Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Tale of Three Sisters

Once upon a time three Post Oaks stood sentry over the property at 213 S. Maple Avenue. Since they appear in the 1902 photo of our house, I know that they were here long before the house was built. Post Oaks are extremely slow growing trees. When we bought the house in 1987, we named them the Three Sisters. Through the years the Sisters sheltered our home and planting beds, and provided an interesting backdrop when we photographed our children.

In recent years the middle sister began showing signs of her age. We had a tree specialist attach cabling a few years ago in an effort to give her more support. But despite our best efforts earlier this year Middle Sister gave up her post, so to speak. Her large decaying bulk was a magnet for every tree guy from here to Perryville. Oh wait...they were all from Perryville. At any rate, we finally accepted a "reasonable" quote from a younger guy who agreed to remove Sister, a large limb from South Sister which was hanging dangerously over our roof, another large oak in the backyard that had died and a small dead maple from the side yard. Today they came and did the work. Middle Sister has gone to the great mulch pile in the sky, and the two remaining Sisters appear bowed in grief. I hope they also don't die on our watch.

As the weather cools, the boys from Perryville will be back on my street, offering to sell parts of Sister for my fireplace. I paid to have her taken down and I can pay again to get her back as firewood. Only in America...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Life & Death Experiences

On September 12th my niece's father-in-law died at the nursing home where he had been staying for the past couple of years. Ralph was 88 years old, but his mind and body had checked out a while back. I last saw him at our family Christmas gathering, and he was in tough shape then. One thing that hadn't faded was his sense of humor. He was quite a character! As Ralph and his wife Emily had no church of their own, my niece's pastor offered to have the funeral at their church in Cahokia. It was very touching and moving, especially considering the pastor had only met Ralph on a couple of occasions. One particular statement he made has stayed with me. "We can spend time or we can waste time, but we can never make time." As a veteran Marine of both WWII and the Korean War, Ralph was eligible to be buried at Jefferson Barracks Cemetery. They provided a full military ceremony, complete with the firing of the rifles and the playing of Taps. A military funeral is something that touches everyone in attendance, and there were no dry eyes in our group. R.I.P. Ralph - you earned it.

My mother-in-law turns 80 tomorrow, and we all traveled to Iowa last weekend to celebrate with her. Jim and I stopped at the St. Louis University Lay Education Center near Bowling Green on our way up to see what that was all about. It is a sculpture garden, and it has a cemetery next to it that was established in 1831. Very interesting! We also stopped at a few barn quilts on the way so that I could take some photographs. Unfortunately the day was dreary and we were on a bit of a schedule, so I only got to photograph 4 of them.

On Friday we attended the Charles City homecoming parade. It was fun to see all the kids in the parade, and strange to think that Jim would have been on the flatbed truck with the other football players more than 30 years ago. Saturday we hit the Farmer's Market in the morning and a quilt show in the afternoon before going to Mass. That night 10 of us took Lorraine out to supper in nearby New Hampton. Great food! Sunday Jim's sister had us all over for brunch before we had to leave for home.

Monday of this week my brother-in-law turned 65. On Saturday Jim and I will have 12 people here for a barbecue to celebrate this milestone. Emily will come, but we sure will miss Big Ralph!

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Moving Experience

At noon on Friday Jim and I picked up our Penske moving truck and brought it back to our house. One of the young guys from his office brought a friend over to help Jim get Katie's bed down from the 3rd floor and our old couch up from the basement. They ended up staying and in 40 minutes we had all of Katie's stuff loaded into the truck. At 4:00 we met up with Lauren's family to pick up the IKEA orders we had placed from a warehouse in Webster Groves. After placing those in the truck, we went to Lauren's house and got all of her stuff on board. By 5:30 Katie, Jim and I were placing our order at the Trainwreck Saloon for a last St. Louis family meal together.

Saturday morning Katie and I left our house at 8:00 to take Kirby to Cahokia, where my niece would take care of him while we were in Chicago. Jim called when he in the Penske truck and the DeGroots in their van hit the Poplar Street Bridge. Katie and I jumped back on the highway and we were on our way. We made really good time until we were about 80 miles outside of Chicago, which is when I-55 shut down. Both northbound lanes of the interstate came to a complete stop. As sirens blared and lights flashed behind us, all the cars and trucks crept as far to the shoulder as we possibly could, considering construction was going on and the shoulders were mushy roto millings.Several members of our group walked towards the accident scene, and as I stood by our car I saw the medi-vac helicopter approach. At that point southbound I-55 was closed as well so the helicopter could land.

