?”

“What do mean?”
            “From the house. What do we need?”

“Well…” I started to say, but then I thought about it. She had a point.

“We’ve been living here for nearly a year. We’ve got everything that’s necessary, right? Even our photos and keepsakes and things like that.”
            I thought about it some more. She was correct. Everything we needed was right with us. “You’re right,” I said dumping the noodles into a colander in the sink. “What are you thinking?”

“I’ve looked into it online. We could hire a company to sell everything in the house and donate the rest. They can even clean it out for the new owners.”

“Wouldn’t that be expensive?”

“Sort of. But we can pay for it with the proceeds of the sale. Plus,” she added. “It might be hard. You know, emotionally, to go back.”

She had a good point. We hadn’t been to Minneapolis and our old house since we’d moved out last January. The longer we were away, the more our roots were spreading in the north county. Honestly, I felt the same way as Meg did.

The more we talked about it, the more it made sense to make a clean break. “Do you have a number to call?”


“Let’s do it.”

Now, it really was a done deal.

Our landlady Gladys Hawkinson was as happy to sell the cabin as we were to buy. It’d been on the market when we contacted her last December in 2020 about renting, and it was still on market now. I gave her a call once we’d decided to sell just to make sure she was still keen to sell the cabin. So was. We put earnest money down and went ahead with the sale of the Minneapolis house. With that done and with the house taken care of the final step was to contact her and finalize the sale. I called her that night to set up a meeting.

“Okay,” I said, hanging up the phone. “All set.”


“Tomorrow. Wednesday.”

The next morning we loaded the kids in the car and left our little cabin. We followed a w well-known (to us, anyway) gravel road through the woods and dropped our daughter Allie off with our good friend Amber. “Good luck,” she said, coming out to meet us when we pulled up.  She was showing even more with the new baby. She gave us each a hug. “Take your time.” We waved her hand. “I’ll be right here. Good luck with the closing.”

Allie ran off to play with Willow who was building a snow fort near their barn. Over the year they’d become fast friends and it was good to see them getting along so well. We’d been getting snow off and on since before Thanksgiving and there was at least a foot of it on the ground. All the locals were saying it was not only going to be a white Christmas but one with a higher-than-average amount of snow.

“Thanks again,” Meg said. “We’ll be back as soon as we can.”

It started snowing as soon as we left Amber. Her and Arnie’s place was deep in the pine forest northwest of our cabin. I drove us five miles through the woods and out to the highway where I pointed us south to Park Rapids. By the time we dropped Andy off at school and made it to the office of Northwoods Reality where Gladys was meeting us, the roads were covered with an inch of snow and it was coming fast.

The wind was picking up, too, and we fought it getting from the Honda across the parking lot to the office. Sandy Bergeson, who was doing the closing met us.

“Cold out,” she said, holding the door for us. She’d been waiting. “Let’s get this deal done and then all of us should head home. The forecast is for a blizzard.”

Our first thought was Andy. “What about school?” Meg asked.

Sandy glanced at the clock on the wall. It was 9:45 am. “I heard they were going to be closing by noon.”

I looked at Meg. “Let’s get the papers signed and pick him up on the way home.”


Gladys walked up and joined us from Sandy’s office in the back. She lived in Park Rapids and didn’t have far to drive. Still, she’d lived in the north country all her life and she knew a bad storm when she saw one.

“Let’s get going,” was all she said. “I want to get home.”

We sat around a conference table and got the papers signed and notarized (by Sandy) and in fifteen minutes we had ourselves our own new home.

“Congratulations,” Sandy said, after the last of the documents had been signed. She shook Meg’s hand and then mine. “Welcome to the north land.”

I have to say, it felt really good to hear her say that.

Gladys spoke up. “Okay, if that’s it, I’m going to get going.” She looked at Meg and me. “You two should, too.”

“That’s right,” Sandy said, organizing the papers. She put ours in a large envelope and gave it to us. “These are for you.”

Meg took the envelope and put it in her oversized shoulder bag. “That’s it?”

“Yep,” Sandy said. “That’s it.” Then she looked out through the front window of the office. “You guys better hit the road.”

I followed her sight line. The snow was falling so fast, I couldn’t see the car. “Come on, Meg.” I grabbed her hand. “Let’s get going.”

After one more round of quick handshakes, we left the office to get Andy. Or tried to. The school was only a few blocks from us but it took fifteen minutes. The snow was blowing so hard that it was impossible to see more than twenty feet. I drove slowly, the heater and defroster on full blast. It worked to melt the snow on the windshield but the temperature was dropping and some of the melted snow turned to ice making it hard to keep the windshield clear. Which, of course, made it hard to drive.

