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
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
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
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
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
Rummaging through a box in the middle of the kitchen, I said, “I’ll make lunch first, then we can get down to work unpacking the bedroom and bathroom boxes.” I shouted with triumph at finding a kettle. In a nearby box I found dinner plates. I knew there was sausage in the refrigerator, but where was my silverware and the canned goods? I wasn’t about to eat kielbasa without pork and beans!
My Mom, who had come to help me unpack boxes, entertained Niki, my 18-month-old daughter, as I searched for and prepared our first meal in the new house. My husband Arnie had done all the heavy lifting the day before, but today he was steering clear of the household chaos.
When we finished eating, I stacked the plates alongside the sink and said, “I’ll wash these later today. Right now, I want to unpack as many boxes as I can.” My toddler was standing at the dining room doorway. Impulsively, I leaned down to give her a hug and a kiss. At the same time, my daughter joyfully threw her hands up to receive my embrace.
In that one fraction of a second, my plans for the day and my future took a dramatic, unwanted twist. One of Niki’s fingers poked into my left eye. The sudden, severe pain was unlike anything I had ever experienced before in my life. Involuntary tears gushed out of my eye, while buckets of water ran out of my nose. The slightest movement of my eye or eye lid caused the already incredible pain to increase. Continue reading
My husband Arnie opened the door and I stepped into the small, old-fashioned café. Three old men leaning over steaming cups of coffee at a large table glanced casually at us before returning to their conversation. They were busily discussing how to solve major world problems, such as famine, war and snotty youngsters.
Sliding into a booth, I looked around for Arnie. I spotted him across the room at the cash register sifting through a pile of newspapers. He’d stopped to select reading material to enjoy while he ate breakfast. I hoped the paper he picked had a funnies page. I didn’t like anything too heavy with my jellied toast and coffee.
Arnie loved what he called, “Mom and Pop restaurants”. He’d say, “Those places have homemade food that’s far better than anything you can get at a franchise place.” I had to agree with him.
We were visiting a town neither of us had been to before. How he had spotted this place, I didn’t know. The street facade was unremarkable. I suspected that finding places like this was connected to his uncanny ability of seldom getting lost.
After our waitress, Alice, took our order and Arnie started reading the paper, I looked around more closely. The café looked like a stage set from Mayberry RFD. The vintage décor wasn’t just a decorator’s attempt at inducing nostalgia. I suspected that they had opened their doors four or five decades earlier. Other than keeping the kitchen and dining room clean, no one had thought to update the wallpaper, furniture or anything else. If it wasn’t broken, it clearly didn’t need to be fixed. Continue reading