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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Treats of Seeds and Nuts

I read recently that birds would eat cantaloupe seeds. We have melon fairly often, since we all enjoy it, so why not put the seeds on the deck? Hoping they didn’t need to be roasted, I cleaned them and scattered them outside. It didn’t take long for song sparrows and Eastern towhees to help themselves. Tufted titmice used the spread as a fast food takeaway. Doves would have won an eating contest, since they practically swallowed the seeds whole.

I thought a mockingbird was coming for food, but he took a bath instead. I’ve seen birds flick a bit of water over themselves, but this bird meant business. He shimmied and shook, then flipped himself violently. It looked like he did a cartwheel, using his beak rather than hands. He was facing the opposite direction when he landed. He looked like a drowned mouse, and he didn’t seem to fly very well, either. It was the first time I’d seen an extreme bath routine worthy of a reality show.

Treats outside were one thing, but what we had inside was quite another. Nathaniel reads more recipes than I do, and he found the instructions for a Pecan Praline Layer Cake. Making it took hours from his two days off. I took a photo when he was finally satisfied with it.

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The filling had tons of nuts, and the frosting was decorated with candied pecans. Before we cut it, I took a shot of the hungry men. The taste of the dessert lived up to its appearance. It was scrumptious.

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We spoke to neighbor Bob and son Logan (7) the other day as they passed us while we walked. John said we’d missed seeing Logan and hoped he’d come over to play. As soon as his parents gave permission, the boy streaked over here. I saw him flying up our front steps and pushing the button of the defunct doorbell. He was through the door as soon as it was opened wide enough to let him through. In three seconds he shed his shoes, jumped up, pointed toward the living room, and said, “I want to play checkers with David.”

They played three games before having a short war with Nerf guns. Last, they pitted themselves against a computer game with motorcycles and loud explosions. Logan had control of the keyboard, with David giving advice on the side. When Bob called for Logan to come home, David turned the sound off and had the computer to himself to hone his game. I asked if Logan had improved with checkers, and David said, “Yes! He’s much better than he was at Christmas. He won one game, and I won two.”

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It was lovely to have the house energized again with Logan’s enthusiasm.

Juggling Schedules

We are getting used to looking at the calendar on the refrigerator where our grandsons post their work schedules. Nathaniel starts work at the same time every day, but his days off change every week. In addition to having different days off in a week, David also starts at a different time every day. There is no such thing as long-term planning for the summer. When we are alone, we eat our main meal in the middle of the day. That happens occasionally now if David has the day off or is working past the evening dinner hour. This is keeping us flexible. It’s certainly worth it to have them here with us.

Son John $ replaced our back steps last week. I knew he would prefer to stay out of the camera’s focus, so I asked Nathaniel to pose with the work in progress. He gave me a casual pose, followed by an action shot.

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He only pretended to walk out, but later he walked down the narrow brace without falling. His feet were on the ground before I could muster a proper gasp.

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One day Nathaniel came home exhausted, and David offered to massage his back. Nate was on the floor so that David could use his weight to press down. The brothers are always ready for a bit of fun, and they soon had me in stitches. Nate pretended to be a dog reacting to a belly rub, so every time David got to a certain spot, he flapped his hand as if scratching the air. No day is ever totally serious.

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