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Another Day in the Country

Home for the holidays

© Another Day in the Country

Kansas isn’t the only spot to spy beautiful sunsets! I saw one the other day flying to the Oakland Airport. The whole city spread out at my feet with ribbons of traffic threading every direction — the arteries and veins of the city pumping people, circulating them up and around through the body of the city, keeping it alive — at sunset.

My body had been thrown through the sky like a baseball pitcher covering all the bases — Wichita, Phoenix, Oakland, Napa Valley. Home run!

The airport was crowded, of course — everyone wearing masks. Baggage was slow coming out of the bowels of the plane, playing a guessing game between carousels .

Suddenly, as I stood patiently waiting for a familiar zebra- striped suitcase to appear, Jana, my California girl, was at my side, her arms around me. Miraculous!

How many times have I wished for this? How many times have I switched my weather app on my phone from Ramona to Angwin in an attempt to know what kind of weather she was facing in California — an attempt at closeness in far-away circumstances.

Is it windy in California like it is in Kansas, I wonder. While I’m blowing away, is she being drenched in a seasonal downpour?

But why are we talking about the weather when there are so many more important topics.

Of course, the things we need to discuss are much harder to bring up long distance.

Ah, they don’t need to know that, I reason. They’ll just worry, I rationalize, and I’m sure they do the same.

And so like my Grandma Ehrhardt, in her letters to us, we exchange news of the weather, my daughter and I — not in letters, but by text.

“Bring warm clothes,” she had cautioned. “You know Northern California this time of year!”

I do. It’s temp is similar to Ramona’s but damp. And it’s not as cold at night.

It’s the rainy season this time of year, and it will take me a while to acclimate. The first night I slept in all my clothes. I was chilled to the bone.

While the parents work, my grandson, Dagfinnr, and I play games. He’s keeping a running tally on how many times each of us is a winner. He’s ahead at this point by two games. I’m managing to give him some stiff competition.

My cousins Joe and Janet from Lawrence taught me a new game last time I saw them. It’s a card game called Garbage. Of course, I’m eager to teach this new game to my grandson.

He liked it. He also won. (That’s when I discovered he was keeping a tally.)

When his mother came home from work, he said, “Mom, we want to teach you a new game.”

Exhausted, she complied, but I could see her weariness, and the game seemed to go on and on and on for some reason.

“What is this?” she quipped, “the never-ending game from hell?”

We all got the giggles. She was pooped and trying to stay alert.

Dagfinnr won that game and dutifully recorded his success. His mom went to bed.

After a couple days of intense game playing, I said, “Dagfinnr, do you feel like you have to entertain me?”

He grinned, hesitated, “Honestly now?”

I watched his face. He did this little shrug.

“Well, it wouldn’t be very nice if you came all this way and I ignored you, now would it?”

That answered my question. What a thoughtful kid. I told him then that I never ever remember playing games with my grandparents.

Grandpa Schubert mostly played cards, but not with this grandchild. Cards were the devil’s tool, according to my mother — his daughter. She banned them in our household.

“We’ve switched places,” I said to Dagfinnr. “I used to spend hours entertaining you, watching the clock at first, to see when your mother would be home from work to take over.”

Babysitting was exhausting even though I’d raised two kids. I’d been surprised by this.

“And now you are entertaining me!”

We chuckled together and were into another game, Blokus.

He calculated the size of the board and narrowed the boundaries so that when just the two of us play, it’s still competitive and not easy-peazy,

I win!

“Write that down,” I remind him.

There’s a knock at the door. It’s a chimney sweep. Really! This guy is here to check our 50-year-old Malm freestanding fireplace. (This is my daughter being thorough — calling in a chimney expert. She wanted to make sure the fireplace is safe.)

For the last couple of years the fireplace was out of the house.

“It needs repainting,” my daughter said, and set about to do it.

And then there were complications with the paint, and the fireplace languished first in the garage and then on the patio.

Jana’s goal this Christmas is to have the fireplace in working order for Christmas Eve, when we’ll all gather around, warming our toes (and our hearts) as a family again.

We haven’t been able to use that stove for years; but thanks to the chimney sweep and a little ingenuity, the stove is ready. All we need is the fire laid and loved ones gathered round.

That’s my Christmas wish for you — warm hearts and warm toes on another day in the country.

Last modified Dec. 23, 2021

 

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