Nathaniel’s First Day

Although it was a slow day for the restaurant, the kitchen staff kept grandson Nathaniel busy on his first day of work. I was surprised at the things he did, because I assumed they would have him washing dishes. He helped peel potatoes, made croutons, chopped a crate of tomatoes, and made two batches of meatloaf using ten pounds of meat each time. There had been comments that the meatloaf was too moist and fell apart, so the chef changed the recipe slightly and varied the cooking times. I’m glad we had a hearty lunch, since Nate was on his feet, working without a break, for six and a half hours.

Generation Gap

You don’t hear about the generation gap any more, at least not constantly, as in the 60’s. My generation supposedly had wildly different life values from those of our parents, but that’s not what I was thinking about. I became aware of my feelings regarding work for my children and grandchildren. Our son John $ was here today and had lunch with us. Also at the table was grandson Nathaniel (17), who was going to start his first job in an hour. He has been paid for doing various bits of work, but this was the first time he was interviewed and hired for a summer job. I was nervous for him from the time he talked of coming here through his first two interviews. If I were honest, I wouldn’t use euphemisms, but say flat out that I was worried. At this moment I am very aware that he has gone out to make his way in the world. Is he ready? Yes, he is. Does he have a good work ethic? He does. Does he have good manners and social grace? Absolutely.

When John drove Nathaniel to the restaurant, I chatted with $. What was his first job? Was he nervous? I enjoyed hearing his recollections. That’s when it hit me that I don’t remember agonizing about my own children’s launch into the working world. All three got jobs without my help or worry. They cleaned houses, worked as a maid in a motel, washed dishes in restaurants, made bagels, worked as a camp counselor, drove a bus, worked behind the deli counter, and had jobs in a warehouse and a place where flagpoles were made. They worked at an earlier age than I did, too. I could have been a professional worrier, for heaven’s sake! Why did I fall down on the job? I flubbed my chance to make them apprehensive and nervous.

I had an excuse for not worrying grandson David into a job. He was living in New Jersey when he started work as a cashier in a supermarket. I will admit to being apprehensive when he came here last summer and needed a job to help pay college expenses. The pressure was high, and I did my fair share of worrying that he wouldn’t find a job without some kind of pull. Despite me, he got a job quickly and returns to it when off from college.

I was going to make a public apology here to my children for not worrying about them when they began working. Before I could begin, I canceled it. In this past year I have listened to their comments about the lack of work in their field, concern about a lateral move, and an application for a second job. I may have failed you in the worry department for your first job, but I’ve been on duty ever since.

Note to self: You know God is in control. Trust Him!

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Celebrating Seven

We were very aware that it was neighbor Logan’s seventh birthday. John and David were in New York, so we said ahead of time that we’d like to celebrate with him at a later date. Grandson Nathaniel and I called birthday greetings to him as we drove out to run errands. Logan and his foster brother Dennis were skate boarding on the street. I thought he looked a little pensive, but that’s probably because I knew his mother had a terrible sinus infection and would not be having a family party for him that day.

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Nathaniel and I put our heads together that afternoon, wondering what we could do for Logan. We decided a seven-year-old should have party games to jazz up his birthday. Our list of choices included hide Uncle Sam, batting a balloon about, flying gliders in the yard, working a small jigsaw puzzle, and playing checkers. Logan came in the door, showing all the things he could do with his new spinner.

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He chose the hiding game first. Some years ago we had a tiny porcelain figure of Uncle Sam that had come in a box of Red Rose tea. We used it instead of a thimble, taking turns hiding it in plain view for the others to find. Poor Uncle Sam broke his legs off when we dropped him, and Kate’s Michael glued him back together. He resurfaced a few days ago, fell on the floor, broke his legs, and was re-glued by Nathaniel. The next time he falls, we might rename him Humpty Dumpty. Nathaniel was hiding Uncle S when I took a photo of Dennis and Logan playing with their spinners.

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Logan’s second choice was to play checkers. Dennis played against him the first time, and I took a shot of Nathaniel as the second opponent. Dennis devised a marble maze in the background.

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A few days ago Nathaniel baked a cake for his brother David, and I asked if there would be a spoonful of icing he could save for Logan. I KNEW Logan would love it, because when we kept him for a few days some months ago, he said he would love a chocolate cupcake for a snack after school. I made chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing for him, and all he did was lick the icing off. Yes, he’s a boy after my own heart. Nathaniel, bless his heart, saved about three tablespoons of icing. He slipped into the kitchen and got it ready. It’s a mystery to me how a boy with a bowl and a spoon can spread icing all over himself, but Logan is a master at it. He also downed a glass of milk, which probably turned brown as it passed through his chocolated mouth.

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Playing with Nerf guns was not on our list, but that’s what Logan wanted to do. Nathaniel shooed me into the safety of my bedroom to write while the war raged outside the door. He came back to get me as the boys were leaving. Both young and old boys had a lovely thank you for me, which I would like to redirect to Nathaniel, the one who really earned it.

Summer Days

Dennis came back to visit his foster parents across the street, and he and grandson David built a marble maze together. I loved the clacking sound as the marbles rolled down the chutes. Children’s toys might be more fun for young adults than youngsters.

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Daughter Kate and the young men fed the last of the carrots to the horses that live behind us. The best entertainment is sometimes free.

