They constantly told us all day and all night long, please don’t drive unless you must. Stay home, and try to keep as warm as possible.  It was not beyond reason that our good old antique furnace could just give up at any moment. But it marched on. Except the water in the radiator in my study froze and a hairline crack appeared through the thick metal casing.

And yet, you can’t stop living.  We bunched up in the newer of the two cars, Rosy Renault and drove some thirty miles to South Holland from Evanston to have dinner with Denise and the Abbott clan. It was hairy on the way back. The car was making all sorts of clanging noises  that we had never heard before.  The gear shift was behaving a bit funny, but we had already reached the cruising speed and inside the car was relatively warm. We all held our breaths, probably each one of us praying in our own way that the car would stand up to the brutal cold and the wind chill, and would get us all home safe.  It did.

All huddled together in the living room in front of the roaring fire place, I broke out a bottle of Rémy  Martin  and we somehow managed to keep ourselves warm. That was also the winter I remember sitting in an elegant restaurant in Paris with my camel hair top coat on and the warm leather gloves, because it was so fucking cold. And that was the winter when during the weekend, my favorite, so lovingly planted by Carolyn inside a beautiful maroon ceramic pot for which she had hand macraméd the plant hanger in the matching color – the  Wandering Jew or the plant name of Zebrina Pendula, hanging by the window in my office had over the weekend frozen to death. It made me sad, but looking at it, nothing I could do. I took it off the hook on the ceiling and discarded it by the garbage can.

Unbeknown to me, my secretary Teresa Velazquez had somehow salvaged a few twigs that too were frozen, but must not have looked all that dead to her. She put them in a jar filled with water by her desk and nurtured them with the tender loving care. Miraculously, in a few months those twigs had healed and grown and sprouted. She transplanted them back into its original pot, and I had my plant back hanging by the window, healthier and of the fuller head than ever. I took it home when I left the company, and was still around fourteen years later, up until I left to live in Prague.  Now I’m trying to think who did I give it to?  It’s probably still prospering somewhere.

I would think of it a dozen years later sitting in my apartment in Prague. The very first week that I had moved into my well furnished and amply lit attic apartment with the high ceilings and slanted skylights on Přícná 7, I had bought four potted plants to give the place some homey feeling. Over the six years, the big palm tree had grown into the greenest and the tallest, almost touching the ceiling. I gave it to my friend Jana (Dvořáčková) when I moved back to Chicago in 2006. When I talked to her earlier this week, she told me that it’s still well and alive and towering over everything in her apartment.

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