The Big Interview
It was Grandparent's Day at Kimberlin Academy for Excellence, where our granddaughter Lena is in fourth grade. Andy and I had the pleasure of being interviewed by several budding journalists. I'm usually the interviewer, not the interviewee, so this was fascinating. The kids rotated around the room, asking a few questions each of the grandparents who were in attendance.
Question 1: How did you get to school? Andy: I had to take two buses from where we lived. Me: I walked with my girlfriends for about five blocks. Also walked back and forth for lunch, as our elementary school had no cafeteria.
Question 2: What technology did you have? Andy: Only a slide rule for drafting class. Me: Does a transistor radio count? These kids, who are so accustomed to computers, iPads, and Kindles, were pretty astonished to learn that we didn't have any kind of computers or cell phones.
Question 3: What did you watch on TV? Andy: I liked Westerns like Gunsmoke. Me: The earliest shows I remember were Howdy Doody, cartoons and Captain Kangaroo. As a teen, I always watched American Bandstand, which featured rock n' roll performers. I told one girl that TVs only had 3-4 channels and you had to get up and change the channel. Her eyes flew open!
Question 4: What did you do for fun? Andy: I played baseball. We all just showed up at the field. Me: I was big on playing jacks, roller skating, riding my bike and reading.
Other questions were: What happened when you got in trouble at school? Did you like your teachers? What is your favorite building? As we answered their questions, I'm sure we must have seemed like dinosaurs to these eager kids, but they were very interested in what we had to say. I wonder what questions their grandchildren will ask them?
My Annus Horribilis
In 1992, Queen Elizabeth II had what she referred to as her annus horribilis (that's Latin for horrible year). Windsor Castle had almost burned to the ground, two of her children had divorced and Charles and Diana were a hot mess. I can't quite compete with her woes, but when comes to my own health, frankly my dear, this year sucked. I'm not looking for sympathy, because I have a number of friends who are facing much greater challenges, but since October of last year, I've been on a not-so-merry-go-round of illnesses, surgeries, procedures, doctor's appointments, tests, etc.
Between October and June, I had four rounds of the flu, apparently setting a record for my doctor's busy practice. In between, surgery removed a large bone spur from my shoulder, followed by weeks of PT. The veins in my left leg went kerflooey, necessitating three procedures to keep my foot from ballooning. Then, hustling grandson Noah into preschool, my rubber-soled shoe stopped and I didn't, crashing to the pavement and breaking three bones in my hand.
Capping off this thirteen-month-long medical saga, I learned there was a pouch in my esophagus, colorfully named Zenker's diverticulum. Trouble swallowing and a couple of scary choking episodes got me referred to a specialist at Baylor Hospital. First, an endoscopy (asleep, thankfully) to take a look, then a meeting with a thoracic surgeon. Now the fun part began. First I had three days of a full liquid diet (Cream of Wheat, yogurt, milkshakes, etc.) then three days of clear liquids (tea, broth, Jello, etc.) Down five pounds by the day of surgery. Two days in the hospital, getting excellent nursing care. Now I'm reversing the process, three clear, three full liquid and then onto soft foods - whoopee!
Swallowing is still a challenge due to swelling and I won't see meat, bread, vegetables or cheese for a while, but I look forward to eating normally and bringing an end to this ongoing medical drama. Hopefully, 2020 will bring healthier days, otherwise my health insurance company may divorce me.
The Pick-up Artist
One of our duties is to get our five-year-old grandson Noah to and from school each morning. Daddy drops him off around 7:15 after getting Lena on her bus and Noah snarfs down juice, two scrambled eggs and fruit. Then its into the car for the short trip to Keeley Elementary School, where he's in kindergarten. We make the loop around the back of the school and drop him at the entrance. Safety-vested helpers open the car door and walk him to the door.
Pick-up is another story. Although dismissal isn't until about 3:10, one must get in line at around 2:25 to avoid having dozens of cars ahead of you. I bring a book along, make phone calls or play games on my phone. Finally, about 3:05, a teacher comes out and signals that the cars may advance around the back loop. I flash a little blue card that says Garcia 9 (Noah's number). The cars inch along, passing doors where fifth, fourth, third, second and first graders emerge. Finally, I get to the front, where Noah comes out with a helper, who opens the door for him. He hooks up his seat belt and off we go.
Middle school starts later, so we also have Cora, the daughter of Hannah's friend Jen, to drop off most mornings. She joins Noah for a quick cup of juice and a little something to eat. We pick her up from school some days, as well. When that happens, Noah and I have a 30 minute window to grab a frozen yogurt at Spoons, a local shop. When school lets out at 4:00, crowds of young teens stream out looking for their ride. Sometimes, we pick up our older grandson Booker if he needs a ride.
Noah used to come to our house after school. but now we head to his, where his new black lab puppy Luke is waiting. We get Luke outside to do his business, run around the yard to blow off steam and get him back in to gobble down his kibble and get a drink. Then Noah gets a snack and plays with his toys. I come by the house mid-morning to do the same routine with the puppy. And so it goes. I know these days won't last forever, so I'm enjoying every minute.
The China Syndrome
I was raised having meals on unbreakable Melamine plates with a fruit pattern in the center. With five kids in the house, my parents were understandably worried about breakage. My mom always brought out her Haviland (Pasadena pattern) china for Sunday dinner, though. My daughter Hannah has it now.
When Andy and I married in 1969, we chose something very contemporary for everyday use (see photo). My very traditional mother was absolutely horrified, saying she just couldn't imagine eating scrambled eggs served on black plates. Of course, when we had our first breakfast at home, we had to call and tell her how amazing the eggs were.
By the time our kids were born, some pieces of the Circle in the Square china had gotten broken or chipped. Andy bought me a set of white Mikasa china with a spray of green foliage and a few little flowers. (We did have one mishap, where the little plastic bracket that held the shelf failed and sent some dishes crashing to the counter.) Not once did we consider Melamine, which also brought comments from my mother, saying that she couldn't imagine the kids being careful with them. They were eventually replaced by a set of beige stoneware.
With kids out of the house, Andy and I went to Pottery Barn and bought a whole new set of china, this time in four deep shades to mix and match. My mom thought it was much too heavy, and why didn't we consider Corelle, like they had. It was well loved, but eventually we culled the damaged pieces and gave the rest to our son. They were replaced by the same chunky Sonoma pattern, only this time in ivory. After many years of service, this set had begun to chip and break, so we returned to PB and bought a set of pretty stoneware, most likely our last. This morning, with a sigh, we packed up the undamaged Sonoma (no longer available) plates, mugs and bowls for the thrift shop.
I think men tend to remember to phases of their lives by the cars they owned, but I remember all the sets of dishes we had, the family meals that were served on them and where we lived at the time. These are happy memories from 50 years of marriage, serving meals to lots of guests, three children and now three grandchildren.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.