The Special Ordinary Visit
My granddaughter Jessica tootled in on a Thursday in February for a short spur-of-the-moment visit. Jess is my first grandchild. She will soon be twenty. Last fall she married a young man in the Navy. They live near Oak Harbor, Washington. This was not Jess’s first visit to Grandma’s house, but the first since she had left the terrible teens behind.
I entertained a brief moment of dismay, a flutter of what-will-we-do. When people come to visit, I enfold them into my daily life, whatever that includes. Grandma’s house is admittedly not a hotbed of lively activity. I scanned my week for something fun or exciting. My list included three trips to Havre for physical therapy, water the house plants and bake bread. Rousing, right? I wanted Jess to take home special memories. I concluded that she would have to make do with whatever came along.
So we had ordinary days. Two evenings we watched Netflix movies, neither of which Jess would have looked at on her own. One was a French spoof on the 007 James Bond films. It is hard to beat a spoof on a spoof. We laughed, we cackled, we looked at each other, we snorted. The next night we watched the classic, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. “Thank you, Grandma, said Jess. “What a great movie—one of the best I’ve ever seen. I need to call Marcus and tell him we have to watch it together. What was the name of it again?”
Jess seemed quite content to putter around with me. She helped cart boxes of paper and cardboard over the ice fields in my back yard to my cabin for storage. I had saved them for the monthly recycling drive. At this point I probably won’t get them to Havre until spring. June? Jess helped me make catsup from a peck of tomatoes I got from Bountiful Baskets. She took two jars home with her. She found a small basket of embroidery thread and began to weave a bracelet. We read. We sketched. We talked.
“I love your house, Grandma. It is so peaceful here.”
It was fun for me to observe, through the eyes of a young person, the things I take for granted. On Saturday we drove to Havre early to have plenty of time to poke around the Salvation Army and get lunch before the Empire Builder would take my granddaughter away.
At the Sally Ann, while we ranged through aisle after aisle of this and that, we heard the friendly clerks greet everyone who came in the door, most of them by name. “Hi Helen, did you ever find the whitchywhatsit you were looking for the other day. There might be one back on the shelf in housewares.” “Mary, did you want to take these with you now? If you have other shopping you can pick them up on your way home.” “Hey, Joe, nice shirt. You’ll look good in it.”
Then in the fast-food eatery of Jess’s choice, we eavesdropped while we waited for our order. Two men at the next table were talking about the Class C Tournament. When others came in, they jumped into the discussion. “Hi, Sam.” “Hey, Joe, nice shirt, how you been?” “How ‘bout that basketball, both girls and boys, real champs.” And that exploded an entire conversation about the intricacies of basketball, the merits of each team, and their hopes for next year.
Back at the depot, we had about an hour before the train arrived. I took out my book and Jess worked on her bracelet. We watched people come and go. Nearly every person greeted someone in the room with waves, hugs or handshakes.
Jess leaned over and whispered to me, “Grandma, everyone in Montana knows everyone else.”
A man and his wife walked in. I whispered to Jess, “I know that man but I can’t place him. He is someone famous, I know it. Maybe a movie star.” I groped around in my brain. Everything about him looked familiar, his walk, his stance, his facial expressions. About that time the Empire Builder came chugging in.
I walked Jess out to board the train. I kissed her good-by. We waved. I watched until the train pulled out. I will miss her. It was an ordinary visit. We didn’t do much. Our time together was special in a way she and I will lock away in our forever box.
While I was driving home the “movie star” popped into my head. He is famous. He is an actor with Montana Actors Theater. I have seen him on stage at Northern. I particularly remember him in his role as Uncle Peck in “How I Learned to Drive.” He did an outstanding job.
HDN: Looking out my back door
April 4, 2013