I was 13, a freshman in high school, and I noticed the protruding of Mom’s belly. I asked in a disgusted tone of voice, “You are not going to have another baby, are you?”
The last one was not walking yet and took an awful lot of care from the eldest of her children – me! Mom always made the best out of whatever came and she answered, “Yes, and this time I will give you a girl. She will be special and you can name her.”
Wow. That was quite a gift. “Well, it better not be another boy or he is going back.” Three brothers were enough.
That was about the best deal I ever made. Cute baby girls can twist anyone around her finger and, along with everyone else who came close to her, I got twisted.
She is still being the boss lady. Just because I am 13 years further along to getting old – like 88 to 75 – small difference -- when I fly into Texas, she calls the shots.
We begin this visit with one of my favorite entertainments. Fourth of July fireworks in downtown Beaumont. We take a casual cruise up the Neches River in Buford’s pontoon boat, peeking into the outlets, catching sight of the picnics on the shore. Anchor is dropped in a quiet spot, out of the way of speedboat waves. I open a beer and we enjoy our sandwiches.
There is no better sightseeing spot for the dazzles exploding in the sky than right underneath them. Breath-taking oohs and aahs. Then after the final firey explosion among the stars, Buford skillfully navigates us between the other motor and cruise-type boats to home. It is time for our almost nightly competition on Mexican train dominoes. We have been keeping score for three years and – at the moment – Buford and Mariam are neck and neck. However, we all know that can change in one evening and last year I left Beaumont trailing by six games.
The next day Nancy handed me the calendar. Worst, first. Eyes and teeth and feet. I told her there was no need for these check-ups, but she doesn’t believe me. When the moment came that the doctor(s) tell her that these parts are about as good as they can be for an old lady (oh, I hate that description), both of us are relieved.
The fun part comes next. Her hair-cutting lady takes her time, snips here, surveys, snips a bit more. The results actually turn me almost pretty. (for an old lady, that is!). Then I had my choice and this year I chose the facial over a massage. This brand-new procedure for me was smooth, relaxed every bone in my body, and I named it an hour of heaven. Next year, when I am 90, maybe I can talk her into both. After all, I changed a lot of diapers.
Since Beaumont is my second home, I had arranged to present the Beaumont library with my book, four copies of “The Alternate Safe World of Sanctuary”. The folks at the library welcomed me with warm, friendly, open arms. The newspaper didn’t care but you can’t win them all.
The wonderful beautiful Texas Tyler State Park is about a five hour drive from Beaumont and certainly worth the trip. A tree shaded lake side spot had been reserved for the Minnie Winnie.
Then, for almost a week, we explored. A short trail, less than a mile, up and down, left us hot and sweaty and heading for the camp shower. Our longest trail took us over a steady two miles, around the lake, getting good camera shots from all directions. We took our picnic lunch and also lots of breaks to sit and take pictures of the scenery.
Motor boats are not allowed on the small lake. Paddle wheelers and kayaks are for rent. I had my eye on the kayaks but Nancy considered it too dangerous for “an old lady.” It was with reluctance that she finally quit hassling me about paddling a single seater. I plopped down into it and Nancy and Buford took off in a double kayak. All going great, and with the help of the wind, I moved out into the center of the lake.
I pushed my paddles down deep, trying to turn around. Hollers were coming at me, “turn right! Right! The other right!” The wind kept pushing and my paddle kept going the wrong way and in about two seconds flat, I was in the weeds, against the shore. Sigh.
I pushed out, got around to a beach and my single kayaking days were over. I was assigned to the double kayak with Buford doing the work and me admiring the scenery. Nancy got into the single kayak, and with no previous experience or instructions, took off, smoothly skimming her paddles along the surface, sending the boat any way she wanted it to go. My only consolation is that I didn’t manage to turn that durned piece of wood over.
One more week and two more stops. This is the chance I get to visit with family and see how much the young ‘uns have grown.
Bernie was not enthused about making friends with me but he was still young. His sister took her time, but she finally came to my lap. I do need to mention that this picture of her was enlarged by the lady of the house in order to make an impression of how much Marshmallow has grown.
Otis had added considerable weight since the first picture had been put on facebook. He wanted to make an impression by showing off his teeth, but I was warned: “Keep his mouth away from your arm.” I wasn’t quick enough but it was only a baby scratch. In this picture, he wanted to show his affection for me, almost knocking me over.
This week went by too quickly, a relaxed time, with lots of family togetherness. I came home with so much pride in the family connections that belong to me. From Aunt Mariam: Love you all so much and thanks for being you.
And for Buford – here is a question for you.