Friday afternoon the school system called and said that the makeup GT testing that Trout missed was being moved from Tuesday to Monday, as they were calling for some ridiculous bad weather on Tuesday and they needed to get the thing done. This was my payback for not paying attention and taking care of my daughter - instead of taking the 2.5 hours of testing in our local school, or another school anywhere in the upcounty (I begged to take her to another school on their testing day, to no avail), I had to take her down to a field office more than 20 miles away at the height of rush hour. The area that the field office is in isn't the best in the county; it has an unfortunate crime rate, high population density, and obscene traffic. I prepared for the worst.
I got the kids in bed by 8pm, and everyone went right to sleep. We got up at 6 am, and I made sure Trout not only had a good breakfast at home, but also had a PB&J sandwich for in the car on the way down. I inhaled a banana and some cereal, and we left the house about 7:45. The main route down, 270 to the beltway, was hosed, stopped due to earlier crashes (not an unusual occurrence), so we had to take alternate routes. Fortunately, both BigDaddyFish and I grew up in the county, in different areas, and I am a second-generation MoCo resident, and my dad grew up in the area where I was going. I knew about 14 different ways to get there; I'm just unfamiliar with the current traffic patterns since I haven't driven in the part of the county during that time of day in about 15 years. We arrived at the testing facility with 5 minutes to spare. I got her checked in, and then I had 2.5 hours to kill.
There's a lovely garden facility not far from the testing area, and thankfully the weather turned out to be warm. I had armed myself with a book, not sure how I would feel after the weeks of being sick, but figured I'd just sit in the car and look at the frozen pond and read if I didn't feel like doing anything else. The grounds were snow covered and icy in some spots, but mostly the temperature was pleasant, it was sunny, the air was crisp and clean, and it was quiet.
I strapped my iPod on and started walking. Volunteers worked on dismantling the elaborate holiday decorations around the grounds. I set out what I thought was a reasonable pace, and I passed the third tenth of a mile before I realized they have a set of blazes on one of the trails just like the one at the park near my house where I like to walk, only the trail down there is a whole mile. The sun felt warm on my face, the temperature perfectly crisp, the clear air clean in my lungs. The white of the snow on the ground and the frozen pond hid the flamboyant promise of spring, but was no less beautiful in its starkness.
I took these with the camera on my cell phone. The lower image is the view taken from on top of the bridge shown in the upper image.
The sense of peace was palpable. I couldn't stop smiling and saying "Good morning!" to everyone I passed. All told, I walked two miles on the marked path. The garden also has a pair of greenhouse conservatories, and after I finished the two laps around the grounds, I walked through those to warm up. The second I stepped through the door, the sweet smell of blooming flowers, the unmistakeable smell of spring hit me full force. And this:
That was my favorite plant. After I'd gotten my fill of the conservatories, I drove back to the testing site and spent a half-hour before Trout came out reading a wonderful book1 written by a friend of mine from high school. Trout came out hungry and happy, saying "Mom, that was so easy!" to which I rolled my eyes a bit. Then I figured, hey, she just went through 2.5 hours of straight testing, so I took her back through the conservatories, since we were in the neighborhood.
This was her favorite part:
She's all about the water feature.
All in all, what I anticipated being a crap day turned out to be an unexpectedly glorious day, and my soul felt refreshed. At least, until I dropped Trout back off at school that afternoon and they told me that they had confirmed cases of mono among the student population.
1 If you like to read at all, go get Sarah's book and read it. It's inexpensive and you can download the file from the publisher and read it online, saving trees, or you can print it out for a more portable copy. I'm looking forward to re-reading it now after I've done some research; the book heavily references Wicca practices (and my apologies to anyone who practices this religion if my own references are faulty), and I admit I know almost nothing about the religion, and I think there was a lot there I didn't get. That aside, Sarah's character development makes the book worth the read even if you don't get it.