A Brotherly Visit

My brother Bob and Beth zipped across the state to see our grandsons before the summer got away from us. We always enjoy being with them and were glad they suggested a visit. Both David and Nathaniel got the day off. Our chef (Nathaniel) offered to grill the chicken. We got tickled at the way he washed his hands in the kitchen while standing on the porch. He is the only one tall enough to do that.

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I took a quick shot of the group, not realizing John was out of sight. The only one to notice the toy camera was son John $.

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Nathaniel, Beth, Bob, David, and John $

Thinking of our waistlines, I did not bake a dessert. Instead we indulged in S’mores. Beth laughed that I got chocolate all over my face. She asked for the camera and caught me biting into the gooey mess. My favorite, of all the pictures she took of me, was the one that made Nathaniel appear to have a full mountain beard, all gray.  I don’t know how he got the rake to stick to his forehead.  (I’ll do anything to divert your attention away from my face.)

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Nathaniel gray-beard and me

David and Nathaniel offered to roast the marshmallows for everyone. We had only one each, but they could afford more. Youthful high jinks kicked in, and Nathaniel hid David’s plate. David retaliated. I found the hidden plate before Nathaniel did.

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David and I had not finished a jigsaw puzzle and knew Beth and Bob might join us in working it. I wasn’t paying attention to what Bob was doing. Looking over, I found he had organized the pieces in just a few seconds, making them much easier to find.

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Beth and Bob are great at home maintenance and often find things to help us with. A flag had been hanging up on a gutter, so in the morning Bob climbed up and covered a rough place with duct tape. I knew this was in the morning, because John was still wearing his neon shirt for walking in fog.

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They moved to the drain under the driveway, trying to get out a soccer ball that had lodged deep inside. This became a group project when Dawn came from next door to bring us cans of coffee. She had ordered a big supply for her mother, who died before the coffee was finished. Dawn and Beth were observing the fellows wielding shovel and water hose. That project is open-ended, the ball still being lodged in the pipe.

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Ladies row, Beth and neighbor Dawn.  Fellows are David, Nathaniel, John, and Bob.

Later in the day, Bob saw the flag hung up again and added more tape. I’m amazed at what these older people can do. I’m in that age group, but my physical prowess is totally unremarkable.

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Hummingbird Moth

Shawn had just seen a special moth beside her front walk when she came to our house. I had never heard of a Hummingbird Moth, so I was eager to see it. Of course, the little red camera was in my pocket and wanted to get in on the action. At first I thought the creature resembled a bumble bee, but it really was different. It moved in and out of flowers as easily as a hummer. I read that it is fairly widespread and likes the same flowers that butterflies prefer. Its most unusual trait is that it operates in daylight, unlike other moths. The sun was bright, so I couldn’t tell if the images were good or not. Shawn said she’d never gotten a camera that close to one before. I was pleased with one shot, especially since the little camera is not a particularly good one and was operated by a rank amateur.

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A video clip of the moth was fairly good, also. I might rename this the video clip of the month.

Extreme Shopping

Neighbor Logan caught us at a busy time, but he loves a frenetic pace. He appeared at the front door with a bag of marbles, hoping grandsons David and Nathaniel would be free to play with him. Both were getting ready for work, so John agreed to play. We couldn’t remember the rules of the game and had to consult the internet. It seems you begin by drawing a circle in the dirt, but the indoor version calls for defining the circle with thread or string. My shoestring circle was too small, and John’s twine one was too big. After finally getting set up, we found Logan didn’t have enough snap in his thumb to shoot the marble.

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Logan was very patient with our bumbling.

David left for work, and we had three hours to do a week’s grocery shopping, eat lunch, and get Nathaniel to work. The race was on. Logan picked up our car Bingo cards on the way out. For both trips to town and back, John called out numbers. Logan won about five games in a row, and he tied Nathaniel an amazing four times in a row.

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Note both fellows are wearing seat belts.  Our car doesn’t move without that.

