“Wow,” Sandra exclaimed. She turned and looked at me and said it again. “Wow.”
One word. I should’ve counted how many times she said it.
Sandra rolled her window down and hung her head out like a dog. The wind blew through her graying hair. I’m sure the sight of a middle-aged woman’s head protruding from a car window entertained those behind us.
I pulled over several times to allow Sandra to experience the full effect of the beautiful Northwest. A three hour journey turned into an all day affair but well worth every minute.
“And you see this everyday?” Sandra didn’t doubt my honesty; I think she just searched for something else to say other than wow.
“We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto,” I teased. “Let’s go dip our toes in the river.”
Side-by-side we stood basking in the warm summer sunshine, our exposed white legs laced with blue spidery-lines, freezing our tootsies in the ice cold mountain river. Sandra giggled constantly. Yep, if she wasn’t saying wow, she giggled.
I estimated the endorphin factor on a scale of one to five to be about a three at that point. I knew the trip west to visit me would promote some form of healing. The results were awesome to watch. Unfortunately, endorphin highs are temporary, but I didn’t want to think about that yet.
“I’m getting hungry, let’s move on,” I kicked water at Sandra.
Sandra took my hand to steady herself when we tromped through the brush back to the car. “You never get tired of seeing all this beauty?” Sandra’s question made me realize how blessed I am to live here.
“Nope, it never gets old.”
Being a flatlander from the Midwest, Sandra’s fascination with signs that warned drivers of hairpin turns ahead made me laugh so hard I desperately needed a restroom facility. We rounded a series of switchbacks and I watched her in my peripheral vision, knowing what could be just around the next corner.
Gasp. “Oh Traci! It’s amazing. Wow.”
There she stood; Mt Rainier in all her majestic splendor.
Sandra’s endorphin factor has to be a four by now. I thought to myself. The constant smile and her blue eyes clear as the sky above us amazed me. Yep, a four for sure.
We grabbed our lunch and snow-shoed our way in flip-flops to a picnic table, laughing hysterically. Being the spontaneous type, I plopped my wide rear into the very wet snow and lay down to make a snow angel. I’m sure it wasn’t a pretty sight, but I’m positive the memory will last much longer than my butt stayed cold.
On our way down the other side of the mountain, Sandra’s fascination continued.
“What’s that up ahead?” Sandra pointed eagerly.
“A tunnel?” I stated what seemed to me to be the obvious.
“Really? I’ve never been through one before.”
I tried not to laugh. She punched me.
“We don’t have anything to tunnel through where I’m from. Remember?”
I slowed down when we entered the rocky cavern so she could examine the inside of a mountain. Sandra popped her head out the window and shouted to see if it echoed. It did. Shocked at her own spontaneity she waved to the construction crew on the other side, aware that they heard her silliness.
Sandra’s level of excitement settled into peaceful contentment on the decent off the mountain. She reached for my hand, an act of childlike friendship. We discussed a range of things: our adult children, love, marriage, but never the subject of chronic pain.
Later that night we lay in bed facing each other in the semi-darkness like two teenagers on a sleep over.
“You have no idea what this trip has done for me. What our friendship means to me. I don’t want it to end.”
I sensed the endorphin factor slipping when I heard her sniffle.
“Did you just wipe your nose on the sheets?” I teased to stifle my emotions.
“Shut up,” Sandra hit me with her pillow.
After a short playful scuffle with the pillows, Sandra scooted closer to me.
“You don’t understand,” she whispered. “I haven’t felt this good in eight years.”
“Wow.” It was my turn to be astonished, but for me, that single word didn’t hold the same meaning.
Tears slipped down my face. Sigh. Endorphin factor…two. I wiped my nose on the corner of the sheet. Tomorrow I’ll aim for a five.
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