After a good two-week reprieve for Dad, he and I headed back to Iowa by train while Bill and the boys flew. Our plane and train left the airport and station at the same time: noon on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. I received a text 2 ½ hours later from Bill: “I see the Sears Tower! I see the Sears Tower!” The train hadn’t yet made it to western Massachusetts. Another text from a gas station, “In Iowa bet you wish you were here!” I received this one while Dad and I were having a bite to eat in the snack car. I mustered up a great reply, “Having a beer! Bet you wish you were here!” An hour and half later, Bill was having a beer. Alas, 31 hours after departure Dad and I rolled onto familiar Iowa roads. Many times on this trip my Iowa culture was juxtaposed with my ever-changing “me” culture. Friday night after Thanksgiving, we went to see the movie “Frozen.” Then, five cousins worked on their own Olaf snowman with the bit of snow left on the 4-wheeler course.
Iowa Olaf faced east and stared at acres and acres of cornstalk-stubbled, snowy farmland. In Massachusetts, we can go to movies and make snowmen, but not with cousins. And Olaf’s horizon wouldn’t be so wide. And an Olaf built in our backyard in Massachusetts wouldn’t meet his demise by a 9-year-old driving a 4-wheeler.
Yes, I said “4-wheeler." Quads. Grandpa, uncles, and cousins tied the six-foot long toboggan to the big 4-wheeler and whizzed around with three kids on the back. Occasionally, one cousin (Liam) was dumped off without the driver (Grandpa) realizing it until he circled back and, seeing the lump of kid on the ground 20 feet in front of him called out with a laugh, “Liam!?!?” On the smaller quad, Will’s hands were welded to the handles. In complete, independent control of this machine, Will zipped around looking for snow bumps to jump. This must be the same exhilaration he gets when skiing down mountains and making giant circles on the high bar. He thrives on speed and control.
On the calmer, more nostalgic side, a highlight of my trip (and not so climatic for the Malcolm boys) was when we helped Mom put up the Christmas tree. I want the story of every ornament. When and how did it come to be? And this year, this little niche at the back of the tree spoke to the irony of my ever-changing culture:
I too have sets of the crocheted red and gold 6-foot string of beads my great aunt made years ago. Just like Mom’s sets, they circle my tree and remind me of my grandma and her sisters, and the stories surrounding this now-gone generation. And at the root of those stories are the similarities and differences among the five sisters I remember, with the funniest stories coming from their differences.
As for the Santa ornament in this shot... No, I don't see myself ever having a shot-gun shell Santa on my Christmas tree.
(From Christmas in Iowa, I went back to Massachusetts -- to my life as a Rat on a Wheel.)