Going through Stephanie's stuff at home (which I'll be doing for months or longer), I found an index card with the heading "Weekend." We often traded notes on Thursday or Friday, with a few fun ideas for things to do that weekend. This note was written by me, and given to Steph so she could choose our plan, or offer something better. The text in italics is what was written on the index card.
- Olbrich Gardens? That's a free, public botanical park in Madison, which Steph and I loved and visited at least several times every spring and summer. Lots of beautiful and many exotic flowers, and a sort-of "petting garden" where you're allowed and encouraged to touch the plants because they feel or smell fascinating. There's a bridge crossing a creek leading to a beautiful Thai Pavilion, where we often wandered. There's also a tower with a view of the entire park, and we walked to the top of the tower many times. Later, I pushed her chair to the top many times. It was our favorite spot in the park, maybe our favorite spot in Madison. I imagine I'll go back to Olbrich one day, but it's too sad to imagine I'd ever want to climb that tower without her.
- Cookies? Stephanie loved cookies and pastries from the Batch Bakehouse, a marvelous local bakery on Willy Street. Sometimes I would surprise her with their yummies, or we would go together, and she would marvel at all the fresh, fantastic treats behind the glass, and choose just a few, because she was always frugal.
- Bingo. Steph loved playing bingo at either of the two nearby casinos. We'd buy a full card for each of us, twenty games or so, and we'd rarely win. For me bingo was mildly entertaining, but Stephanie truly enjoyed every moment of it, win or lose, and I loved seeing her that happy, so we played perhaps once a month. Actually, I think it was mathematics of it she found so mesmerizing – the patterns intrigued her, and she always knew exactly how many calls of just the right numbers it might take, if her luck was perfect, before she could shout Bingo!
- Library? There's a branch of the public library just a few blocks from home. We often went to check out books or movies, or just to browse and loiter and read the magazines or newspapers.
- Snappers game. We both loved going to Beloit, a smallish town 45 minutes from Madison, where minor league baseball's Snappers play their home games. We went once or twice a month, all summer long, every year. They have reasonably-priced tickets, plenty of free parking, and a charmingly rickety stadium with a good view of the game from almost any seat. (Madison has a minor league team too, the Mallards, and twice we tried going to Mallards games, but the Beloit experience is much better and worth the long drive. In Beloit, the ball park doesn't blast you with non-stop ads over the PA system, the grandstands aren't way-too crowded with way-too-talkative hipsters, the ticket prices are substantially lower, and you'll be sitting much closer to the game.)
- Museum. Madison has several museums, but our favorite was the Chazen, where we wandered the exhibits once or twice per year. And the Chazen has free admission, so even when we were poor, it was never a budget-buster.
- Picnic lunch. We'd buy or make sandwiches and go to Tenney Park, a nearby city park on the shores of Lake Mendota, where we'd sit on a bench and watch the swimmers and gulls, and then stroll out on the pier, past the locks. Sometimes we brought the cat, letting her wander the great outdoors within leash-range.
- Drive time. Steph always loved a road trip on a sunny day, and it almost didn't matter whether we drove north, south, east, or west. She would navigate, and we would enjoy road trips to anywhere.
Those were the options that weekend, whatever weekend it was (my notes didn't include the date). No idea what we did, but I'm pretty sure we had a great time.
I miss her so much, all day, every day…