Photo: Two little boys, wide awake at 6:15am, looking at their first airplane.
I told you a few weeks ago that we were summoned to Missouri by my Father-in-law to see his ailing mother. While I did my best to gently, respectfully discourage my husband from forcing all of us to make the trip, he treated it as a solemn duty. We made the arrangements to go, costing us a king’s ransom, and I prepared myself for it. Prayed over it. Couldn’t really get over it. But, on Thursday I packed us up, and on Friday morning at 3:50am, I got us up. We were summoned to the homestead and we would answer the call.
I am still processing the intensity of what we went through. While there were plenty of family elements to contend with, tightly spun family threads to pluck, pull, and unravel, there was also the incredible burden of shepherding these two excited little boys through the journey gracefully and patiently. They needed to be impervious to everything that was going on above them. It was our job to keep it light for them, keep them engaged and interested. We told them on Wednesday night what would happen and laid down the ground rules, understanding that Thursday would be the day to verbally work out the details and reiterate the expectations.
They rose to the occasion. They followed directions, they did as we asked without question, they knew what to expect at the airport and weren’t intimidated by security… they didn’t kick or scream or act a fool on the plane. Matter of fact, they squealed with delight during take-off and landing! There were many questions about flaps and buttons, the mechanics of flying, how we were able to stay up in the air. The Husband was overjoyed to show off the knowledge from his aerospace degrees. They were perfect. All three of them. I couldn’t be more proud of them.
I had to share half my seat on the plane ride to Missouri with a gentleman who…needed a little extra space. He was friendly, at least, chatting me up for most of the ride. No sleep for Mama. No comfort for the weary. The Husband was much more comfortable than I was, so he was tasked with the 2-hour drive from St. Louis to a small town in the Ozark region. I-44 through Missouri is a straight and hilly road, marked with no less than a hundred signs for the Meramac Caverns and other attractions. There were truck stops and tractor shops. There were churches and “trading posts” intermixed with motels and steak houses. Wide, wide swaths of pretty green land made me wonder about the pioneers and explorers who trekked across this continent. It’s bewildering to me what they accomplished.
When we got to my Father-in-law’s hometown, I was expecting extraordinary rural poverty. What I found instead was a cute little town that had certainly seen better days, but wasn’t totally rundown or abandoned. Old and new stood side by side, service similar purposes. For every boarded up window, there was a brand new building with an LCD display for this or that. It’s a town in transition, though I fully believe that there was a time when it was less than it is.
The family homestead, established in the late 1800s, is off a country road that is numbered instead of named. Land divided and redivided; poor, rocky soil stubbornly and proudly tilled and subsided on for generations, it is a house with a gravel driveway and a 2-car garage, a set of sheds and some bird houses. A pretty field of well over an acre swayed in the humid breeze, lifting a song made by grasshoppers as big as the boys’ hands.
Inside the pretty little pre-fab home (3 bed, 2 full baths, air conditioning, cable tv. This isn’t some shack somewhere), The Husband’s grandmother stood to greet us at the door and burst into tears as soon as she wrapped her arms around him. My two boys hugged her and she wept as she held them. The expense and the effort were worth it, just for that moment.
I will not tell you that this was a trip filled with joy or that it was easy. Quite the contrary: it was extremely uncomfortable and full of tears. It was extremely hot and humid, and the homestead has no shade trees (near the house, anyway), so the boys couldn’t play outside. We huddled in the air conditioning, but they were restless with boredom and newness. Great-Grandma was very adamant and particular about their behavior in the house. It was not ideal.
The moments they did get to spend outside were full of little boy adventures. Tractor rides and grasshoppers, dragonflies as large as hummingbirds, gardens and trails to explore. There were ticks and chiggers to worry about, but they were ok.
Though she is improving in some ways, The Husband’s grandmother will be entering a nursing home this week. As such, she is trying to distribute her things among family members. She offered us a china cabinet (and some crystal that she has collected) and she offered me her collection her cookbooks. I was very excited to come across a vintage New York Times Cookbook and Joy of Cooking from the 1970s.
There were also some fun Betty Crocker books (they all called for jello. Seriously. There is a chicken salad recipe where the first ingredient is lemon jello!) and other books. Check this out!
It’s a delight to go through these things!
Anyway, though the time with family was fairly joyless, the boys and their reaction to it all was warming and wonderful. It’s such a pleasure to see them experience the world together.
We’re exhausted from it all, but we have to get ready. School starts on Wednesday. There are things to do. Today was for Wegmans and Costco. Tomorrow is for the library and the park, laundry, and cleaning. On Wednesday, we wake up and get started. Here we are, another school year upon us. FINALLY!
Which means there is ever more to learn and share, right, Dear Reader? It’s the Monday of an important and busy week. I hope you are looking toward the horizon with a bit of hopefulness. I look forward to sharing with you!
Until Wednesday, stay productive and take care!