From Seattle to Gainsville, Florida is a long day. It’s just about from one corner of the United States to the opposite corner; from the soggy northwest to the sodden southeast. It was raining softly when I left Seattle, it was raining buckets when I arrived in Gainsville. I went to see my daughter and my brand new great granddaughter.
I got up at five in the morning to catch a 7Am ferry, then a 8AM bus to Seatac, a 12:40 PM flight to Atlanta, a 10:30 flight to Gainsville, a taxi ride to the bed and breakfast which arrived at the door of our cottage at about midnight, by which time I had been traveling for 22 hours.
As one travels one deals with a variety of people: bus and taxi drivers, TSA personnel, airline employees, flight attendants, waiters, shop clerks. In my old age I find it makes a big difference if these people speak pleasantly and cheerfully and try to be helpful. I am not old enough yet to squander money on first class (I may never get to that point), so I expect to be uncomfortable on airplanes, but a kind word along the way mitigates the misery of airplane travel.
The bed and breakfast was the same comfortable two bedroom cottage my lawyer daughter and I stayed in last year for my granddaughter, Sarah’s wedding. This time my other daughter (Kinley’s grandmother) had checked in that morning from China but she and her husband, exhausted from their long journey, were asleep by the time of my arrival. I was touched that they had left me a bottle of wine, some crackers and brie and the radio playing soft music in my bedroom.
Jerry and I live in a world of middle aged to elderly people. I crossed the country to find myself suddenly immersed in the world of babies, young parents, pregnancy, maternity clothes, breast pumps, diapers, and the multiple financial difficulties that go with that time of life, especially in a recession such as this country is now suffering.
In my long life I have initiated a large family, a family that is now scattered in many parts of the world. The branch I visited in Florida comprises the offspring of my second daughter.
Sarah is the oldest at 29. She and her husband, Malik, are struggling financially and she is pregnant. He had a good job at the University but because of budget cuts he was laid off and had to take a much lower paid job. She works at a day care, a job she loves passionately, but it doesn’t pay much. She told me about projects she does with her class of 1 year olds based on stories she reads to them. One of the stories she mentioned was the Story of Ping. That is a book (published in 1933) that was read to me as a child; there is a continuity in life. Sarah and Malik share a love for theater. They met volunteering for community theater, and Sarah plans to finish her BA majoring in theater.
Sarah’s younger brother, Nicky, is Kinley’s father. Nicky is barely grown up himself, and he has had some difficult times in his short life. His teen years were a hard hill to climb, but he has matured astonishingly and at 20, has a good job, a lovely, smart fiancee and a new baby girl. He is planning to go to college next year to study mechanical engineering.
Katy, the middle child, was not there while I was visiting and I was sad not to see her. I took Katy to China with me last year. She and I like to travel together. She is in the Peace Corps now in the Dominican Republic. She came to Gainsville for a couple of days just for Kinley’s birth but had to get back quickly to her job.
The birth was a group event. Twelve or 13 people were present, Kinley’s mother, Amanda, told me . They were: Amanda, Nicky, Nicky’s father, Joe (the baby’s grandfather; he stayed in the hallway
outside), Amanda’s sister, her father, her best friend, Sarah, 3 nurses, a doctor, and Katy. Katy had her computer with her and she swooped around the room with its camera positioned so that grandmother Clare, Nicky’s mother, could watch the birth of her first grandchild (via Skype) in China!
By the time of my visit the baby was 3 weeks old. I wanted to coincide with Clare’s visit because I hadn’t seen her since last year in China. I worry about her health. She has difficult and serious health problems, one of which she recently developed — a stroke around the optic nerve. It is completely repaired now, but her vision in one eye is affected. However, she looked well and youthful and she and her husband, Jason, are on a diet to lose weight.
We had a good visit though it was short and crowded with children, the baby, meals to cook, shopping expeditions to the mall for maternity clothes for Sarah and baby equipment for Amanda and Nicky. I tried to help when I could, and I walked with the baby in the evening fussy time outside. That used to work with my youngest (my only summer baby.)
Nicky was particularly keen to get a breast pump so that he could be able to feed his baby. Amanda will go back to work as an ex-ray technician in August, so they will need the pump then. How different and complex the world of babies is from when I was in production. Then the modern convenience was diaper service — bundles of clean cloth diapers were delivered weekly and buckets of dirty ones spirited away. But Kinley has disposable diapers and, at the age of 3 weeks, is said to prefer a particular brand.
I have been home a week now, in my cool familiar world. I have watched lectures on American history with Jerry in the evenings, played Mah Jongg with the neighborhood ladies, walked with the poodles and tended my garden. I am thankful for menopause.