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After Kate went back to New Jersey, Nathaniel and I found a terrapin on the road as we walked. The little guy must have been frightened silly when the giant picked him off the road and put him in the grass. For days after, we looked along that stretch, hoping there would not be a splat on the road.

The day his mother left, Nathaniel spent the morning working on the waterfall that he and John built last year. It had begun to lose water rather drastically, and Nate found where water was escaping. I asked for a victory pose.

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I offered Nathaniel a Moon Pie, knowing he needed the Southern experience of eating one. He already knew I was disappointed that the chocolate had no taste. The chef  devised an enhancement. He split it, added a marshmallow, drizzled chocolate sauce on it, and sprinkled it with espresso chocolate chips. The snack was so messy that we almost needed a shower after eating it. There was finally enough chocolate taste for me.

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Celebrating Family

For a few days around Father’s Day, all of our children and grandchildren except Lise were here to celebrate. Lise lives in Denmark and usually comes once a year at Thanksgiving. There aren’t many of us, but we make up for it with loud laughter. Nathaniel volunteered to transform fake crab into crab cakes, which we all enjoyed.

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Nathaniel, John $, John, David, Kate

On Father’s Day, I persuaded (commanded) John to pose with our daughter and her sons for an official photo.

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John had the day off from kitchen duties, so Nathaniel started the charcoal fire. He had slung his tie over his shoulder, reminding me of a mini-cape. He seems to have magical powers when he is around food.

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I took a photo of the self-proclaimed twins after they worked out the math that John and Nathaniel were now the same age. When John turned 70, he declared that he would revert to being 21 and take a year off his age with every birthday. He teased Nathaniel that when he regressed to being a toddler, Nate would have to push him around in a stroller. Before agreeing that Grandpa/Dad is now 17, the math people talked about calculating this tricky age. Word-coiner Nathaniel said they had to include “monthage” to be more exact.

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While David worked at Burger King, the rest of us went on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Son John $ guided us on a short detour to see the Lake Junaluska overlook. We were surprised that we could see part of Maggie Valley, the above-mentioned lake, the defunct Ghost Town ride, and the ski area in the valley. We see part of the ski run from the other side of the mountain when we take our morning walk.

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Nathaniel was not here for David’s birthday a couple of weeks ago. I heard him asking his brother what kind of cake he would like, and soon a deep chocolate three-layer cake was being frosted.

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Can you tell that David was very pleased by the expression on his face?

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The cake was marvelous.  We demolished half of it at one sitting.

Country Pursuits

Daughter Kate enjoyed watching the horses that board in the pasture behind our house. They were gone several months, and we are still adjusting to having them back. In preparation for our family tourist season, John bought a bag of carrots which Kate and Nathaniel put to good use. Even though light rain was falling, we stood there talking to the horses. It was a win/win situation for humans and animals.

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Someone turned and noticed the sky. I’m sure the horses wondered why we abandoned them and ran toward the house. A lovely rainbow was getting brighter by the minute, and our eyes were glued to it. My photo doesn’t do it justice, but you get the idea. Seeing rainbows is a feature that should be listed for this property, along with mountain views.

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While David worked, we planned to go to a ranger station in the national park. Son John $ came to visit with his sister, and he thought the park would be crowded. We headed for Waynesville instead. We walked the shady side of Main Street and back on the egg side (sunny side up), browsing in shops that attracted Kate. Poking around the town is something we do only with guests, so it’s a treat for us. John was the only one who bought something. In an art shop he found a book on local history about lumber and railroads out of Canton. John $ is standing in line to read it next. There will not be a stampede for that waiting line.

Back in the car, Nathaniel teased, “I’m feeling a bit peckish. Shall we go to Burger King?”

He said that because David was still at work, and all of us wanted to see him in action. Chef Nathaniel does not eat fast food and declined a burger, but we peeked at David working “back cash”. He was facing away from us, wearing headphones, using a computer screen, and accepting customers’ money. David was never aware of our being there, so I took a picture to prove it to him later.

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Never Too Old to Play with Food

Grandson David (22) and I had a rare day together when John drove to New York to pick up grandson Nathaniel. Kate, the boys’ mother, was driving herself down from New Jersey. David and I had an easy treat for dinner – pepperoni pizza. One bite, and David succumbed to temptation.

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Daughter Kate phoned around eight in the morning, and I turned my phone over to David while doing other things. They talked for HOURS. Only at the end did I find out they were chatting while she began the long trip from New Jersey. We continued the conversation on our mountain excursion, and David talked with her again the last two hours of her drive. David kept his mother company from NJ to NC, almost like an inexperienced pilot being talked down from the sky.

While we waited for the others to come, David and I explored one section of the Blue Ridge Parkway for several hours. It was a perfect day for it with lots of clouds, rain showers, and a little thunder thrown in. Bright sunshine on a cloudless day seems to wash half the character from the mountains.

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The next morning, Nathaniel (17) and Kate said I looked tired and sent me back to bed. When I got up, that dynamic duo were cooking breakfast. Kate was assistant to the chef.

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All five of us gathered to eat Nathaniel’s sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, and biscuits. It was a leisurely meal. John sent us out for half the morning walk while he cleaned the kitchen.

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We were not at our best to pose for a breakfast photo.

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After David went to work, Kate asked Nathaniel to pose for a photo to show how tall he is. I think we all felt our visit was off to a great start.

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Nathaniel is 6′ 5″, in case you were wondering.