Have I ever told you, imaginary readers, about my moma? Probably not. So let me fix that now . . . you see, I'm sort of a fan. In fact, folks reading about her here might think I was embellishing or exaggerating her awesomeness, but truly I'm not. She's just as great as she seems here. And the Popster? Well, he's not too shabby himself. So please indulge me as I sing their praises. After all, it's not like I do it all the time.
As the youngest kid in my family, I'm the only one of us who ever lived at home with my moma and the Popster without siblings. My senior year of high school when Joshua was at UK and after Michelle had moved away (Shane had been long gone for years), I was a mostly only child in our old Kentucky home out in the country. That was kind of a lonely year as I adjusted to life without Michelle (don't tell her, but I hated having our room to myself) and because my moma and the Popster were heavily involved in renovating our new Kentucky home in town where we would move just a month after I graduated. I was pretty useless to the remodeling process, and probably too selfish and lazy to help much anyway.
After we moved, Joshua was home for the summer, so that one doesn't count, but for the next four summers, I would come home from school and be an only child for three glorious months. I quickly learned to love it. We were a happy little trio. I never really went through one of those rebellious teenage phases where my parents were lame morons who wouldn't let me have any fun. I don't mean to imply that life was always perfect or that we lived like some sort of idyllic scene from a 50s sitcom. We argued, I'm sure because I like to argue. I'll assume I was stubborn and loud and lazy and messy (as I'm still those things now), but when I remember that time, I mostly just remember us being happy, having fun, and laughing.
There are countless little memories that we still talk about that are just for the three or us--or sometimes the three of us and Grams, who I'm closer to than most of the other grandkids just because I had those summers at home with her after Gramps died. That's when I became her favorite (but don't tell her I said that because she doesn't like to admit it). All that time spent together is why I can still crack her up (or my moma and the Popster) by mentioning the maple syrup in her sandal or the cake that flipped out of the fridge. I could tell you either of those stories, and you'd barely crack a smile, but being there for them . . . I wouldn't trade them for anything. All the stories aren't funny, but we still love them. If I remind my moma of the summer that I officially learned to cook and took on the project of keeping the refrigerator clean and organized, she'll do that squinty smile and say, "didn't we have fun?"
There's one story that was seriously un-funny at the time but sort of illustrates what our life was like (and which has long since become just another funny thing we say). One summer day, after a weekend where the other kids had been home to visit, my moma told me that I was less funny when the other kids were around. In her words, it was like I wasn't even trying. I got my feelings hurt big-time, and it's probably one of the maddest and meanest times I've had with her. She hadn't meant it as the insult I took it as--she really was wondering why I didn't entertain the troops in the same way that I tickled her and the Popster. It was practically a compliment to how hilarious and fun she found me on my own, but it still stung (because I'm a giant baby) that she thought I was less hilarious and fun when the siblings were around. And to be honest with ten years' worth of maturity, I can probably say that I wasn't as funny when the other kids were home because I was jealous and selfish and probably just wanted them to leave me alone with my happy family of three (but of course, I don't feel that way now and everyone adores me and thinks I'm hilarious without even trying).
So now that you know the ridiculously long and unnecessary history of my life as an only child, let me get to the point (or at least nearer the point). Although it happens rarely these days, I love to go home when no one else is going to be there, so that I can get the olds to myself and soak up all the spoiling attention. Since Grams moved to Arkansas last year, my moma and the Popster have made the trip to see us all down here so much more frequently that it's been harder to find a weekend when they're actually at home. Last fall, I was hungry for my old Kentucky home but between their trips here, Pointer's birthday in Virginia and teaching my four-year-olds on Sundays, we just couldn't make it work, but I vowed then that the second I was done teaching after the winter quarter, I was coming home for a weekend for just me. As it approached, I felt too selfish to actually go through with that, so I invited the sibs and their crews to meet me there, but luckily, no one did.
