Remembering Grandma’s Grandpa’s House

We joined hands in a large circle around the island in my mother’s kitchen. There were 18 of us in all. My uncle said grace and we prepared to eat our Thanksgiving meal.

“Kids! Come over here and go through the line,” someone said shortly after the amen.

I grumbled to the person next to me, as I do every year, “Kids didn’t get to go through the line first when I was a kid. We always had to go through last.”

The person to whom I grumbled happened to be my 89 year-old grandmother. She laughed and attempted to remember how things had been handled when she was a child. She began to describe her grandparents’ house.

“Grandpa had a chair in the corner of the room,” she said. “His radio stand was right next to it. The dining table was over there.” She motioned with her hand. Her hands and words painted the picture of a cozy Thanksgiving gathering.

“The kids would run around playing,” she continued. “And eventually we’d get too loud and Grandpa couldn’t hear the radio anymore. So he’d start yelling in German.”

At this point, she startled me by uttering some words in German. I knew her parents had both been first generation American-born citizens of German descent. I had never considered that that likely meant German had been spoken around her as she grew up. I had never considered that she might know any German herself.

She cut off the German abruptly and chuckled at the memory.

“They didn’t have screens in their windows,” she said. “And I remember some of my cousins diving headfirst out the windows. They weren’t very far off the ground. But when he started yelling, you got out of the way!”

She smiled as we walked over to pick up our plates. “I don’t remember though whether we got our food first or last. I don’t remember what we ate or how we did it.”

I don’t know about you, but if she couldn’t remember it all, I’m glad she retained the radio, the German, and the cousins flying out the windows rather than who went through the line first and what they piled on their plate.

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When One Gets Too Proud…

Life has a way of humbling a person when they get a little too proud of themselves. Or, at least, it does me. Doesn’t seem to get through to the likes of Donald Trump, but that’s a different story.

I was feeling a bit smug – ok, a lot smug – when I pulled out of the local Wal-Mart parking lot at 6:21 Wednesday evening. I had just left my friends’ house a mere 14 minutes earlier. I had parked out in BFE because the entire town was at Wal-Mart. I had rushed in, navigated around the swarms of lollygagging shoppers, grabbed my jalapenos and evaporated milk, and bee-lined to the self-checkout, where only one person was waiting ahead of me. Score!

I thought about my imminent drive to family the next day and grabbed a box of Junior Mints so I wouldn’t have to stop anywhere. Then I remembered I was out of gum at work and quickly restocked. Then my eagle eye caught someone leaving a station that the less-attentive woman ahead of me had missed. I pointed it out to her and moved to the front of the line.

As soon as the next person left, I hurried to that station and displayed my check-out prowess, efficiently scanning each item and dropping it into the bag as I scanned the next. I grabbed that receipt and was probably out the door before the next person even noticed I was gone. Man, I was good!

Efficiency continued when I got home. I had three hours before bed and I was going to make the best of it. (My family was away from home so my time was all mine). I let the dog out of her crate, fed her, then hauled the laundry to the laundry room as she ate. Started the washer and then took the dog out to potty.

Back in the house, I started up Pandora and began making the super-easy but tasty Jalapeno Cheese Squares recipe I’d been given. I’d get it in the oven and then finish up some other tasks and pack.

That’s when I noticed that the 18-count carton of eggs only had one egg in it and I needed two. I was stunned. Defeated. All that efficiency!

I live outside the city limits. I don’t really know my neighbors. One couple won’t answer the door when I knock – I’ve tried too many times to try again. Plus, I’m pretty sure they think my dog attacked their dog and sent it to the emergency room. I’m not saying she wouldn’t try if given the opportunity; but that particular day, she hadn’t been out of the house.

The couple we did know moved out. The people who moved in, I don’t feel comfortable approaching. And the people at the end of the road have a sign that reads “We don’t call 911” and has guns on it. No way I’m going to their door after dark!

Guess it’s the convenience store around the corner. I loaded the dog up in the truck so she could have some fun and headed that way. Maybe I shouldn’t have already removed my bra for the day, now that I was going back into public. Oh, well. It’s just the convenience store.

Except they were out of eggs. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one with this problem.

Ten minutes later, I was standing in line at a grocery store even busier than Wal-Mart. I had picked a line that only had three people who each had only an item or two on the conveyor belt. Except the first person was in one of those motorized carts. The reason she only had a couple items on the conveyor belt was because she couldn’t easily reach the others.

An employee asked us all to back up and she then began filling the belt with all the items that I could now see in the basket and even riding alongside the woman’s feet. This was going to take awhile.

The next person in line had a runner. While we waited for the first woman in the scooter to check out, his runner kept returning with more items. They had a dozen by the time it was their turn. I grabbed another pack of gum.

My second trip to the place you never want to go the night before Thanksgiving had been exactly what you expect it to be. I had been given a gift the first time. And I thought it was all me. Don’t tempt fate! Karma bites!

Packing for Thanksgiving: A Child’s Priorities

Hal took it upon himself to pack a suitcase for Thanksgiving. When I got home from a half-day at work Wednesday, Daryl dragged a suitcase big enough for both his and Hal’s clothes to me and said, “This is Hal’s suitcase.”

No one else had packed. Daddy had not yet told them to, so of course, the older two had not done so.

“He’s not getting an entire suitcase to himself,” I told Daryl. “Here, let me have it.”

I opened the suitcase and started taking out clothes. If you’ve ever wondered what a five year old would pack for a three day excursion without parental guidance, here it is:

4 pairs of socks
1 undershirt
1 set of pajamas (mismatched top and bottom)
5 T-shirts
5 long sleeve T-shirts
5 pairs of long pants
1 very large water bottle, full, with the straw tucked in the air hole

No underwear. The omission made me smile as I remembered one of my little brother’s antics when he was even younger than Hal. We were going on a float trip down a river with some of my stepdad’s friends. He and my mother had been dating for a fairly short time. My brother was maybe three years old.

The group was packing the cars in our driveway. Most people were leaving that day although my mom, brother, and I were slated to join them the next day. My brother was excited by all the commotion. He started begging to go so Bill said, “Well, go pack your bags!” My brother ran into the house, grabbed a paper sack, and stuffed a single pair of underwear and his swimsuit into it.

Obviously, Hal has other priorities. The undershirt struck me as odd since he never wears one. They are for wearing under button-down dress shirts and he had packed none of those. Jane later entered the room and remarked that all the clothes sitting there looked like the laundry she had folded and asked Hal to put away.

I repacked with fewer shirts and pants and a full complement of underwear. The next morning, as we prepared to leave, I was frantically looking for my travel phone charger. As part of the search, I looked in the side pocket of Hal’s (now his and Daryl’s) suitcase and discovered that he had packed that pocket as well.

There were half a dozen Hot Wheel cars, a Batman action figure, a couple of action figures I didn’t recognize, and a few other small toys. But something else was in there that impressed me very much. I had added a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a hairbrush to the suitcase when I repacked. I had not, however, remembered to grab his allergy medicine. He had.

The boy has his wits about him. And he knows what’s important to him. Allergy medicine that minimizes his coughing at night: important. Clean underwear: what’s wrong with the pair I’m wearing?