With John, every trip to the supermarket is a race, even if there is no time pressure. Nathaniel took a picture of our list with his phone, so he was consulting that as we darted about. He picked out bananas as John chose cherries. I got the peaches and cantaloupe. Logan led us to the free stuff on our way to sausages and brats. The sign said a small bag of popcorn was free for children under 12, and that went in the cart. I chose chicken thighs; John got the ground beef, and Nathaniel picked out pork chops. Logan’s older brother saw the boy with Nate, whom he had never met. His look of bewilderment changed to recognition when we rounded the corner, cart on two wheels. In the dairy section, an employee greeted Logan, asking about his chickens. We didn’t know her, but she obviously knew him. Asking for a hug, she got a willing one! By the time Logan spied yogurt that he wanted, I’d pushed the cart beyond him to catch cottage cheese, yogurt, shredded cheese, Neufchatel, and butter that the tall ones grabbed. Almost out of breath, we found we’d shopped at the rate of $180 per hour. I took a quick shot of John and Logan as our favorite cashier restocked shelves behind them.

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John made Laura laugh as Logan watched our groceries being rung up.

Back at home, I rushed to take two light bags of groceries inside, making a beeline to turn on the oven. The fellows piled everything else on the counter, and by the time the pizza was done, I’d stowed it all away. I was beginning to relax as we ate lunch, but Logan was still in high gear. He found a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle and had almost finished putting the outer edge together when it was time for Nathaniel to go to work. Logan rode along to Maggie Valley so they could play more Bingo, and then his mother called him home. I suspect both households are now strangely quiet.

Logan’s Birthday, One Month Late

We celebrated neighbor Logan’s birthday exactly one month late. First, we were busy adjusting our schedule to accommodate our grandsons’ summer jobs, and then Logan and his family went to a big family reunion out of town. We caught them as they were coming in from that trip. It was the only time our boys would be free at the same time before Logan’s bedtime.

Logan wasn’t interested in having cake. I’m sure he was tired from being in the car for hours, but he also was tempted by a computer game. With seven-year-old stoicism, he came to the table to dutifully blow out his candles.

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Logan backed by Shawn, Nathaniel, John, Bob, and David

Chocolate won. He accepted a small piece of the cake grandson Nathaniel had made for him and proceeded to eat it all. To his credit, he wasn’t antsy but sat there until we brought out his gift. He looked at all the pictures on the box and probably read every word about the water slide. They decided it would be best to wait to open it until he was home.

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Nathaniel offered to play a game of checkers with Logan, while the rest of us chatted and caught up on news. After a while, David sat with him at John’s computer, playing the biker game he likes most at the moment. It was probably well after his bedtime when they went home, and we found his flip-flops under the table. I can’t imagine feet that don’t cringe at walking home over stones and gravel.

Hang Loose

Do people still hang loose? That might be a term used by my generation. Maybe young people just hang now. In any case, grandson David wanted to get the most from his full day off.

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Do you think he was relaxed? I wouldn’t have been, but he was still for quite a while as he watched a skateboard competition on TV. He was certainly hanging in there.

Rocky Mount

On grandson Nathaniel’s day off, we drove to Tennessee to visit the house called Rocky Mount built by William Cobb. It served as the capital of the Southwest Territory (west of North Carolina) from 1790 – 1792. John had checked the web site, so we were perplexed when there were no cars in the parking lot. Nathaniel got out to test the front door of the visitor’s center. It was locked, even though there was a sign saying it was open. Nathaniel came to the rescue, having the only cell phone with data. He looked up the site and called the number listed there. The man who answered told him the place should be open, but to make sure, he would telephone. Soon a woman opened the door for us, explaining that a group had used the space earlier. They had left the door open the other times they had been there, so she assumed it was open. What a relief that our long drive was not wasted!

