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Smart, Smarter and Smartest

Tammie’s cell phone made a familiar ‘ping’! She glanced over at it from where she was sitting behind the steering wheel and said, “Mom, that’s probably Niki answering my text. Why don’t you see what she said.”

I gingerly picked up my daughter’s phone, afraid that I would accidentally press a button or somehow damage it unintentionally. The message had already disappeared from the screen. Not sure what to do, I hesitated.

Tammie encouraged, “Don’t be afraid to handle my phone, Mom. You’re not going to break it. You know my code. Go ahead and enter it to see what Niki said.”

Reluctantly, I did as my daughter directed. I suspected she was hoping that if I used her phone a few times, I would begin to want one for myself. Several years ago, she had asked me, “What would you do if your car broke down while traveling to visit me? You need to own a cell phone so you can call for help!”

I doubt what I did was what she had expected. I went out and bought a primitive flip phone. It doesn’t have dozens of bells and whistles, but I can make calls and take mediocre pictures. Continue reading

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Birth Order

Cats love my daughter, Niki. Every time one is around, she gently, lovingly pets them while they purr in ecstasy. My white and black cat, Louie was enjoying Niki’s attention recently when she told me, “Our new neighbors have a pretty little calico cat.”

Five-year-old Gemma jumped in to make sure her Mama got the details right. She blurted, “Her name is Jewel, and it’s supposed to live in their barn. When we come back from playing with the kids there, it always follows us home! We try sending it back, but it won’t obey.”

Laughing, Niki agreed, “The kitty is very naughty. It doesn’t obey. It not only follows us home, but it tries to slip inside our house. It’s snuck in a few times while the boys were going in and out of the house to play in the snow.”

Gemma pipped up again, “The cat is fat!”

“The cat is very fat.” Niki confirmed. “One day last week I found it sleeping in Luke’s cubby. Of course, he hadn’t hung up his coat on one of the hooks, so kitty had a soft bed. I picked her up and discovered the reason she’s so fat. It’s because she’s going to have kittens! I think they’ll be born soon!”

Smiling, I suggested, “More than likely, she’s coming into your house looking for a warm nest to birth her babies in.” Continue reading

Gourmet Glorp

My brothers and I sat at their dinner table in the farmhouse’s sunny patio room. Warmed by the heated floor tiles, the sunshine and a glass of Casper’s homemade wine, our conversation flowed freely.

Billy jumped to his feet and went to the kitchen. A moment later he came back with a wedge of cheddar cheese. Dropping into his chair, he cut several slices for us to share. Savoring the creamy flavor of the cheese, then taking a sip of two-year-old plum wine, made me sigh with satisfaction.

Casper was telling funny stories about things that had happened to him while fishing with friends in Canada. The topic of foods they had brought with them somehow devolved into Mom’s attempts to feed oatmeal to Casper when he was a little boy.

He complained, “Most people call it oatmeal, but I call it vile glorp! Every time I opened my mouth, Mom would shove a spoonful of the stuff into my mouth.” To demonstrate how repulsed he felt just remembering this traumatic experience, my 78-year-old brother stuck out his tongue and gagged. Continue reading

A Moving Experience

Everyone was still munching on food when I jumped to my feet and examined the room. Tammie glanced up at me and quipped, “Oh-oh, look out! Mom’s got THAT look. She’s ready to get down to work.” Niki had provided cheese, crackers and dip shortly after we’d arrived at Tammie’s third floor apartment. Having spent the last three hours cooped up in the van traveling, her eight children were hungry and restless.

Frowning, I pointed out, “You have a lot to pack before moving on Saturday! Let’s get this job done as quickly as possible. We have hotel rooms reserved and a pool to play in. Plus, we left our luggage in the van. I’d feel better if it was safely at the hotel.”

I began sorting and packing craft boxes, cleaning supplies and trip souvenirs. My daughters immediately fell to work at my side. Unable to help because of tight quarters, my eighteen-year-old granddaughter Anne, decided to take her sixteen-year-old brother Jon to the Mall of America. Shortly after they left, one of the other children complained, “Blaise stinks. He needs a diaper change!”

Niki said, “I left the diapers in the van. I’ll run down and get them.”

I glanced out the window at Niki’s vehicle parked across the street. Someone crouched behind it. Alarmed, I asked, “Tammie, what’s going on down there? Someone’s hiding behind the van!” Continue reading

Fire Safety

I heard the school bus pull to a stop in front of our house as I put a kettle of potatoes on the stove. My five-year-old had been standing at the large living room window for the last half hour, watching for her big sister. She shouted, “Niki’s home!” A moment later I heard the back-door slam and my fourth-grader walked into the dining room.

“How was your day?” I asked.

My daughter shrugged and gave me the usual before supper non-committal answer, “It was okay.”

The events of Niki’s day would slowly unreel as the evening progressed. She was never able to pour it out all at one time, so it didn’t pay to push.

By the time I was doing the supper dishes, Niki had told me about a math test she’d taken in the morning, who she played with at recess and what was served at hot lunch. The way my daughter leaned against the cupboards watching me clean the kitchen made it clear she wanted to say more.

Looking troubled, Niki finally said, “We had a class on fire safety this afternoon.” I turned to face her. Every fall the school taught the children what to do if their homes were to catch fire. Along with the knowledge came worry. Continue reading

Unscheduled Plans

I studied the store’s colorful display, looking for the perfect birthday card for my friend. Other shoppers came, quickly selected and left, but I spent ten minutes intently browsing for a funny one that suited my friends sense of humor. Finally, locating the perfect combination of art, sentiment and price, I headed for check-out.

Later that afternoon, I sat at my desk to write a message in the card. Remembering all the fun we’d had together in the past, I ended with, “Let’s get together some time. We haven’t had a visit in ages!” I put a stamp on the envelope. As I licked the flap to seal it, I sadly thought, “Every year I suggest we get together, but we never seem to do it.”

The phone rang as I returned from the postbox. Another friend I see frequently was on the other end of the line. After a short conversion she ended by saying, “We should go shopping together sometime soon.”

I’m a social shopper, a person who merely runs into stores to pick up needed items when alone, but considers shopping the biggest event of the month when I have company. “That sounds like fun!” I responded.

My friend answered, “Then let’s schedule it. If we don’t, it won’t happen.” We picked a date and noted it on our social calendars. Continue reading

Never Gets Old

My mother sat like a queen on an upholstered rocking chair. Taking turns, my young adult daughters leaned over to greet Grammie with hugs and kisses. June sunshine gently peeked into the room through open living room windows. Outside, someone was mowing the lawn. We could hear the soothing hum of a distant lawn mower and smell freshly cut grass. The rose in a vase on the table next to Grammie’s chair scented the room as a soft, warm breeze fluttered its leaves.

My mother’s gray eyes sparkled. She perfectly fit the textbook picture of a grandmother. Her stylishly waved white hair framed a face with soft pink cheeks and smiling lips tinted to match her easy wash-and-wear, coral-colored polyester pantsuit. She peered intently up at her visiting grandchildren, striving to get a good look at them despite her macular degeneration.

“Happy birthday, Grandma,” my daughters chorused. Continue reading