If it were possible to poke that many candles in one cake, mine would have sixty-one. But even though our family is plenty big enough to devour two cakes in one sitting with a couple of pieces left over for breakfast the next day (yes, that’s what we do...a la mode too), I’m not certain one can get 30+ candles lit and extinguished one, two, three, without entombing the cakes and frosting in a carapace of colored wax. Maybe someday we will try it... in the back of a pickup, during harvest. Without much wind. Or flammable plates.
When you are sixty-one, your grandkids are still young enough to give giant hugs, make silly videos, and even tell you you’re the most beautiful grandma ever...hyperbole being standard operating procedure for grandchildren….Your children, on the other hand, are caught between a rock and hard place: if their mom is over sixty, it follows that, YIKES!
It’s OK….I couldn’t get my mind around my parents turning sixty...and then seventy….either. I still felt like the kid when I was pushing forty.
Good news, all. You are fully certified responsible grownups and we are proud as we could be of your character, accomplishments, hopes and aspirations. But...we do remember when you were younger...and sillier….and not as responsible, reliable, etc. etc. as you are today….
Our household was unpretentious, not bound by style, or convention...or routine...we bought shoes at Payless Shoes, jeans at John’s Bargain Barn, and a big night of entertainment was renting a VCR and movie in town and picking up a pizza...which was always cold by the time it had wended it’s way eight miles north and east on route O.
It was years before the kids thought about consumer goods like fancy athletic shoes; growing up on a farm and going to school in Westboro probably inoculated them against that kind of materialism. After all, the girls had a full complement of Barbies with customized eye makeup and a whole herd of My Little Ponies.
And if books or toys or tormenting their little brother ceased to be entertaining, Lee and Ann could always go downstairs and sing along with the Judds at the top of their lungs. Who needs karaoke?
Lee’s first word was “Be”, for baby, and it applied to Orange Baby as well as her baby sister. Annie had Blue Baby...we were literal rather than poetic with doll names. I swear Ben’s first word was “HyVee”, but maybe that was the first word all three of the kids could read….even before .
The girls were blessedly non-picky eaters, happy enough with eggs or hot dogs for supper, making it so much easier to pack meals during the busy seasons. Combines were not family friendly, so it was several years before Ann could perch herself on a water jug, Lee on the fire extinguisher, and Ben on my lap or the armrest after supper. We were young and flexible then.
This contortionist act was rivaled only by the trips we sandwiched all five of us into the cab of the pickup. Mind you, this was before the invention of quad-cabs, before car companies recognized that more than two people might want to ride together in a pickup, or that lots of families considered their pickup to be their second “car”. At any rate, most of our safety defying trips five across were local, undertaken on snowy days or icy days when the country roads were impassable for our Ford Econoline. Plumped by multiple layers of coats, scarves, boots and coveralls, one of the girls would straddle the gear shift, then the other would squish in beside her (interestingly enough, the cries of ‘she’s touching me!’ ne’er were heard in the cab of the pickup….maybe because no one could breathe) and let the seat belt out enough to fit around both of them. . Blake would elbow space to shift and shut his door, then, finally, Ben and I would launch ourselves into the remaining space, and yank the other door closed. Only then would I pull the other seat belt around both of us…padded like climbers on Everest... and attempt to find the buckle underneath whichever sister was next door.
This seating arrangement did not lend itself to long distance travel, but nonetheless, we drove out west of Grand Island at least twice to club calf sales, dragging our trailer behind and constantly running the defrost to offset the effects of all that respiration. Bathroom breaks were matters of logistical significance. Strangely enough, I do not remember any of the kids complaining….perhaps they were suffocating or perhaps I couldn’t hear them over the wind and fan...but I recollect quite clearly that none of the calves we bought those two years ever won his class. Fool me twice, shame on me. After that we stayed closer to home...and bought black.
I know this sentiment was not shared amongst the kids at all times and at all places, but some of my best memories did involve our family road trips, whether it was an early morning trek on Thanksgiving morning to my aunt’s gracious home in Columbia, a re-enactment of the pioneers’ trail through Wyoming, or museum hopping in Washington, D.C. I loved picnicking in parks, stopping at historical markers (all of them), wading in cold mountain rivers, and finding a movie theater that last night out. I appreciated every time one of my patient kids would pose for yet another mountain vista. I even liked packing…..
Good for a laugh from the safe distance of decades: digging for Ann’s retainer in the trash of a McDonald’s at the Lake of the Ozarks; Lee’s bright red Sally Jessy Raphael style glasses….a replacement frame the color of her mother’s face after Lee left her brand new glasses where Ann could sit on them; Ben, checking to see what I thought about shaving his head...after the fact. Ann and Ben, wearing the signs ‘Drunk’ and ‘Deserter’ at Fort Kearney or playing ‘Jack and Diane’ on their way to school in the Neon...a big improvement from the days Lee and Ann shut him in the linen closet. Lee and Ben, practicing parallel parking with the dualled up 1984 Ford diesel pickup, Ben directing his sister between the buckets of feed and bales of straw in the driveway.
Tense times: music contest, freshman wrestling, prom.
And, for this mom,the very best of times: a break from running the seeder while I listened to the events of that day after the bus brought the kids home. Long phone calls on the 888 phone number. Late night talks in the kitchen when the rest of the family was sleeping.
Happy memories. Lucky mom.