Friday night we had a very good Korean meal with my brother and his wife. At Saturday morning at 5:35 a.m., we hit the road for our oft-postponed visit to my parents in Arkansas. We listened to the Neil Sperry garden show on the AM radio, as Mr. Sperry told listeners that the Aleppo pine being sold as our local "living Christmas tree" can't be planted outdoors, due to it being a Gulf Coast native non-resistant to frost, and further explained the intricacies of root ball quartering. I love local garden shows on the radio, because the people are so down to earth, and because our mix of demanding soil and variable weather makes choosing the right plants a challenge and a wondrous quest.
I found myself a bit weary, having arisen so early, although in fact I urged on the early waking because I always want to get home by noon when we leave on Saturday.
We stopped at the Pilot truck stop in Sulphur Springs for a rest. The truck stops along Interstate 30 are more completely stocked than some third world countries.
I purchased an inexpensive CD of The Ramones: Live! to keep me awake. I had great fun driving at dawn's early light past cold-yellowed fields of prairie, passing hawk and vulture, to the tune of "I Wanna Be Sedated" and of the theme from "Spiderman". growled out by Joey Ramone.
I managed to take a wrong turn at Texarkana, going west towards New Boston instead of east towards Magnolia. Then I tried a "shortcut" through Bodcaw that proved not short. But soon enough we pulled into my sister's driveway in Stephens, and then to my parents' home in Camden.
My father had cooked up luncheon steaks, cornbread and the traditional New Year's dish of hog jowls and black-eyed peas. My mother had made a cream cheese roll which somehow also involved pecans and ground-up smoked turkey, as well as something with apples that was very good. We had a great meal together. We talked to my folks for a while, until they tired and went for their afternoon rest. My wife and I headed out the 20 miles to see my sister's family.
My eight year old niece and I went for a walk, or rather, I walked while she pushed herself on a metal scooter she's had for years. She read for me Christmas messages on a well-decorated house, and chafed in ways appropriate to her age when I insisted she ride on the side of the small town street on which I could best supervise her.
We scored rather a hit with my eleven year old and fifteen year old sportsmen nephews when we presented them each with a copy of the Bass Pro Shop catalog and a gift card to make a purchase. Gift cards are not the devil, provided one implements them with imagination. I think that one will get an ultra-light rod and reel, but the older one's thought patterns are less clear to me.
The boys and I discussed plans to rent a cabin on a fishing lake in southern Oklahoma, a plan I hope to make come true. My niece, my wife and I discussed plans to bring my niece to Allen in February, to take her swimming at the natatorium, and on a visit to the Fort Worth zoo.
We all dined on hamburgers from the local convenience store, "Pitt Stop", which were divine grub, and ate abundant quantities of my sister's top-notch chocolate chip cookies with pecans. I played my eight year old nephew at a Playstation game he had,
called NCAA football. He assigned me Oklahoma, and he played Texas. We each proved laughably inferior at running the offenses of each team, but I managed to beat him by a score of 14 to 6. I was sad to see the game end, just when I was getting the hang of running the play in which the halfback unspectacularly gains four yards by running off left tackle. I always find some really life-affirming metaphor in a consistent four yard gain on a running play. Other than the computer game, I watched zero football on New Year's.
We went back to my parents' house, and chatted with them, and then chatted more with my mom while my wife and my mom made Mystic Chai. I was glad to finally get the good visit in that we'd been wanting to have for some time.
When I am home, I like to read books I liked as a young teen. This trip, I read a well-beaten-up paperback of Robert Heinlein's Space Cadet. I spent my early teens reading so much Heinlein, Asimov, Andre Norton and folks like Silverberg. Heinlein's fans come in three camps--those who love his early work, those who love his "middle period" work starting with "Stranger in a Strange Land" and ending with "Time Enough for Love", and those who like his later, more panoramic and self-referential work.
I like all the eras, but I confess to liking the first two the most. "Space Cadet" is no "Podkayne of Mars" or "Stranger in a Strange Land", but it is a fine read.
I also finished "A Christmas Carol", and found it more enchanting this time than in any prior read. I intend to keep Christmas well this year, especially when it is no longer Christmas.
We woke less early than usual this morning. My sister had mentioned that she had gotten a jack to let my folks hook up a phone right by my mom's side of their bed.
I went to Wal-Mart and bought them a phone which looked very high-tech, both cordless and corded. It was kinda like 2 phones in one. It had all sorts of features they will never need, like speaker phone and conferencing, but it also had useful features galore. I had to go back to the Wal-Mart to get more phone cable. Then, with my father's help, I hooked it all up in short order. I like how I can do things for other people I can't do for myself, if I just focus on them. It's a lesson to focus more on doing things for myself, too.
We hit the road back to Dallas late this morning. We saw some gorgeous herons, and many huge, well-fed red-tailed hawks. We saw Santa Gertrudis, hereford, and jersey cows. We listened to a New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panther game on the radio, and we enjoyed watching the rain fall on a 70 degree day. Just nine days ago, we had snow on the ground, and now we are in Spring-like weather. It's like the old saying about Texas--"don't like the weather? wait 24 hours".
We arrived home and went to take naps. It was a good weekend.