We picked up Andy and carefully drove through town back out to the highway and turned north. The snow was falling so fast and the wind was blowing so hard that traffic was crawling along at only about 30 miles per hour. Which was good, because I had no desire to drive faster. The road was icy, and the Honda even with front-wheel drive lost traction occasionally and slipped close to the shoulder. I tried not to think about what would happen if we spun off the road and ended up in the ditch. It could be hours before anyone found us.

Fortunately, there were also some cars and trucks out, probably heading home to beat the storm like we were, and there were a set of tire tracks in front of me that I could follow. Thank, god. It was slow going, but we eventually made it to Amber’s. It was what we call a white knuckle drive all the way, and my whole body was one tightly wound bundle of nerves when we got there.

Arnie’s truck was in the driveway. He’d been out already and plowed out a large parking area and that’s where we parked. Meg had texted Amber when we were close to their home and she and Arnie and Willow ran out to greet us when we pulled in.

“Thank goodness you’re safe,” Amber exclaimed, embracing Meg and Andy. Arnie came up and put his arm around me in a rare form of affection. “You okay?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said, taking Andy by the hand and stomping through at least 12 inches of snow to go inside and warm up. “It’s good to be here.”

Arnie brushed snow off the shoulders of his coat and grinned. “It’s good to have you.”

Half an hour later, after warming up, we secured Allie and Andy in the back seat, left our friends, and drove to our cabin. The snow was falling straight down but one of the county plows had been out and we made it home in good shape. I was able to park the Honda fairly close to the cabin and we tramped through the snow to the back door. I used a shovel to move the snow away and we went inside. “Our new home!” Andy called out as we all struggled out of our snowy clothes.

We all smiled. In spite of the drive through the blizzard, we’d made safely. That was the main thing. The only thing, frankly.

After dinner, we played Candyland and Shoots and Ladders with the kids and got them to bed. We tidied up the living room and stoked the fire in the stove and then sat on the couch to relax. Meg sipped her nightly glass of red wine and I had a cup of camomile tea.

She turned to me. “Well, Lee. What do you think?”
            I was still thinking about driving through the blizzard. I’d never experienced anything like that before in my life. I blinked to focus on what she was saying. “What do you mean?”

She set her glass down. “I mean about moving here. For good. You think we made the right decision?”

I thought about it. We’d moved up here to get away from the pandemic and give our kids a chance at not getting infected. Which had worked. They still hadn’t gotten Covid and that was a good thing. Andy was vaccinated and maybe next year Allie would be, too. But now there was a new variant in the mix, Omicron. People were still dying, mostly unvaccinated, but the point was that the pandemic was still with us. Probably for a long time. So moving north to escape the pandemic hadn’t worked. When all was said and done, we’d been incredibly naïve.

But we’d done what we thought was the best move at the time and that was the important thing. I’d lost my job and we’d taken our best shot, (sorry for the bad pun) and something wonderful had happened. Our lives had changed for the better. Andy was in school and was making friends. Allie and Willow and Sam were the best friends one could ever imagine. Meg’s daycare was going well and her job as an editor for Charlotte’s Press was going great. I was making some money for us at the gas station, and I loved volunteering at Andy’s school. So that was all well and good.

But the main thing was our newly formed relationships. In the city, neither Meg nor I had many friends. We were the kind of people who enjoyed time alone or with our little family; it was all we needed. But things had changed since we moved north. In a big way. We’d found friendship in the unlikeliest way, with Jack and Linn and Arnie and Amber, four amazingly wonderful people. People who became our friends. People who, in the end, were the real reason we’d decided to stay.

I turned to Meg and said, “What do I think?” I grinned and hugged her. “I think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done.”

She smiled. “Well, maybe not the best thing. But right up there.”

Surprised, I looked at her. “What do mean? I thought you liked it here. You’re still on board with the move and everything? Right?”

She laughed. “Oh, I am. I definitely am.”

“What then?” In response, she took my hand and put it on her stomach. My eyes went wide. “Really? You’re pregnant?”

“Yep. I just found out. Baby’s due in August.”

I hugged her and we embraced for a long time. Our little family was getting bigger. I couldn’t think of a better place for that to happen.

“I’m super glad,” I told her.

She kissed me. “Me, too.” Then she looked at me. “Next year is going to be a great year.”

I hugged her. “It really is,” I said.

Then we kissed some more.

About the author 

 Jim lives in a small town in Minnesota. His stories and poems have appeared in nearly four hundred online and print publications. His first collection of short stories “Resilience” was published in early 2021 by Bridge House Publishing. Additional stories can be found on his blog: 


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