I bet you think we are going to write about a grand adventure partying in New Orleans, crowded with people eager to watch the Sugar Bowl, parades, grand times. I could – but our visit was a little different.
AdventureMan and I DID have a grand adventure – taking the 6 year old and 3 year old grandchildren to New Orleans for three days. We were a little aghast at the enormity of our undertaking, but AdventureMan did a little investigating, and found a wonderful solution – The Audubon Nature Institute has an annual family membership which gets you into the New Orleans zoo, the Aquarium, the Butterfly Garden and the Insectarium, and invited to special events, for a year.
Even better, the cost of the year-long family membership is so reasonable that our first trip to the zoo paid off the entire membership. The next day, the children voted that we visit the zoo again, and the third day we visited the aquarium. We can go back all year, walk in through the membership gate (that is a great feature, beats standing in line for tickets) and get a membership discount in the gift shop. This is a real deal. You can find it at Audubon Nature Institute, you can join online and print out your temporary membership card. What a great value for the money.
I have a friend that helps me keep my house clean. I started out as her employer, and now we have become friends. She lives a very different life from me, and I learn from her. Sometimes her perceptions will catch me by surprise.
As we were talking about volunteers and volunteering in churches, we found our churches to be very similar – and I am betting these experiences are universal.
“I’ve always liked washing dishes,” I tell her, “because nobody else wants the job, nobody is telling me how to do it, and I can just keep my head down and stay out of the uproars.”
“Yeh,” she says, “arguing over the little things, cooking up that angry food.”
“Angry food?” I ask.
“”Yeh, you know, you can taste it. When people are calm and happy, they cook differently, and the food comes out good, you can taste the love in it. When they in a hurry, or upset about something, food come out angry.”
Yep. I’ve cooked an angry meal or two myself. It’s a waste of good ingredients. You might as well just open a can of soup as cook angry food.
“Grandmama, I need to tell you something,” my little 3 year old granddaughter looks up at me earnestly.
“What is it?” I ask, kneeling down to be at her level.
“I am SO SO SO HUNGRY!” she states, holding her little tummy and making her eyes big.
“I have peanuts for you!”
She just looks at me.
“Or here is a little orange!”
“I want a COOKIE!”
This is easy.
“You know it’s just Baba and I living here. We don’t have any cookies because we don’t eat cookies.”
She just looks at me, boldly. She is not defiant, but there is something unbending in her posture, and in her unwavering eyes.
Then those little eyes do a quick flick to the table, and back to me. Very quick, almost imperceptible, but I catch it, and I can’t help it, I start to laugh.
She’s right. We do have cookies, they are in the assembly of items I have to take to our Thanksgiving gathering. I had forgotten, but this sharp eyed little minx spotted them.
“You’ll have one on Thanksgiving, I promise you. And look, here are the snacks we have for you (all her favorites) for the drive down.
Telling my friend about it later, she asked “You didn’t open the package and give her a cookie?”
That had never occurred to me. “I should have?” I asked.
“No, I wouldn’t have, either,” she laughed.
“But I would have,” interjected AdventureMan. “I never say no my my grandkids.”
LOL, that is totally true. I am the one who doesn’t want them thinking they can have sweets every time they ask, and AdventureMan is the good guy, who gives them whatever their little hearts desire. They both adore AdventureMan. 🙂
We wander the streets, following Guido Brunetti’s path, and then wander back towards San Marco and our shuttle back to the hotel. We’ve spent the day wandering, on foot and on vaporetto, and we are beginning to feel a need for a nap before dinner. Wandering in Venice is sheer delight:
When we get to where the shuttle is supposed to be, there are, literally, hundreds of touristy looking people, and fortunately, several Viking people. We ask about the shuttle back, and they say it will come in half an hour. We head for the nearest cafe and check to make sure it has a ladies room, which it does, but oh-my-goodness, no seat, no lid, and a pull thing to flush, just like the old days when we lived in Germany when I was a kid. These people know the value of location – take a look at the prices.
The waiter was shocked! Shocked! when we asked for ice cream. No! No! Never in October! (LOL, we didn’t know!) I ordered a coffee and AdventureMan ordered a Tiramisu.
The Tiramisu was fabulous, everything we have dreamed of so long. It had liqueur in it! It had that unforgettable taste!
We tell a story in my family of our first trip to Italy, when I was 15 and my sisters were younger. It was my Mother’s birthday, and at the hotel where we were staying, they presented her with a surprise birthday cake. It was all so lovely and so gracious. My Mother cut the cake and the waiters brought pieces of it to us, and then, as my mother bit into her piece, she grimaced – the cake was soaked with liqueur. She told my father in a low voice, and he looked at us girls, with a fixed smile that told us he meant business and said “You will eat every bite, and you will smile.”
We were raised to be gracious, and to have grateful hearts. I don’t remember being so all-full-of-gratitude at the time, but I grew to like the Italian style. and didn’t realize how much I had missed it until I tasted this REAL tiramisu.
I remember that also, very graciously, after we had each eaten our piece, even my little 6 year old sister, choking down that liqueur soaked cake, my mother asked the management to please share the joy of her birthday by sharing the rich cake with all the employees and guests (it was a large cake).
You really don’t want to be around me. Not because I’m still contagious, I don’t know whether I am or not. You don’t want to be around me because I am really grumpy.
I’m supposed to be in Seattle. We had a plan, and we had all the pieces in place. We had tickets, hotel reservations and a rental car waiting for us.
