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.
the text came yesterday afternoon. it was a girl! born at 4:02pm with the sweetest little pink face. the up-north gang celebrated together virtually as new grandparents were born. and everything changed in the world as a tiny being – full of all the potential of the universe – entered this earth.
it’s happening all around us now – this grandparent thing. babies are being born, tiny boys and girls lighting up lives just as my own beloved children have always lit up mine. the focus changes, from one generation to the next, as it should be.
when you marry in the middle of middle age there are things you wonder. one of them is how you would have parented tiny beings together, had you had the chance to experience that. our girl and our boy were already adults when d showed up. and so, as empty-nesters, we ponder and wonder and guess and make up stories and scenarios and laugh aloud – a lot. we wonder what traits a little boy or girl would have of his, what characteristics of mine. these are questions that will never be answered, so it’s great fodder for us.
in the meanwhile, we adore the pictures of lilah, the videos we see of jaxon, tiny eliza on facebook, watching secondhand as landon and will and gigi and hayes grow and mini grown-up lily recites the pledge of allegiance.
and we wait, with great anticipation as new little people are expected, are pined for, are welcomed into this world. we know that with each new pot roast, each new bun-bun, each new diaper dinosaur the world gains so much more potential, so much more to love.
on my nightstand next to the bed are two frames. both written in little-kid-writing, they are notes i saved from long ago. one is from My Girl and it reads, “goodnight mom” surrounded by hearts. the other is from My Boy and it has two words on it, “craig” (with a backwards g) and “mom” and has hearts filling up the rest of the notepaper. each night i see these as i wish them both, from far away, goodnight, sweet dreams, restful sleep.
i come by this threadiness honestly.
we were in florida visiting; two of the days we were there, despite bright sunlight and temperatures in the 80s, we spent in a storage unit. what was left of my parents’ belongings was packed in boxes, stacked in a unit, waiting for us to put our eyes on all of it and decide what to do with each of these things. my mom’s impulse was to keep things, especially paper. photographs and slides aside, there were files and files – some of which we will wade through later. there were boxes of mugs and baskets and trinkets, a kaleidoscope of the pieces of life, carefully packed by my sister and brother-in-law during a time of sadness, a time that was not ripe with paring down or organizing, a time that is difficult for anyone who has packed up a house. larger items were already distributed – furniture given away or passed down to the next generation. but these boxes….
i was quite sure that, even if i hadn’t seen anything in any of the boxes, i had all i needed….my treasures of my sweet momma and my poppo are tucked in close to my heart and i have physical memories of them around me in our home. they are not the high-priced treasures you might think people would save or claim. instead, they are small, meaningful, invaluable and thready things that speak to me. old calendars of my mom’s, my dad’s small rickety wooden boxes from his workbench, glasses from which my dad sipped his scotch, a flannel shirt my mom wore that matched my dad’s, a board with hooks that is wood-burned with the word “keys” and hung in our growing-up house for as long as i can remember…
spending time in the storage unit, surrounded by memories and the fading scent of my mom’s perfume and their house, i was heartened to see that i actually could go through and pare down. it gives me hope about our own basement. the real things of our past – sweet treasured memories – are not things. everyone gets meaning from and sees value in different stuff. two days in the storage unit reminded me again of that.
this time i didn’t cry. i laughed with my momma, who, no doubt, was rolling her eyes in heaven over the fact that she had saved sooo many pieces of paper…paid bills, old house contracts, warranties from appliances long gone, car receipts from several cars ago. a collection of life gone by, i know she smiled when every now and then we stumbled onto something i loved to touch….i kept the little scrap of paper that fluttered to the floor that my mom had written my full birth name on…i kept a couple calendars with my poppo’s handwriting…i kept a tiny folder of maps my mom collected in her curiosity about the changing world…i kept my dad’s brown suede cap, the one i bought him a million years ago…i kept a manila folder of letters i had written to them over the years – that my momma saved…these pieces of evidence of who they were, heirlooms of what was most important to them.
i vowed, once again, to go through, give away, sell the things in our own home that are not necessary. but those bins in the basement labeled “kirsten” and “craig”? those will stay. i will delight in going through the artwork and stories and notes and school projects from their childhood and growing up. and some day, maybe they too will see how infinitely important each of the baby steps and adult steps they have taken are to me. and maybe some of the thready treasures i have left behind will give them pause and, maybe, they will save a scrap or two, a calendar, a notebook of unpublished songs, photographs, something that reminds them of what was most important to me – the thready things that are memories of love, of family, of them.
it wasn’t sunny or 82 degrees inside the storage unit. but it was warm in a whole other way.
recently, while perusing facebook (which i actually don’t do all that often) i came across a post by My Boy. he had made homemade ravioli for dinner. wait! what?? homemade ravioli??? now, this requires making pasta from scratch as well as stuffing it with a delicious tuscan sausage mix. just sayin! this is the same person who, long ago now, used to be able to live on honey buns and swedish fish. he has amazed me time and again with his creative cooking and the photographs he has sent of yummy meals. one day he grilled shrimp out on his deck for dan and me and d. just as thoughtful as the birthday he made me mac and cheese after a long evening i had spent volunteering, but, i have to admit, much tastier.
the first time My Girl made us dinner we had gnocchi and an excellent sausage sauce. i hadn’t had gnocchi in years – since i had it with the hot chics in montana – and her recipe immediately made it onto our ‘what-should-we-have-for-dinner’ list of possibilities.
these are the same two human beings who would ask, ” what’s for dinner?” now i find myself asking them. funny how cooking creativity blossoms in each next generation.