A Winter’s Tale


Anne Michael

A couple of weeks ago I had to fly to Milwaukee for business. It was the company’s semi-annual meeting and our annual Christmas breakfast and “Chinese” gift exchange, which is a great deal of fun. All new people to the department are advised to wear helmets to their first one. The swapping of gifts can get nuts. It’s a great way to get to meet other members of the team and catch up with folks seen only a few times a year. My days in Milwaukee were long, but interesting. Each workday started at 7:00 a.m. and despite wake-up calls for 5:30, my eyes generally flew wide open at 4 a.m. (My body knew it was 5:00 at home so at least I didn’t have to worry about resetting my internal clock upon my return.)

When I left home it was a perfect Florida winter day. Temperatures were in the mid 70s, the sky impossibly blue and there was enough of a breeze to be idyllic. When I got to Milwaukee there was snow on the ground. It was one degree below zero. That was far more than culture shock considering I was wearing the Florida version of “winter” clothes. I couldn’t wait to get to the hotel and get warm. No fire ever looked as good to me as did the one in the lobby when I checked in. It was the perfect place to warm up and finish reading Dean Koontz’s book, Fear Nothing. As you’ve figured out from previous columns I am a big fan of Mr. Koontz and his nail-bitingly exciting books. This one was no exception. I loved it. If you fear flying his books will take your mind off it, and you never sweat the possibility of a DUI in your rental car when you get where you’re going.

The next afternoon the snow predicted by the weather service started falling. I’m enough of a weather weenie to know I’d be a road hazard if I took to the streets in search of the mall or a movie theatre so I left the traveling to seasoned snow-bound northerners. I ordered room service that night. I had plenty to read. But for all that, I found myself jumping out of bed every few hours to take a look outside.  I had that “possible snow day” feeling I used to get when I was a kid living in New Jersey. That sense was helped by the fact that there was a gazebo outside my window bejeweled with white lights for the holidays along with a lit Christmas tree in the center making the scene idyllic and gorgeous. I still can’t believe I’m saying that. In my house snow is a four-letter word.  Fortunately the meteorologists were wrong, only an inch had fallen overnight. Luckily, I left town before the big ice and snow storm moved in.

Because of the weather-enforced downtime in the evenings I read all the books and magazines I’d tucked in my bags, and by my last night there I was out of reading material. Now that was a disaster of epic proportion. Fortunately, all was not lost. I discovered the hotel had shelves full of books guests could borrow. Wow! To think I was already enjoying my stay at the Country Inn and Suites with the best wake-up call message ever, comfy beds and pillows, and then I find out they have a program that allows guests not only to borrow any book they wish but to take them when they check out.  What was an especially wonderful discovery is that for every borrowed book returned to them at any of their hotels, a donation is made to a literary organization based on the number of books returned. What a grand incentive to return a book. Happily, I borrowed two books that I’d never read before.

The first was Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. It turned out to be a book for young people, but I loved it. Her characters are so wonderfully done and the story both heartwarming and heartbreaking that more than once I found myself in tears, so moved was I by this tale.  

You know how embarrassing it is to cry in public, but to do it on a crowded plane is miserable. And when I cry my nose turns cherry red making it harder to be inconspicuous. The flight attendant noticed my day glow nose and obvious distress. She stopped to see if I was all right, and of course her voice seemed to go 100 decibels louder in the process which made more than a few people turn around. Blushing furiously, I explained that I was reading a book and that I was fine with flying. Once she was certain I was telling her the truth, she laughed and checked out what I was reading. At once her eyes got wide in recognition. She said she had taken her twin nieces to see the movie of the same name when it first came out and they all cried. Patting my shoulder she asked me to move to the back into an empty seat by the bulkhead where I could read without anyone bothering me. I retrieved my things, got a row to myself and a full box of tissues. The book was done by time we landed in Atlanta.  

Since the airport in Atlanta is famous for delays I was glad I had the second book, A Perfect Day, by Richard Paul Evans. I finished that one by the time I got home to Florida. It was another wonderful book that jerked at my heart strings and overworked tear ducts with its lessons and sympathetic characters, a simply but well-told tale of discovering what is truly important in life.  

That winter trip from Wisconsin to Florida, fraught with delays, frozen fuel line heaters and other weather-related snafus, was made so much better by my two borrowed books and the skills of two talented authors. You can bet the books will be returned to the hotel. By doing so, I will be part of the reason a donation is made toward literacy and toward helping someone else have a better life. Yep, it was a string of perfect days in many ways especially since the only snow I usually see is in a glass globe on my coffee table. The trip was fun, the reading great, but there really is no place like home.  Contribute to literacy—read. Enjoy your own winter’s tale.

At age 10, Anne realized she was never going to get to be Miss America since reading a book was not an acceptable talent. So she went on to get a job and raise a family. Along the way, she fixed meals, picked up toys, helped with homework, and collected a drawer full of rejection slips for her “great American novel.” It was not all bad, however, since she ended up wallpapering a closet with them. She currently designs and creates greeting cards for her tiny company, The Frog Prints, LLC, and also works full-time as a Training Specialist. Anne is currently tethered to reality by a loving spouse, two dogs, one cat and the occasional hurricane that blows through Florida, although falling headlong and happily into a book is still her favorite “talent.” She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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