The moment I stepped into the plane, I knew that the next couple weeks would be quite different than my normal days in Asheville. No talk of Occupy Movements, visits with Congress people. No talk of selling home improvements to total strangers.
No the next few weeks would be about family, and family "business."
About the only political talk I heard was about my bro-in-law through write-ins only becoming the new mayor of my small hometown. And now he's planning to run for state representative in Iowa. Go, Barney!
Speak for the working man and woman. I say this because Barney's second love after Betty is organized labor, more specifically unions.
My son and his family picked me up at the airport after a flight from Atlanta, where I was bumped up to first class. What a perfect beginning for my vacation! Bring on that glass of free red wine!
The five of us camped out my big brother's home. We took over the entire upstairs and still didn't use up all the bedrooms. A hot pot of soup awaited our arrival.
The next day we visited Mom and Dad at Pleasant Hill Cemetery, along with deceased little siblings lost in our childhoods. We also said hello to niece Chrissy, who tragically died in a farm accident some 30 years ago.
Then it was time to help sister Patty to rake her leaves in the back yard. We also had a great time visiting with Jack, her miniature doberman.
That evening we drove back to Omaha to have a family portrait with Santa at the Mall. We rewarded ourselves with a movie of "Happy Feet," and two huge buckets of buttery popcorn.
A drive over to Morehead, IA got us up the next morning. We had a wonderful visit with cousins and an aunt there. Linda has always been my favorite cousin. I found out that Sonny gave her her first kiss. I just knew it! Lucky dog!
After a drive to Denison for lunch and a tour of the gigantic small town of 5,000 people, we returned to Dunlap to look over the farm where I grew up. What a change! No animals now but some barn cats. The farm is now a soybean and corn grain farm. My brother and his boys and nephews now farm nearly 2000 acres, compared to my dad farming about 300, of which 120 was his own. The combine alone was worth more than $300,000. Add to that three big semi-trucks with Roberts Farms written on them, and we were in big time farming! Although I love my daughter's small sustainable organic farm in Tennessee, I was also amazed at what my brother and family were able to accomplish in Dunlap. What an amazing family I have!
That night I de-boned three turkeys at Betty's. She had been working all day to prepare Thanksgiving Dinner for 40-50 people the next day.
And that day came very quickly. Just in Mom and Dad's great-grandchildren alone, we had 18 children. Then there were siblings, their kids and their spouses. We all had a sit down meal in Betty's garage after Roger, my brother-in-law led us in a tearful blessing.
There were basketball games, picture taking, Twister games, movies, football games on TV for the rest of the day. And we can't forget all the desserts! I think we all added an inch to our waistlines that day.
The next day in the wee hours of the morning we said good-bye to family of origin, and drove to Kansas City, from where we would fly out of to get to San Francisco, my son's stomping grounds later that day.
The following week was another series of adventures...seeing my son's new condo where he stays during the week while working for Cisco Systems. But first, we stayed the night in his San Ramon house, which the family calls home. After surveying his fruit trees in his back yard, we traveled to his condo. That evening we visited the Global Winter Wonderland in Santa Clara. This was the same show his wife as a child had seen numerous times in her home country of China. What a sight as we journeyed all around the globe from prehistoric times to today on seven continents amidst colorful lighted displays!
On Sunday I attended a local Quaker meeting in San Jose. I'm amazed that in my small town of 70,000 persons in Asheville, we get better attendance than the sweet little meeting house in San Jose, home of nearly a million people.
My son prepared Sunday dinner that day. Quite a gourmet meal for a computer engineer! That evening his wife and children and I were invited to an authentic Indian meal at Shanti's home next door in San Ramon. Delicious food and conversation.
My photography bug called me on Monday while the kids were in school. But first, I had to catch up on my journaling at Peet's Coffee Shop at the closest shopping center. How I love to just write and write and drink coffee and take pictures. I even squeezed in a little shopping at the local Safeway before walking back to Bobby's home.
That evening Carter did his kung fu class, and of course, the camera was there with me, documenting his passing of his test that entitled him to his white belt. Not bad for a little four-year old!
I played all day with the kids on Tuesday, including a nice visit at Picadilly park, to where Carter rode his little red bike with training wheels the whole way without one mishap.
That evening I went to San Jose with Bob to spend a night at the condo, just reminiscing about old times and giving Bob an opportunity to update my laptop somewhat. The next morning I slept til 11:30 a.m. My way to catch up on the time change from east coast to west coast or Thanksgiving festivities?
As soon as I could get my act together I fed myself at a nice little coffee shop near Bobby's condo and took a walk along the Guadalupe River over by the airport. I saw homeless camping areas in some spots on the banks of the slender river.
That evening, it was back home to San Ramon with the kids. The next day we experienced part of the high winds that threatened Los Angeles that same day. More time to play and build memories with the grand children Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday we baked the best chewy coconut cookies ever!
Friday I did my Christmas shopping for the family in Danville, a sweet little Old West type town in the Contra Costa valley. I noticed that whereas San Ramon tends to be predominantly Asian and Indian, Danville was predominantly white. Few communities in that area attract African-Americans or Latinos. This isn't the way I would like to bring up my kids, but then these aren't my kids.
That evening was movie and popcorn night in the San Ramon home after Bobby returned from the big city.
The vacation was winding down.
There was still more Christmas shopping with the kids on Saturday, and the making of little wooden trains at Lowes. There were more picture taking opportunities, coffee shop drinks and conversations, a visit to a new church (give me Asheville's anytime) and finally time to board a red eye flight from San Francisco to Asheville.
And here I am tonight remembering it all, probably boring the reader to death. Probably one of the most tender moments was when my grand daughter cried because I had to leave. I had to promise to come back again soon so we could dance more, play music and games, color, figure out Sudoku puzzles, read, build, visit playgrounds, talk about Mom and Dad and friends, and shop together.
Next time I may bring Babe, my cat, with me. Family times are so important! While I was gone, my daughter was adjusting her new baby son to sleeping in a big crib in his own room. Again building memories that will linger and flow into the heavens with her someday.
Other things in life are important, and sometimes exciting and yet, memorable. But it's the little day by day moments of saying the big word, or dancing that special step, or wrestling with you on the beanbag that will stay with you longer than that new promotion or that pat on the back from the boss.
Thank God, vacations can sometimes give us opportunities to put the frosting on those memories, or open up those treasure chests of long gone moments, breathing warm moist new life into them letting them dance again in our hearts.
Don't turn down these chances to rebuild relationships. They may not come again for a long long time. They may never come again.