Updated: Jun 29, 2020
I’m home, but it was so great to spend a few days with my parents this week. We didn’t do much, but we covered a lot of ground. I hardly ever get to spend more than a day or so with them unless we are on vacation, and I am almost never alone. We lingered over coffee in the morning, watered and walked the grounds, watched too much tv and ate take out since their refrigerator was on the blink. My mom and I are excellent shoppers, and it’s hard to hold us back when we have some time together, especially when nurseries are stocked and open for business. Times are different now, though, so we did our best to stay home and enjoy time together.
I also had a chance to catch up with my brothers and my niece and nephew while I was there. They are all doing what they can to make life feel as normal as possible, although none of them have been too adventurous in these first few months of COVID. It’s a little odd not to talk about plans….usually we are trying to find ways to steal a few days away together during the summer, but this year we’re just all trying to find ways to get in a change of scenery before the fall.
On Friday my mom and I ventured one town over to have coffee with my aunt. I hadn’t seen her in years, even though she lives just a few minutes from my parents. As a kid I always thought she was stunning…long dark hair, milky white skin and a huge smile. Her hair is streaked with gray these days, but she has the same infectious laugh and twinkle in her eye that I remember.
We should have expected that she’d put out a great spread for us, and she did not disappoint. And once we got talking, we didn’t stop. For 6 hours. We talked a lot about my grandparents, Belle and Louis. I am the oldest of 8 grandchildren so probably have the most vivid memories of them. They were the consummate hosts–we spent all of the big holidays at their house because there was nowhere else any of us wanted to be. Food was central to every visit, and there was always plenty and it was delicious.
Louis owned a supermarket in Hartford many years. We used to joke that he had butcher’s hands…so strong with short fingers and big knuckles that could rip meat from bones. He was fairly small in stature but was athletic and tireless. He loved to dance, and I remember that when I was small he would let me stand on his shoes so he could whisk me around the floor. You could always find him sit around the kitchen table slurping up his bowl of soup, laughing and reminiscing with a friend or two who would inevitably stop by for a visit. He was staunchly proud his girls and their families and took every chance to get us all together. One of our favorite days as kids was the annual trip to McDonald’s on my cousin’s birthday. We’d all meet at the restaurant, Louis would treat, and we’d take over the picnic tables for a little while to celebrate together.
Belle certainly lived up to her billing as bell of the ball. She was a performer whose talents went unnoticed by pretty much everyone but us. She always had the radio on in her kitchen and she would sing along and dance when it moved her. We sang too, at least I did, and she would stop everything to teach me a song or practice a dance move on the kitchen floor. Belle and Louis were members of the Luna Club in Hartford and went dancing nearly every weekend. Belle was always impeccably dressed and accessorized, and could pull off bold prints and big jewelry better than anyone else. They both stole the show at our wedding, taking over the dance floor with their seasoned moves and graceful footwork. I always loved being able to sleep over at their house just so I wouldn’t have to share them with anyone else for a few hours. Sadly Belle died too young and left Louis to fend for himself for many years. He was never quite the same without her, and we changed up many of our annual traditions after she died to try to cover the gaping hole she left in our family.
The three of us reminisced for hours, and I think they were both impressed by all that I can remember. While we chatted, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the little dove family that had perched itself on top of the air conditioner just a few feet from where we sat on the front porch. All afternoon the dove parents would take turns flying off in search of food to feed the 2 chicks in the nest. They seemed uninterested that we were carrying on, laughing and gossiping, but I’m sure they were secretly entertained by all of the stories we told. I’m already looking forward to my next visit!
I headed home the next day armed with some clippings from my mother’s gardens and a habañero plant for Hans. Yet while I love being away, there really is nothing like coming home and sleeping in my own bed. It’s the best part of a trip. I never sleep quite as well when I am away, I always have to brush my hair and put on a bra when I go downstairs, and I can’t put my feet on the furniture. It’s tough to be so well behaved for 5 days in a row!
When I got home it was like I had never left, literally….no one got up to welcome me or ask about my trip. Hans was putting burgers on the grill and the kids were on the couch. Only the dogs seemed glad to see me, so I gave them a hearty welcome, then jumped right back into the daily bustle. There are always a few “changes” when I am away, some subtle, some not so much. This time the kitchen island was swept completely clear of any sign of my COVID mobile office, and at dinner, when I talked about virus spikes in the south, I was informed that no one had talked about COVID since I left. Nuf said. Hans hadn’t shaved, there was a pile of laundry on the bed, a new craft project is on the table, moldings are painted and the shed is clean. It's pretty easy to piece together the big stuff that went on while I was away, and I can only guess about the laughs they all had without me, and probably about me, for a few days.