I began to chat with the couple in the pretty Lexus ahead of me, and learned that they were returning to Naperville after attending a 50th anniversary party at the Whitmore Country Club in St. Louis on Friday. When I commented on how great it is that the couple has been together that long, the woman told me that she and her husband have know each other since they were 15. But both of them had married other people (in fact her first husband was in her second husband's first wedding!) - wow, you need a score card to follow all that. Her first husband had died of a heart attack at age 55, and her current husband's first wife had died of breast cancer 7 years ago. They had then become re-acquainted and later married.

I explained that our three vehicles were heading to Chicago to take the girls back to Columbia College. The man said that two of his children had graduated from there as well. Small world... By now our surveilance crew returned from the accident scene and said that they had seen body bags on the pavement, with at least one of them containing a body. There was also wet substance smeared across the highway, and this was before the fire department had done their job. Don't even want to speculate there. By the time it was all said and done, we spent an hour and a half stuck on the interstate. We called the apartment complex as we were scheduled to use the loading dock from 3-6, and there was no way we were going to be there by 3. They were very accommodating and said we could have extra time. As it turned out, we arrived at 4 and had everything moved in from the truck and the two vehicles by a little before 6 anyway. We started putting furniture together and at least had Katie's bed ready for her when we finally took off for our hotel room at 9:30 that night.

At the Hyatt, which offers a great rate for customers of Katie's apartment building, I heard the front desk clerk say something about executive room, and I assumed it is because I have a Hyatt customer card. But when we got to our room, we had a corner suite! Windows facing downtown and windows facing the lake, a whole living room area with a t.v, king size bed with another t.v., bathroom with two sinks, a large desk area, and a kitchen completed the suite. Very nice! After quick showers we fell into bed anxious for a good night's sleep after the stress of the day, but that was not to be. Let alone hearing doors slamming all night long, there were the most obnoxious people out in the halls. Different groups throughout the night laughing and talking loudly. At 5 a group of men coming in from their night on the town decided to hold a conversation in the hallway, followed shortly by another man who locked himself (or was locked out) of his room. Brother... This was not good as we were driving home on Sunday as soon as we finished putting Katie's furniture together and got her room to a reasonable stopping point. I did not want us to be another statistic on I-55 due to falling asleep at the wheel.

We started back on the apartment at 10:00, took a break to eat lunch with the other family at noon, and at 1:30 Lauren's family left to drive back to St. Louis. We stayed with Katie until 4:15 and then took the truck key back to the Penske rental place. (The guys had dropped the truck off Saturday night, but the lock box was broken and they were afraid to leave the key lest the truck be stolen.) By 4:35 we were on the road, and got home at 9:45.

The apartment really is lovely, and I hope that the three girls all have a great year together in Chicago. Meanwhile, I'm going to fluff my feathers in my empty nest.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

See You in September

It is hard to believe that today is the first day of September. I'm really thankful it has arrived what with the heat we have been experiencing this summer, but still the year is marching on its way. While most colleges have already begun, Katie's first day is not until the day after Labor Day. Since we ran into problems getting an apartment in Chicago, that is actually a good thing. We ultimately secured a three bedroom apartment in the building that Katie began looking at last April. It is a beautiful apartment, nicely appointed with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. Didn't we all have that in college? Oh wait...I lived in the dorm for three years and then in a two bedroom trailer my senior year.

But that was then and this is now, and I am happy that Katie is in a building and area that I feel comfortable with, or as comfortable as any parent can feel with the world being what it is these days. Katie and I spent a good chunk of today picking up some last minute items. We'll still have shopping to do at Target once we get over there, but we picked up non-breakable, non-perishable items here.

Friday at noon I will pick up the moving truck (woo-hoo, haven't driven one of those since I moved Andy out to D.C. in 2007). One of the young guys from SWT is coming over at lunch time to help us get Katie's bed down from the third floor and the couch out of the basement. Then at 4:00 I'll take the truck to a new business in Webster Groves to pick up out IKEA order, along with the order from Katie's roommate. We'll finish loading the truck with all the girls' stuff Friday night as we want to be on the road by 9:00 Saturday morning. I'll leave slightly earlier as I am dropping Kirby off at my niece's house in Illinois. Her girls are excited to have Kirby spend the night with them.

Our move in time at the loading dock is 3:00. Sounds like the girls have recruited a number of friends so we should have many hands on dock - yuck, yuck. We'll need them as we have a lot of furniture to put together. Jim and I can pretty much stay as late as we need to on Sunday, and I know we need to not only go to Target but also the grocery store to get the pantry stocked.

I'm looking forward to meeting Katie's third roommate Fay from China. Hopefully this will be a good mix of personalities, and everyone will have a fun year.