Another Day in the County

Imagining togetherness

© Another Day in the Country

When I’m in Kansas, such a long, long way from family in California, I often imagine just what it would be like to be living down the street from them or in a nearby town again.

There would be so many things we could do — meet on Friday mornings to go to the farmers market in St. Helena or have supper together on Taco Tuesday with friends.

I’d go to Gillwoods’, my favorite little restaurant, and take my grandson there for breakfast on Sunday morning — just the two of us, after a sleep-over on Saturday night.

I’d be able to go with them to the beach and see school programs.

You can imagine all the things I’ve imagined and then want to put into action the minute I get back to California.

Well, I’m back!

Last Wednesday morning we dropped off Jana at her fencing workshop, and Dagfinnr and I headed for another favorite spot: Butter Cream Bakery, renowned for pastries and bread.

“This is going to be fun,” I said, not realizing that this was the first time that Dagfinnr was going into the sit-down restaurant part of the establishment, the first time eating out without his mother, and the first time dining in this strange place with just me!

No matter how much mothering I’ve done, there is no way that I can know all the needs (and quirks) of a child in a new environment.

Do we sit at the counter, in a booth or at a table for two?

He opted for a table-for-two in the middle of lots of waitress traffic, which meant he was sitting across from me and not near my protective wing.

Now came ordering, and he settled on eggs, ham and biscuits.

“This is going to be good,” he said to me with a grin, “I love biscuits with honey.”

And, sure enough, in the jelly rack here was honey. And for a drink he’d have hot chocolate.

When the chocolate came, the top of the cup was covered with whipped cream and sprinkles. You couldn’t even see the milk.

“This is different than we have at the coffee shop,” he announced.

I encouraged him to taste it. He did, cautiously, and announced, “It just tastes like chocolate milk.”

Hmm. How many ways can you make hot chocolate?

When our breakfast came, the ham turned out to be thick and not deli sliced, as he loves in sandwiches, so that was a no-go. The eggs were a lot to cut up and handle.

I cracked a gigantic biscuit and slathered it with butter. He popped open a packet, and honey, warmed by his hands in anticipation of this breakfast, flew out with drips landing on the chair, stringing on his legs with most, thank goodness, actually on the biscuit.

Baba, that’s me, jumped to the rescue, dipping my napkin in coffee (the only liquid on my side of the table) and began cleaning up honey drips.

“Why does that napkin feel so warm?” he wanted to know.

When he found out he was being cleaned with coffee, “uuh, really?” he grimmaced.

Well now, how’s my breakfast with the grandchild going so far?

In my imagination, I hadn’t considered honey on the loose. Let’s see, there were two trips to the bathroom before all the stickiness was taken care of, a few bites eaten, and the bill paid.

It seemed enormous to this Kansan.

I’d seen the man at the next table finish his meal and drop a $5 bill on the table for a tip.

“Wow,” I thought, “generous man.”

In Kansas most people drop a single bill on the table. When I saw the bill for our breakfast, I was reminded how everything costs twice as much in California.

We went camping this weekend. I must admit I didn’t fantasize about camping — never my favorite sport — but we went with friends to a beautiful spot in the redwoods, over by the coast.

I’d brought my jacket and several layers of clothes, but it was cold.

We laughed as we sat around our “campfire” and counted the cost: $130 worth of groceries, $70 worth of gas, $80 for the camp site, $16 parking fee, $25 for wood (no scavengering in these woods), $10 for ice. The tab kept going up and up — and this was just for our family.

This didn’t count the investment in tents, camp stoves, coolers and battery powered (another $15 for batteries) lamps.

For this, I froze my gilldabbers off and ate burned hotdogs (which I hate), woke up with backache and got the trots from some “natural” apple juice.

Not to mention ticks — the smallest ticks I’ve ever seen in my life.

After we were safe at home, my daughter came in with her tweezers and a magnifying glass and said, “Check me for ticks.”

I laughed because I thought the magnifier was a joke until I saw a tick she’d got off her son. Gadzook, the ticks alone could keep me at home, but then Dagfinnr had so much fun on this camping expedition.

This is what memories are made of.

He loved the adventure of it all, the forts they made, the (tick-laden) trees to explore, the creek, building fires, doing night patrol (with night vision goggles) on the campers next door, dodging poison oak, playing his heart out, learning the art of roasting the perfect marshmallow, and then at night curling up in the tent, safe between his mother and grandmother for sweet childhood-sleep, anticipating spending tomorrow in what Californians call “the country.”

 

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