I’m back. I’m sorry to tell you that I have to start my report with some bad news – I forgot to pack my camera. That’s right, I took a week’s long vacation without taking any pictures. It’s hard to believe. But the memories are fresh in my head, so let’s go with that.
I flew into Fargo/Moorhead on Friday the 9th at about 11:30pm. If you remember, I bought my ticket back in June and had the perfect plan. I was going to work on Friday, and then leave here about 7pm. It was a direct flight, which would have been so nice. Well stupid Delta cancelled my perfect plan, so I had to go with a 4:50 flight instead. I packed up all of my stuff (except the camera) Thursday and brought it all to work with me, and went straight to the airport from the office at about 3:00 that afternoon. Leaving the office that late cut my time close, but when I got there it was to find that my plane was delayed an hour. Bah, what can you do? At least I wasn’t late.
Once the flight got in the air it went well enough. I don’t much like being on an airplane. It’s just so cramped, and it smells like engine fumes, and there are all of these other people… but we got to Minneapolis, and then on to Fargo without a hitch. Mom and Dad were waiting for me at the airport; we gave hugs, collected my bags and went home.
A word about the Fargo airport – it’s so small. There are in total 4 gates – 4. And usually only 2 of them are in use. You have to see it to believe it.
On Saturday we loaded up the car and drove to Rochester, MN, where Courtney and Andrea are. It was cold that morning! Temperatures were in the mid 20s when we left, and didn’t get much above freezing all day. I had bought a new and very cute fall jacket for the trip, my one pre-trip purchase. Minnesota winds blows right though a fall jacket. I could just as well have pulled a garbage sack over my head. The plastic probably would have been a better wind breaker. Of course, it wouldn’t have been as cute.
In spite of the winds we got to Rochester and found my adorable niece and nephews. Court and Andrea have two boys, Spencer and Andrew, and a baby girl named Amalia. You might remember them from the drive through Mt Rushmore last spring. They are just as much fun as ever, and they endure being squeezed and kissed and kissed and squeezed very well. Amalia was asleep when we got there, so I asked Court if it would be ok if I went into her room just to peak at her. He said I could, and so I snuck in very quietly, and saw that she was just waking up. “Oh no!” I thought, “Stranger in her room, she’s going to freak.” But instead she lifted up her little head, looked at me and smiled. I picked her up very carefully, and we went downstairs to the rest of the family. She didn’t make a peep. I’ve never, never had a niece or nephew who was that friendly. Heck, Jonah used to scream me out of his room, and he knew full well who I was. I’d like to think that this little girl instinctively knows who I am, too, and loves me. I don’t suppose that’s likely, but still, maybe?
On Sunday we went for a walk to Spencer’s school. He’s in Kindergarten, and the school he attends is a brand new building. This is its first year. The school district was hosting an open house. I couldn’t help thinking that a school would never get away with doing that on Sunday in Utah, but Minnesota is a little more lenient on the Ten Commandments. I say that with love. The school was great. Elementary classroom are so much fun with all of the stuff on the wall and kid’s art projects and the picture books and text books. I was wondering why I didn’t become an elementary school teacher. The whole place was exciting. We went into the music room, and there were posters of musicians from different decades on the wall. Court walked up to the one from the 70s and pointed to the band Kiss, “I’m glad to see that Kiss is still relevant in the elementary school music program.” Ha! That’s still funny.
After touring the school, we spent that afternoon at their house, and it was honestly one of the best afternoons I’ve had in a long time. Everything about it was warm, cozy, homey goodness. We had a roast in the crock pot. Mom and I made apple crisp. There was football on TV, little boys running around, and good conversation with the grownups. I so very rarely experience anything domestic, and I forget what a home can and should be. It filled up my heart and soul with the kind of peace that only family and apple crisp can give. Perfectly lovely.
You know one of my favorite things about little boys? They wrestle. Spencer was sitting on the living room floor looking at something while Drew was standing next to his dad and talking to him. Then Spencer, totally unprovoked and without any reason, stood up, walked over to Drew, took him from behind with his arms wrapped around his shoulders and torso, and rolled him to the ground. They rolled back and forth, locked in a tight hold. Court looked at me and said, “That’s what you call a take down.” After a minute they broke it up and went their separate ways. I think Drew walked back over to Court to finish what he was saying. Awesome. Only little boys.
We left Court and Andrea on Monday morning (after cleaning show off of the car, unbelievable!)and headed for Illinois. I’m sure I’ve mentioned my aunt Beverly to many of you before. She is my mom’s only sister, and has lived with her family in Chicago all of my life. We went there many times, almost yearly, throughout my childhood. Beverly and Bill (her husband), had one daughter, Linda, who is about 18 years older than me. When I and my siblings where kids Linda grown up and gone, so Beverly and Bill focused their attention on us, and what good attention it was!