So nearly two weeks ago now, I spent a lazy, agenda-less weekend with my two favorite people in the world. Friday night as I was making my way to them, they were coming home from Frankfort where my moma had a work training all day. I had talked to her during our drives, and because they had to stop by the grocery somewhere along their way, it seemed like I might actually beat them there by a few minutes, but as I've never given back my key to the house, that wasn't going to be a deal. I don't know if the Popster sped up or I slowed down, but as I was pulling up to the house and preparing to make the left turn in the driveway, I saw I would have to wait for a car to go by first. Then as the car slowed down, I realized that it was them, and that we basically arrived at the driveway at the exact same time. We couldn't have planned that or repeated it in a million tries. And I think it was a sign of great things to come.
When I went upstairs to bed on Friday night, I wasn't quite ready for sleep, so I thought I needed to read for just a few minutes to make me tired. I have, over the years, stored tons of books under the bed in my old room. We've gone through and weeded before, and they're mostly things that both my moma and I have read and reread over the years, so I chose something I hadn't read since high school probably and read at least two pages before I fell asleep. Saturday morning I told her that I was finally ready to let go of at least part of the books taking up all that space, so we vaguely said we'd go through them sometime.
But that was too much like work for the Saturday we had planned. Instead we watched movies and forced the Popster to endure as many girly ones as he could stand. We worked on putting together the hardest jigsaw puzzle ever--in the shape of a dolphin, no less. And we talked and talked and talked some more. I love hearing about the goings-on in our little town. I love that it's a small enough place that even though I haven't lived there for ten years, I can still remember who she's talking about. She had been to the funeral home earlier that week, which is always the place to go to see folks you haven't in a while. Thanks to facebook, I keep tabs on more people from high school than I used to, so I sometimes know the gossip before she does these days, but talking to my moma about the latest Clinton news will always be one of the best things about being home.
The movie/puzzle marathon stretched into the evening, when we finally took a break to eat dinner. I hadn't wanted my moma to fuss over cooking the whole time I was home, but she still managed to ensure that we had one of my all-time favorites: pork chops from Nicky's, the oldest and most legendary barbecue establishment in town (and yes, our town of roughly 1600 people supports at least three barbecue restaurants--don't ask me how). Nicky's pork chops are huge and delicious and perfect, and I had been craving one for months. Also she made me a pie--one that wouldn't completely derail all my healthy-eating choices.
On Sunday afternoon, we finally got around to that book-purge. I was overwhelmed to discover that she had started a book annex under Joshua's bed because mine was full. I couldn't let go of everything, but we got rid of over half of them, so we're back to just storing them just under my bed. There were a few that I couldn't remember well enough to know if I wanted to send them away or not, so I came home with five or six books that I devoured in about four days, and that little kick of obsessive behavior helped me to figure out Lent, as faithful readers may recall.
In the book-purging process, I was reminded of what else lives under my bed: the four plastic tubs that contain our baby afghans and baby books and special outfits and mementos of our childhoods. So we went through my box and oohed and aahed over tiny clothes that I remember only from pictures, the afghan that my moma knitted for me (that's prettier than the other kids' afghans), and the baby book that was more filled-in than my moma feared. There were cards that had accompanied gifts from my birth and first couple of birthdays. I especially loved two different letters written by one of my great-aunts, who I generally consider both from stories I've heard and my own memories to be one of the meanest women ever. The letters were both so sweet and full of little snippets about my beloved great-grandmother that for a moment anyway, I could concede that the lady wasn't pure evil. My box also contained report cards and school awards and a few saved art projects and stories, which I found both charming and embarrassing. One of the funniest moments was when I came across a certificate I had gotten for honor roll or perfect attendance or something that entitled me to a free kids' meal at Druther's, which went out of business so long ago I'd all but forgotten it existed. (Special note to Shane: the Druther's certificate was the story I wanted to tell you last night.)
Eventually I had to tear myself away from my moma and the Popster (and the dolphin puzzle that we didn't have time to finish) to come back to the dreary reality of work, but everyday, ordinary perfection of spending relaxing, uninterrupted time with them has been a balm that makes the days a little easier. That's just the nature of our relationship. I'm a better person for how they raised me, but I'm a happier person just because they exist. Just imagine what a rotten grump I would be without them.