No matter the thrill of post-Christmas shopping, winter is my scheduled depression time. I’ve come to think of the January-February freeze as Dark Spell; when the sun won’t stir herself awake until long past my jogging hour, yet scurries back to her bed in the west before I make dinner. The biting winds tear through our sycamore till it’s a picked clean carcass. With no signs of rebirth to regenerate me, I take comfort in baked goods, making the only things looking up are my blood pressure and my weight.
A few weeks ago, during the miracle of our warmest North-East winter, another phenomenon brought me out of the darkness with a single whisper in my ear, “It could be you.” Powerball fever started just as the holiday season was ending. My first inkling that all my fiscal dreams could come true were over dessert on Christmas Day. My brother-in-law, Brian began listing all he would do with his millions; fix up his vacation house on Long Island then re-vamp his Queens home, and pay off any of his relatives’ debts. Since Jim and I are his relatives, but we have no debts—I knew we had to invest ourselves. Unlike Brian, I had no plans to spruce up my home—I would be leaving it for my new digs in the Hamptons down the road from wherever Ina Garten lived—and cooked.
The next day, we bought a ticket. Actually, three tickets since six boxes wasn’t enough to fill in all the birthdays of the people we love. Unfortunately, February 4 is shared by my father, Jim, our cousin Peg, our friend Libert and since Mom is the 24th—well, you can see our dilemma. We moved on to address and phone numbers, until finally, in desperation to win, I made a design with my fill-ins. Surely this time, fate would smile on us. We upped our investment to $10.00.
We didn’t win. Neither did Brian. On New Year’s Day, the family gathered once again, this time over fresh and cured hams and all the remaining Christmas baked goods. My brother-in-law shared his new bigger dreams to match the swelling millions payout. “I’d get a rescued dog,” he offered. “Maybe two to keep each other company.”
I looked under the table at Fido busily shredding a greasy paper plate into confetti and wholeheartedly agreed that Powerball was the answer to my vacuuming prayers—besides, another saved shelter dog to coax Fido outside among the beach heather between Ina’s house and ours was so appealing.
Somehow, in our selfish big dreams, emerged a tiny shift in our plans. No longer wishing for expensive brick and mortar, Brian and I were saving puppies with our riches.
The next time we met was for brunch with our littlest clan members. With an infant on his lap, Brian talked of endowing Holy Cross High School, while I, feeding waffles to a toddler, announced I was building a new church to replace the rented space my church-mates and I attended. I joined my friends in a Powerball pool while Jim re-entered our card. Our investment grew to $36. Did Brian and I realize how the growing fortune was bringing out the best in us? We were now keeping the faith.
With the ever-shortening days, the Dark Spell choked the light from of our home. Since company’s the best way to keep the doldrums at bay, I defrosted an eye round and invited the family for dinner. With forks in steady motion, we devoured succulent pot roast in onion-mushroom gravy. Between bites, we allowed ourselves, what would be our last feverish dreams. Brian envisaged a new wing at St. Jude’s Hospital for Children. Mine was supporting a ministry to build low-rise housing for those in need. We would pool our resources to stop puppy mills, endow Wounded Warriors with needed funds and set up scholarships. The collective ideas of what our 1.5 billion dollars could do was exhilarating. That evening’s dream ended with the announcement of the winners. The fever had broken, leaving the losers to awaken. Back to our jobs, back to our lives. Even the winners lost their dreams, for now they had new and heavy responsibilities.
An op-ed piece in my local paper denounced the Powerball as too big and called for a cap on the payouts. Dream killers! Still, if there’s no fever on the horizon, I won’t be purchasing tickets for a while. Thirty-six dollars should be used for more sensible purchases. Unless, on a winter’s night, I hear the whisper, “It could be you.”