the columbine grew on the east side of the house. colorado’s state flower is blue columbine. but – here – it grows pink on the farm and is called origami red and white. delicate and beautiful, healthy and thriving, it clearly loves the dirt and air and sun of iowa.
we were sitting in a circle on the southside, trying to avoid the windy wind. it was happy hour, on a day fraught with emotion. we had said our final goodbyes to columbus, d’s dad, bringing him back to his hometown in iowa – a tiny morsel of a town, bustling with family and traditions and giant farm equipment and passed-down farms. the southside – where most of the tractors and machines and accessories-of-which-i-know-no-names were parked. the southside – the direction the deer ambled from, late in the day, waning light their protection. the southside, the old farmhouse blocking most of the gusts, letting the sun warm us.
we had had lunch up at the hillside bar and grill – the place where you could get humongous pork tenderloin sandwiches – where the tenderloin hung off both sides of the bun. just the sheer mention of those used to bring a big smile to columbus’ face. many of the people at lunch chose those in his memory. we didn’t, but we snagged a tiny bite from cousin kate’s plate, an absolutely necessary respect-nod to david’s dad.
and now, here we sat – adirondackchair-bagchair-adirondackchair-bagchair-adirondackchair-bagchair – all in a circle, just sitting and talking and being quiet.
we sipped from wineglasses and bottles of water in the later afternoon circle. we all talked about life-we’d-missed-together, life-now and life-one-of-these-days.
kate looked over at us and asked if we’d ever move from wisconsin, if we’d consider going to the mountains. though we hesitated a moment to clear space in our current-angsting for actual dreaming, we nodded, and i added, “of course we’d love to be in colorado. the high mountains always call us.”
we don’t have any idea what that might look like. we don’t know when that might be.
we just know that we feel like happy-go-lucky columbine when we are breathing the air of the rockies, our feet in the dirt of a deep aspen-lodgepole-pine trail, under a colorado sun.
these chairs – privy to a lot of life – over just a few days – in warm iowa sun.
we gathered to celebrate columbus’ life, to inurn his ashes, to solemnly and with great gaiety – for that is how columbus lived – say the final-of-the-final goodbyes.
it was the game of bags (cornhole for the rest of you), the bubble wands, the hula-hoops and columbus’ old 33rpm records we brought with us i think he really loved. we made his brats with beer and onions. we made the pasta sauce he liked. there was more; a lotta-lotta food – just the way he liked it. mason jars with wine and a cooler full of water and sparkling hard seltzers and beers-just-up-a-notch-from-columbus’-favorites. and he – from the next plane over – held his beloved wife’s hand as she navigated this time in his growing-up land.
the three adirondack chairs from the east-facing porch were moved, following the activity. down the big grassy hill for bags and around the south side of the house closer to gracie-cat’s-plugged-in-water-bowl to escape the howling wind. back to the porch for happy hour and in a big circle in the lawn to toast his momma’s first hostess cupcake, bag chairs a little teetery on the uneven ground.
you had to watch for the thistles in the grass – you couldn’t just run around willy-nilly without being – yowsa! – aware. but somehow that reminds me of life itself.
it was a time of red. bright bright red. a time of brilliant stand-out moments we will clutch onto, like the hugs we shared at the cemetery and at the old screen door past nightfall the last evening.
though life is like a box of chocolates – yes, forrest gump – it is also like an adirondack chair you drag from place to place. it’s about comfort, simplicity and peacefulness. an intention.
you can sit and watch life, take it all in.
you can do life and then, rest.
we took turns with the red adirondacks. that’s what family does.
i do not remember my sweet momma ever peeling and mincing a garlic. i suppose it’s possible that she did – and i missed it – but i would venture a guess that she didn’t. garlic powder and garlic salt were in our spice cabinet growing up and i think they were the substitutes for the real thing.
they were depression babies, so my parents were not lavish spenders, fine-dining diners, exquisite kitchen-keepers. we had aluminum pots (it was a very big deal when they one day, at long last, purchased revere ware) and the infamous formerly-featured corningware. the cookware mattered not. family and friends gathered around the table together regardless. which, of course, is the point.
my dad was pretty proud the day he purchased my mom a portable dishwasher. they kept it in the laundry room right off the kitchen behind the accordion door that looked like it was made of woven straw. on special days they would roll it out and attach the hose to the kitchen sink spout, load it up and turn it on. when they moved to florida after they retired, a dishwasher-that-was-already-installed-in-the-kitchen was on my momma’s list. my poppo was in charge of loading and unloading, practically entirely washing the plates beforehand. my mom never tired of this amazing appliance.
i purchased a used dishwasher – not full-size, for our kitchen layout would not accommodate that – about a decade back and had it installed in the spot where the formerly-known-as-a-dishwasher dishwasher sat. sadly, it did not work for long. i should have purchased a new one, but that was not in the budget. the dishwasher-that-took-the-place-of-the-dishwasher is now also formerly-known-as-a-dishwasher. sigh. one of these days…
but friends and family have gathered around the table together – regardless of our dishwasher or cookware status – and we have happily prepared food to take to other gathering tables. which, of course, is the point.
when we lived on island, we had the same size dishwasher and i have to admit to being in love with it. it IS amazing – yes, momma! – you load it up and turn it on and voila! i know you know the rest. any time we are in airbnb’s and vrbo’s we embrace the dishwasher – well, not like hugging it…more like using it. it’s so twenty-first century! but i digress.
yesterday, when i was making rice, we got to talking about rice. (we are exciting people, folks.)
neither of us remember growing up with anything other than minute rice (and, of course, the exotic rice-a-roni array of rices.) with absolutely no judgement, we dove into the finer details of the cooking of minute rice vs raw rice that you boil and steep. it goes along with not peeling and mincing garlic, a collection of ragu and prego in the cabinet, canned and frozen vegetables. people’s habits and budgetary concerns are deeply ingrained and are hard to break.
from time to time we get pictures of what our grown kids are eating. they have prepared some fabulous meal or are dining out at a restaurant with incredible food and exquisite platings and presentation. often they are eating something we have never heard of; often my response is “wow!! that looks fantastic!” they have upped the notch on food from where we are and we glom onto what they send, asking for or looking up recipes, jaunting over to the restaurant website to ponder a meal there.
it’s funny how this happens. though i suppose it is not unexpected.
we have moved from garlic powder to real garlic in a generation. from the portable dishwasher to the installed dishwasher-formerly-known-as-a-dishwasher.
the next generation is taking it to the next level. dinners in instant pots, dinners with smashburger presses, dinners sous vide, dinners in air fryers, dinners with ethnic spices, sauces, harder-to-find ingredients, et al.
when fred rogers aka mr. rogers used to sing, “it’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day in this neighborhood. … would you be mine? … won’t you be my neighbor?” i remember singing along. it seemed he was from a different time. a time when neighborhoods were truly communities.
we are lucky to live in a neighborhood that includes neighbors who are friends. dear friends. we gather on back patios and back decks, inside around dining room tables, huddled next to firepits and in each other’s kitchens. we talk, we laugh, we try to solve the world’s problems. our neighbors aren’t all the same ages, so we are at different times in our lives, which adds wisdom and perspective and good learnings to these times we spend together. i have no idea what we would do without these wonderful people.
last weekend after linda and jim’s impromptu gathering, we walked down their driveway. lighting our way was this moon, shining across the water, over the rocks, directly to us.