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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: May 12, 2021

Road Trip Down Memory Lane

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,



**********

Now that my "heart circle" of people have all been vaccinated, we have begun reuniting and joyful celebrating. Last week saw us journeying to our old homeland of Oklahoma with our camper and spending precious time with our son, daughter in law, and granddaughter, who will become a big sister this fall.

It was non-stop and exhausting, and we savored this visit with the heightened appreciation of people who have been apart from those we love for what seemed like a century.

One of the highlights, of course, was granddaughter, who has been trying to master the somersault. She'd get into the starting pose but then freeze or topple over sideways. I tried to talk her through it but we weren't making any progress. So she said "You do it, Grandma." Fair enough. But I hadn't done a somersault myself since my own kids were small, more than 25 years ago. And honestly, I was wondering if a) I could do it and b) if my body would be screaming in protest the next morning. Time to put up or shut up, I guess. "You put your head down, walk your feet toward your head and then kick," I said, and over I went.

Success! And even better, she went on to perform a dozen good somersaults herself. I guess it is like riding a bike, you never really forget. I'll be 65 in two weeks, so keeping to the "every 25 years" interval for somersaults, my next one will be due when I am 90. And if she wants to learn a cartwheel, she's going to have to get help from someone else!

Part of the intense joy of grandchildren is you do things with them you wouldn't normally do, and a cascade of memories is triggered by your participation in their world for a little while. I'll be laughing about the somersault for months. I also enjoyed seeing their five urban chickens, my three grand-cats, and their sweet senior dog. Ronin is a long way from the high-energy dynamo who used to be able to open my patio doors, and like we aged humans, he has slowed way down.

We had one errand to do while we were in Oklahoma " stopping by the house we sold almost five years ago to pick something up. I have remained in contact with the family who lives in the house that we did for 18 years, and I was anxious to see it again. I told them we'd have our dogs with us and asked permission to let them out of the truck to sniff around a little. I was curious to see if they'd react to their old home.

It was clear on arrival the place smelled fascinating to the dogs. They snooped around energetically and when Holly invited us all in, I declined " I really didn't want our big dogs rampaging through her immaculate house. She insisted though " an animal lover through and through who is recovering from cancer and is a sweet and amazing person. I was relived neither dog vaulted onto their furniture, at least.

It made me feel good to see the house and property looking loved, with a couple of horses grazing in the field as is proper for that place, and an addition of both a llama and an alpaca plus a flock of dwarf goats. The right kind of people live there now, and that made me happy as well. When it was time to leave, Wolfgang vaulted into the truck like usual; but Ivy hesitated, looking around, and had to be coaxed in. I don't think she was ready to leave her old home so quickly.

All too soon we had to head home to Wisconsin, and we stopped overnight halfway back at a cute county park campground called "Little Wall Lake" in Iowa. It happened that it was our anniversary, but we weren't planning anything special. I felt worn out, and rather than cook, I proposed we go find a place to have dinner out. Google said the closest tiny town, Jewell, had two dining places, but both have apparently gone out of business. Not even a business sign remained. We continued on ten miles to the next town, Kamrar, passing many huge hog farms. There we found a sprawling grain elevator, a small cluster of houses for the population of 199 and "Pickles Inn."

The inn was plastered with "Help Wanted" signs, and it was soon clear they really did need help. One young woman was bartender, hostess and table waiter, and apparently there was a cook. While the place wasn't full, there were several larger family groups and she was kept running while we were there.

We were able to sit a long way away from anyone else, and it felt strange and wonderful to feel safe eating out again. A toddler of about two ran wildly around and I enjoyed watching him do so. The food was simple and enjoyable, and it felt good to sit and chat with a local beer while we ate. It was a long way from a romantic dinner at a fine restaurant but really, it was more our kind of place " the kind of place we chose even before we were married. A delightful end to a day on the road with the promise of the arrival home the next day.

And with our return home, the plotting to see our kids in Seattle began. It will be almost exactly a year since we last hugged them. Everything is not back to normal but we are getting closer, and things are again the way they are supposed to be in my world.

Book I just finished: "Some Horses" by Thomas McGuane. (Non-fiction.) My daughter gifted me this one. A brilliant gem " a famous writer reflects on his relationship with horses (and other animals, and people) in an amusing and sometimes thought-provoking way. He isn't one for big words or long sentences " but sees common things with a fresh perspective. You don't have to be a horse admirer to like the book, but it would really appeal to those of you that have equine in your heart.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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