A couple days before the trip, I felt a tickle in the back of my throat. “Oh, allergies!” I said, because everyone has allergies at this time of the year. While in other parts of the country, things may start to die off in late August, in Pensacola, even in the middle of daily 90 degree temperatures, the light begins to change, and the plants send forth new growth. I had a grand new crop of hydrangeas, thanks to s week of daily thunderstorms and deluges, and our tomatoes are beginning to set once again.
The tickle progressed to a sore throat, and the day before we were set to leave, I awoke truly, totally sick. The full spectrum of unlovely symptoms. AdventureMan and I looked at each other and he said “Sweetie, we really can’t go,” (he knows that I tend to ignore illness and soldier on if I can) and I surprised him by saying “I know.”
My Father was raised Christian Scientist, an increasingly obscure subset of peculiarly American Christian sects. Christian Scientists (I may get this a little wrong) believe in Truth and Error, and illness is seen as an Error in thinking. We didn’t practice Christian Science as I was growing up, but it left an influence; illness in my mind is something to be ignored when possible and overcome as quickly as possible.
So when I am really really sick, I take it very personally. This respiratory whatever flattened me, the deep coughing leaves me aching and weak, and even when the thick head and constant sleeping part left me, I am not able to resume my active life, I am tired.
I am feeling better, and I am not yet well. I am well enough to be grumpy. My attention level is low and my energy level is lower. Poor AdventureMan! I am a terrible patient! I am an IMPatient!
My Mother and I are talking and she asks “How did you girls do it, coming home from university? Did we send you tickets, or money? I can’t remember, I just know it happened. You were so young! How did you manage?”
I laughed. “Mom, you sent us tickets to Philadelphia, and from there we took buses or shuttles to McGuire. (McGuire Air Force Base, the old home of the Military Air Transport command) At McGuire they would put a couple on this flight, a couple on that flight, until it reached some kind of critical mass and they had a hundred or so students waiting at McGuire, and then they would send us all out on one plane.”
When you’re young, it’s all an adventure. Even though we had terrorists then, too, the Red Brigade and the Baader Meinhof gang setting off bombs, taking hostages, etc. there wasn’t the same kind of anxiety about safety that exists now.
My parents sent tickets. When our last final was over, we packed our suitcases and headed to the airport, usually late at night to fly out space-A on one of the red-eyes to Philadelphia. We didn’t need a lot of sleep.
Airplanes were different then, too. My first year, I flew overnight sitting in a lounge, where people had seat belts, but not really seats. It was a curved sitting area with a table. Drinks were served all night, and people were smoking. All that mattered to us was to be headed in the right direction.
The plane would land and we would go to the USO or something – someone would point us to a bus or shuttle going to the air base, we would pile in, and upon arrival at the MAC terminal, we would sign in to the Space-Available list. We were like category zero – we had the very lowest travel priority.
And then – the fun began! You’d think it would be boring sitting in an airport waiting for a flight and you don’t even know that there will be a flight – but it wasn’t. This was a major gathering of Third Culture Kids, military kids, state department kids all headed to wherever home is this month, this year. It was like the biggest, most fun party anywhere. You’d see friends you hadn’t seen since their family moved, and you’d meet friends of friends headed to your own family post. There was always music, always talk about overseas adventures, and always an endless hearts game in one area and the serious bridge players in another.
You shared food. You shared rooms. You shared books. You shared transistor radios. You shared playing cards, and chess sets. You shared memories and made plans. You often napped on a pile of baggage (we were all post-finals, and exhausted.)
These friends would pop in and out of our lives the whole summer, it was all “when you come to Heidelberg/Stuttgart/Nuremberg/ Munich/Tripoli / Asmara (!), you can stay with us”. Our friends would usually arrive in town and call around dinner time and my parents always found a way to be sure there was enough for everyone, and an air mattress and clean sleeping bag for our vagabond friends.
Oh Mom. We had such fun.
“But where did you sleep? I know some times you were there for days, waiting for a flight.”
Oh yes. Sometimes, if we thought there was a plane leaving late at night, we just stayed in the terminal. Because my parents sent us some money, my sister and I would often go over early to the Transient Hotel and book a room, then head back to the terminal. If they closed the terminal, we’d take a bunch of people back with us, take the mattress off the beds and we could get eight young college women in one room.
One time they told us around two that there would be no more flights for the day, so we left for the hotel room, got in our swim suits and hit the pool. I stayed a couple hours and then strolled back to the room; when I got there everyone was packing in a panic; a flight was going out and we had to be there in 30 minutes to get on it. I ran back to the pool to alert my sister and the others, ran back to the room carrying towels and shirts, packed in chaos, and we were in the airport and on that flight. I think my sister had her wet bathing suit on under her clothes, she packed so fast. They put us all on a troop carrier. A troop carrier is really fun, no isolated rows of seats going down the length of the plane, but four long webbed seat thingys, two facing two, the length of the plane. Let the party begin 🙂
One time, there were over a hundred of us waiting, and they scheduled an extra flight, but it would only hold a certain number, so we had a lottery – and I lost. I was one of only two who didn’t make it on that plane. Somehow, though, after that first flight left, they put the remaining two of us on a plane to a military base in Spain, and from there we hopped another military plane to Germany, beating (I don’t know how) the arrival of the first plane by half an hour.
You couldn’t do these things now. The world has changed; security takes priority. Parents hover to protect their children from very real threats. Our parents had the luxury of letting us fend for ourselves and figure out how to make it work. We made it work. We had fun. There is a whole group of those same people who gather on FaceBook, and meet up in Heidelberg, or Colorado, or Washington DC for a reunion, or even a dinner or a holiday. We stay in touch.
You weren’t oblivious, Mom. It was a different time. But what great adventures we had and what memories your questions bring me!