I blinked and a week vanished. At this very time a week ago, I was sitting in my parents' house...specifically at the kitchen table. Tom and I were there to celebrate my mother's birthday, although she didn't actually turn 78 until yesterday (Friday the 13th...a lucky day in our family!) but she graciously agreed to have a pre-celebration last weekend so I could be there. That's my mom!
I was afraid to postpone our visit until her actual birthday weekend. We were supposed to be there for Daddy's birthday in October, but that's when Kendall was attacked by the swine flu and the mom in me just couldn't go any farther away from her than I already am...just in case.
The next weekend I had already scheduled the girls' weekend and Jimmy LeFave concert for Ann's birthday. And the next was the car show Tom had been looking forward to - it had gotten postponed from a rainy weekend in September. He's so good about going everywhere I want to go (and skipping town for 'girls only' weekends,) how could I refuse him this?
(What I don't understand is...why are we still so busy? So scheduled? I thought that would end with soccer games and band competitions when Kendall headed off to school.)
Anyway...we went as soon as we could, getting out of Austin Friday afternoon, just barely ahead of rush-hour traffic.
With Tom's sprained ankle, we couldn't walk the neighborhood like we normally do, but we took a tour in the car on the way to the junior high track (Tom watched me run a few laps.) The neighborhood looked much the same as on our last visit, except for one glaring change that broke my heart: one of the houses on the next block was gone. Razed. Nothing but a vacant lot left where a home once stood - the home where a good friend, Brad, grew up - a friend I didn't really know back then, but who I've gotten to know over the last few months. (I had to break the news to him by via e-mail Monday.)
There was a time when I was younger that I hoped my parents would buy a bigger, more modern home. Specifically, a two-story home with a bay window on Green Shadows, across the street from my friend, Teason. Now I'm glad they didn't move - every inch of that house, that yard, that neighborhood holds a zillion precious memories for me. It wouldn't have meant that much to another family, and it could have been our house...my childhood home...that was razed. I'm just not ready for that...it was tough enough seeing the empty space where Brad's home once stood.
Except for a small get-together/reunion at a club with friends Saturday night, I spent the weekend soaking up family. It had been months since we'd had more than just a few hours with everyone. Mostly we sat at the kitchen table talking and laughing, just as we've done for years.
Our kitchen table is the heart of the house, literally and figuratively. It's where Mama and Mam-ma laid out patterns and material for my school clothes; where I tried out the art projects in Worldbook Childcraft Volume 11, "Make and Do"; where our Easter baskets waited for us; where I read Archie comic books...Nancy Drew...Tarzan; where we all read the Sunday paper; where there were hours of visiting with family and neighbors, gallons of coffee drunk, and laughter turned to tears and back to laughter. And of course, there have been meals - breakfasts by Daddy, Sunday lunches, evening dinners, and all the holidays and birthdays. We each had our seat and even now, we gravitate to those spots when it's time to eat.
This time we met first at Chili's for Mama's birthday meal but then gathered once again around that kitchen table for the Houston Astros cake Brenda brought (no ho-hum birthday cake for our mom!) and birthday presents...including a feather from Frankie. (He shed it just before we left, so I know he meant it as a gift for Mama.)
It's hard to come into town and not spend a little time with my high school friends, now that I've reconnected with so many. So Tom and I snuck away for a few hours Saturday night to listen to a classmate's band and dance. Even with his sprained ankle, Tom managed a few slow songs with me, and my girlfriends Shari and Cindy joined me on the fast songs.
There were more reunions the next morning at church...a lifelong friend, Kathleen, who introduced me to her practically brand-new grandbaby Chloe, and my English teacher from 8th grade, Jean Vaughn, who introduced me to her granddaughter Jeni and twin toddler grandsons. I still have papers I wrote in Jean's class with her handwritten comments in the margins...comments that still ring in my head and guide my writing. I learned so much in that class! It's been a blessing to reconnect with her as friends. Thank you and happy birthday today, Jean!
We shared another meal with Mama and Daddy and a few more stories, laughs and cups of coffee around the kitchen table before reluctantly letting go of the weekend. The gray skies and rain that followed us home seemed to know it will be another month or so before I can return to my chair at the table for more coffee...more stories...more laughter...more family.
Mama and her Astros cake...Shari, Cindy and me, listening to the Mission Texas Band...Kathleen and precious grandbaby Chloe...Jean and me