My parents are sitting at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper, just as they did so many mornings of my childhood. They're discussing the news with Tom, who is keeping one eye on a brisket smoking on the grill just outside the backdoor. Each time he heads in or out to check on it, I get a whiff and my stomach growls, but it won't be ready for hours.
Good thing we'll be spending a few of those hours away from the house - my brother Donnie convinced me to go see "Avatar" in 3-D. He even tried to pay for us to go see it. Since he's the one who recommended I read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy and insisted I see "Star Wars" thirty years ago, I'm going to listen to him.
When we come to visit my parents, Tom and I sleep in Mam-ma's room. My mother's mother moved in with us when I was two and stayed. They converted the garage into a bedroom for her. For years I coveted her bedroom - it was bigger than mine and I could put my bed here...my dresser there...throw a rug down and scatter some beanbag chairs around...
Now I'm glad I didn't get my way. Mam-ma died before we moved to the hill country, but Mama left it the way it was, so when I wake on our visits here, I'm surrounded by Mam-ma. I'm lying in her four-poster bed. My cell phone is within arm's reach on the matching dresser. Her cedar chest sits under the window - every once in a while when I was growing up, I could persuade her to open it up and show me the saved bits of her life...photos, baby clothes, newspaper clippings.
I wish we lived close enough to Mama and Daddy to see them everyday, but I admit there's something special about having an excuse to stay overnight in my childhood home. If we still lived mere minutes away, we could come over more often, but we'd hover around the table for a few hours and then leave. As a "visitor" I get to wake up in Mam-ma's room...once again experience the morning sun coming through the kitchen windows...drink coffee and read the paper with my parents...watch them feed peanuts to the squirrels in their backyard...
When the kids were younger, we'd come for days in the summer. They are familiar with this house and neighborhood...and my parents...in a way they wouldn't be if we lived closer.
Nevertheless, a weekend here or there is just not enough. This one will be gone before I know it, so I'm going to go refill my coffee and take advantage of this chance to make more memories, even as I'm surrounded by so many others. I'm heading back to the kitchen table.