This was a living history site, one where the docents take on the character of a family member to show you around. We began in the house, where a granddaughter talked about the daily life of her grandparents. I took a photo when she was explaining that her grandmother kept common medications on hand, because the nearest doctor was three hours away by wagon. Liquids in clear bottles could be taken internally, but those in colored bottles were poisonous and could only be applied externally.

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The granddaughter handed us off to a cousin of William Cobb. He showed us William’s office and talked about making ink from black walnuts. Quill pens were usually made of turkey or goose feathers. Because the feather would have oil on it from the bird, the first thing you’d do was heat sand and stick the big end in it to draw out the oil. You’d cut a small slit in the tough end, which would help hold the ink as you wrote. Then you’d make a diagonal slice on the under side and cut it to make a fine point. You’d generally write a document with a smaller goose feather and sign your name with the larger turkey quill pen. I couldn’t help but wonder what bird’s quill John Hancock used to sign the Declaration of Independence. [His is the largest signature on the document.]

Besides we three, there was a three-generational family of six touring the house with us. The cousin expressed surprise that the 10-year-old was not at least 13. She was wearing earrings, and only unmarried girls who were looking for a husband would wear earrings. I asked at what age a man married. He would probably be 16. The cousin gently inquired Nathaniel’s age. On hearing that he is 17 he asked, “Do you own land?”

Playing along, Nathaniel answered he did. Did he own a rifle? Yes. What about a horse? No, he didn’t own a horse. The man said, “As soon as you get a horse, you will be ready to get married. You have to own those three things before you can get a wife.”

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A daughter of William Cobb explained things in the separate kitchen and the weaving area. There had been a teaching group earlier, so there was a real fire in the large fireplace. She showed us a meat spit, a coffee roasting gadget, and pointed out dried herbs hanging there within reach. Holding up a cast iron gadget, she asked if we knew what it was for. She explained that you’d put bread in it and rest it near the fire. With a straight face, she said you’d shift it with your toe to brown the other side, and that’s why it was called a “toe stir”.

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The docent playing the cousin met us on the path as we walked back to the museum. He said he’d like to answer a question further, which he couldn’t do while in character. He explained what happened to the house after the period he was playing. He actually met the last man to be born in the house, which was occupied by that man’s family in 1958. They had no electricity or running water. That man said he hated Saturdays, because it was wash day. He had to bring all the water up from the spring down the hill. The other two docents joined us, and we told them we were impressed with their knowledge of the time. They said they chose a Cobb family member from the era and did research to learn about them so they could get in the character.

We had a delightful day and got home a few minutes before David got off from work. Our main dinner conversation was about what we had seen. Before long the boys were talking about things they did at work. Yesterday Nathaniel worked as a line cook, and today David was in the fast food kitchen. He broiled burgers for the first time. Up until now, he has taken orders and served food. We were amused that the non-cook in the family was finally cooking in a kitchen.

Balancing Act

Balancing things seems to run in our family. I knew our grandsons liked to build towers with blocks, but I had not remembered that daughter Lise stacked things in her favor created stacks. She was four years old when I caught her on film. Yes, it was film, and it was a long time ago.

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When grandson David was nine, Cousin Lars provided the lift for the blocks.

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Both grandsons (in striped shirts) and choir child Dan liked showing off the tower they built while we were having choir rehearsal. David was 12, and Nathaniel was 7.

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Years passed. During long family dinners, David practiced stacking and balancing things. It was his choice to keep himself occupied, instead of acting like a brat at the table. I hadn’t realized it continued at college, but he showed me a photo or so to prove it. The latest involved the sugar bowl and spoon. I don’t particularly want to talk about the infestation of large black ants while we are still under siege. I had rinsed the spoon and left it on the counter, making sure the top was firmly seated on the crystal bowl. Too bad it wasn’t a crystal ball. I would have wished it to show us ant-free.

The next morning I walked in the kitchen and saw the spoon balanced on the pointy top of the sugar bowl. I looked at John, making coffee a few feet away, and I looked back at the spoon. I said, “David did this, didn’t he?”

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