Well, we are finally home. Safe and sound. What a wonderful trip we had. Long, but very good.
I don't think I have ever been around my Mom for that long without having at least one argument. Before now. We just had a blast. Laughed, my Lord, we laughed a lot. We hit a couple of thrift stores. We had a ton of yummy salads. We watched the kids play and we got hooked on one of the only bits of tv I let them watch - a show called "How Clean is Your House?" on BBCA (had to change the channels when the commercials came on though - eek!) I think they gained a new respect for the importance of keeping a home clean. (Hey, cool!)
My favorite day, though, was the 11th.
On Wednesday, we met up with my sister and we all went over to visit my brother. (As a sideline, he was born with severe mental retardation, is non-verbal and wheelchair-bound. I am fairly sure he recognizes us, but isn't always glad to see us.... like, when we come during naptime. His favorite activity has always been slamming doors. The louder a door slams, the more he laughs. Go figure.) He rolled his eyes at me when I showed him #5. Just last year I introduced him to #4 who was then not even a year old. Now another. Not knowing how much he comprehends, but giving him full benefit of the doubt, I am sure he is thinking "Dear God, woman! Do you live right beside a baby factory or something?!" He wouldn't look at me the rest of the visit and was trying to wheel himself away. He did laugh a couple of times when one of the kids would scream (remember, he loves loud, chaotic noises - seems to charge his batteries - I am thinking it is the testosterone).
Ennyhoo, after we tortured my brother with all his nieces and nephews, we went to lunch at Bob Evans. Good heavens, they make a fantastic Cobb Salad. However, even the yummy, treasure-filled, crispy, green goodness of a salad could not trump the activity that all those kids were creating. Ever tried to get a huge litter of kittens to stay in a basket? Or, perhaps, nailing jello to a tree?
On to our next activity: visiting our old hometown. Siler City, NC a place where (if you ever watched the show) Andy Griffith would occasionally go eat dinner.
Because we were on a limited time leash, we weren't able to call any of our friends and say, "Hey, let's get together". Rather, this was a day for the three of us. Remembering. Good memories. Nostalgia. The first thing we did (after riding past the newly built Catholic Church) was to visit my Dad's gravesite. This was not to be a sad occasion. That "saddest day" was nearly 20 years ago. No, we were not there to be sad. Too much happiness has happened as a result of his being alive (my sister inherited his evil wit, my oldest son got the stinky feet gene, etc). We were all having a blast being together - My Mom and her two girls and her 8 grandkids - and we wanted to incorporate my Dad in the day as much as he was able to participate. All the kids sat down around Dad's grave marker (me: "ok kids, come sit on Grampa Bud's lap) and we took their picture.
Next, we went to the first house I remember living in. It is, surprisingly, a very small neighborhood on a cul-de-sac. It seemed so big back then. The house still has the pool that my parents built. I remember riding my bike all around that street. In and out of the neighbors' driveways and carports. No one cared about property boundaries. No one worried about staying out all day and playing until dusk. At the end of the street, there used to be a community garden. You would never know it now. It is dense woodland now. I remember seeing the tall corn growing. Harvesting it in the full summer sun. Also, potatoes, beans, and tomatoes. Summertime flavors.
Next we rode by the two rental houses (the first of which is the house pictured in the Siler City link) we lived in for 18 months or so while the house that my parents built was being completed. The white victorian was so cool. I could walk to and from my middle school. One of my classmates introduced me to the world of General Hospital (egads!). We only lived in the downstairs of that house. There were boxes of our stuff in the upstairs. My Dad liked using the upstairs bathroom each morning. He kept locking the door to the widow's walk every day. Mom swears she didn't unlock it after he went to work. My sister remembers a "presence". I was oblivious. I remembered the way the paper tops covered the milk bottles that the milk man delivered each week. The clink of the bottles in the aluminum holder. The way the sun shone brightly into the breakfast room. The enormous banister of the stairs. The faint smell of cat urine that the previous owner's pet left behind.
The next rental house...away from town. Our first exposure to the term "rural". It looks nothing like it did back then. I remember the maple kitchen cabinets and the huge screened in garage. The apple trees. We got a horse that year. I tried and tried and tried to learn how to do a cartwheel in that backyard. Near the persimmon tree. Mmmm... another food memory: my Mom's persimmon pudding.
We ventured even further past cowpastures and chicken farms and down the long, gravel driveway to the house that they built. A little scary, going down someone's private drive. There it was. Looking better than ever. The homeowners met us at the driveway. I got out to let them know we were merely on a nostalgic trip. They were the new owners. They had just taken a break from bringing the place back to life. The previous (second) owners had let the place fall in disrepair. Ivy coverd the entire porch and was coming into the front doors and windows. (I remembered a dream I had recently where I was back in that house and someone was trying to break into the front. I couldn't shut the front door or either of the front windows. Odd.) They were so excited to meet us. They remarked how well built the house was. "It had to have been sturdy to withstand all the neglect from those folks." he said. She said, "We're getting married in the grove of trees in the front of the property (which was a horse pasture lo those many years ago) on Saturday! We're racing around like mad to get the place ready for our happy day." Sweat equity. What joy!
Before we left to go back to Mom's current house - 2 hours away - I rode past all the schools I went to. The beautiful old Paul Braxton with its long halls grounded by shiny wood floors, a forgettable middle school and then my high school. Seems like three lifetimes ago. A whole 'nuther set of memories.
What a feeling of being right with the world that day was. A feeling of being complete. The day sorta gave me a "do de do dee" moment. Wednesday was the kind of day that you would want to have before you died. Y'know how they say a person's life flashes before their eyes before they die. It was that. Only better.