I have all kinds of little names for my nieces and nephews: honey, sweetie, pumpkin, snicker doodle. It’s silly and gushy, but I do it. And I noticed that Mom and Beverly do the same thing, but this time I’m the honey and the sweetie. I kind of like it. Beverly is a wonderful aunt. When I was young, she called me princess, and told me that I had pretty eyes. She’d talk about tending me when I was little, and said that she could curl my hair around her finger and make ringlets. She would also tell me about a day when she was playing with me, and she did something silly and I said, “Oh Beverly, you’re ridiculus”, and then she’d laugh. She loved that story. By the way, I misspelled ridiculous on purpose, trying to show how I pronounced in the story. That one isn’t one of my usual typos.
Between my aunt and my Mom my every need was met almost instantly. I was always being asked what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, would I like something to drink, was I hungry, did I sleep ok, was it warm enough? I slept in every morning, and then woke up to the smell of bacon frying in the kitchen. Honestly, everyone should stay with Beverly for a few days. It’s fantastic.
I have to say, though, that she’s changed. She’s almost 79 years old, so of course she’s showing the signs of age, but it’s not just that. My uncle Bill (who was just as wonderful to me as Beverly is) died 3 years ago, and losing him has been very hard on her. It shows in almost everything she does, even in the way she walks. Strange how an emotional hurt can show itself physically. She’s lost her center, her core. It was hard to see.
Still, we had a good time. My cousin Linda, who lives close by Beverly, spent the two days with us. We went to a beautiful arboretum, went shopping, went out for dinner, and ate some of Chicago’s best deep dish pizza, mmmmm. I can’t get enough of that.
This is getting long. Are you bored. It’s ok to get up and stretch, maybe get a drink, before continuing. Are you ok now? Good.
Eau Claire is French for clear water, and it’s also the name of the town in Wisconsin where my brother Shane and his family live. It’s a gorgeous place, very woodsy. We drove there on Thursday, and arrived sometime in the afternoon. Shane and two of their five kids were involved in a musical version of “Cinderella” that was playing in a neighboring town. Shane is a trumpet player and was in the orchestra. They had already left for the play when we got there, so we spent some time with his wife Donna and the other kids, and then had an early night.
The next day we met up with Shane, who had taken the afternoon off at work, and drove out into the country to see my dad’s cousin on his dairy farm. Back in 1982 this cousin hosted a family reunion. That was the last and only time I’d been to his home, so it surprised me to remember so much of it when we got there. He and dad had a nice visit, and while they talked Shane and I went for a walk. He told me about his kids and his work. It was good to get caught up again.
That evening we went to “Cinderella”. It was a small production, but everyone did a good job. It was fun to watch the kids on stage and Shane with his trumpet. The orchestra was sitting off to the side of the audience in the auditorium, so I could look over and see Shane playing. It was nice. All of these years that he and I have lived in different places we haven’t seen enough of each other. I was happy to see that part of his life, of what he does. And the strange thing is that it all felt so familiar. Maybe because we played in the band together in high school, I don’t know. But it’s nice to feel like I still know him, and to have a connection.
Four Towns and a Wedding
Saturday was my last day, and we finished it off with a wedding in Ashby, MN. I have to say that by this time Angie was getting tired and crabby. She’d had a week on the road. A great week, but still a lot of here, there and everywhere, and Angie had lost some of her vacation glow. She hopes that she wasn’t too snippy with her parents, and if she was then she’s sorry.
Ashby is a little town close to the farm where my dad grew up. Most of his siblings stayed in that area. It’s where we went to visit my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. One of those cousins was married on Saturday. He’s much younger than me, so we didn’t grow up together. In fact, I don’t feel like I know him at all. But still I was looking forward to seeing all of that side of the family. The ceremony was in a little country church, was short and sweet, and then there was a dinner/dance at a reception center in town. During dinner, I was sitting across from my cousin’s little boy, and he asked me if I was married. I said no, and then he wanted to guess my age and started with 18! Nice! I said no, a little older. “23?” “No”, and then I told him how old I really am. He didn’t seem too phased, 18, 39, what’s the difference? But I later told mom that it was one of the nicest things anyone has said to me.
We couldn’t stay at the wedding for very long because my flight was the next morning, and we’d been on the road all week, and Angie needed some down time before repacking everything and flying home. She was, after all, kind of tired and crabby.
We went for a short drive past my grandparent’s farm on our way home after the wedding, and then past the farm where my parents lived when I was born. I’ll have to go back there with my camera. I did not know until just this past Saturday that there is a graveyard very near the house that I was a baby in, a small country graveyard. That must be the start and source of my lifelong love/hate/terror relationship with ghosts and ghost stories. I’m still a little taken aback – a grave yard so close to the house. Weird.
Sunday I flew back to Utah. The flights went well again, thank heaven, and it was good to be home. I always miss my bed and bathroom most, don’t you? Gosh it felt good to take a shower and go to bed that night. So good.
And there’s my trip. I was wonderful. Good to see so, so much family, good to connect with my brothers again, good to see the green rolling hills and the beautiful October leaves of the Midwest. And it was very good to have so much time with my parents.
Thanks for your attention.
And just in case you forgot during my long absence….
You are loved.