Vignette 1--Erin and mom walking the dogs, chatting, and enjoying the beautiful weather last week.
Background: We eat fairly healthily at our house. Not absurdly healthy, but fairly healthy. Oatmeal once or twice a week, no sodas, limited breakfast meats. Walter has also made a big push to eliminate Trans Fats from our diet. For some reason (maybe because her parents dropped several yummy foods from the grocery list solely because they contain "partially hydrogenated vegetables oils," ie. Trans Fat), Erin is more afraid of Trans Fats than she is of cancer. We're not even allowed to say the words Trans Fat in her presence. It's TF or nothing.
Erin: "Mom, I have a question."
Erin: "When I get married . . ."
Mom looks quizzically and wonders where this is going.
Erin (continuing): "And my mother-in-law invites us all to Thanksgiving dinner at her house. . ."
Mom still has no idea where this is going, but she really hopes that the scenario plays out some day, because it will mean that Erin has survived.
Erin: "Will dad come, even if my mother-in-law cooks with TFs?"
Mom, trying to make sense of this whole conversation and wondering how Erin ever got the idea that avoiding artery-clogging foods would be more important than attending a family holiday gathering: "Erin, your father loves you more than he hates TFs. Of course he would go to Thanksgiving at your mother-in-law's house."
Erin: "Would he eat?"
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Vignette 2--Same scene, a few minutes later. The conversation has wondered to whether dad would ever retire.
Erin: "Do you think dad will ever retire?"
Erin: "When he does, do you think he'll be like uncle Dave?"
Mom, thinking what a kind and interesting person Uncle Dave is: "I hope so."
Erin: "So, he'll have all white hair, learn to play golf, and grow a round, little belly in front?"
Mom corrects that impression, then goes on to give convoluted answer about retirement: "Well your dad will probably step down as department head in a few years, then later, he'll stop teaching, but he will probably always do research and read and write books. I doubt if he'll every play golf, and I can't really picture him with a round, little belly in front."
Erin: "Oh, so he'll be like one of those guys that sits alone in a dark corner, reading?"
Mom, thinks to herself: "Not a dark corner. He'll have a three-way bulb or maybe a compact fluorescent bulb, or maybe both. And he definitely won't be alone. I'm sure he'll have a dog at his feet and probably one in his lap."
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Vignette 3--Riding in the car with mom (Mike, this one is for you.)
Mom has had a hard day and a hard week. She has had intractable, hard-to-figure out problems coming at her from her neighborhood, her family, and her students. She's mumbling to herself that she can't solve everybody's problems.
Erin looks up from the backseat and asks what's the matter. Mom doesn't want to share the burden or give any specifics. She just says, "Oh, sometimes I get into trouble thinking I have to control people's lives and solve their problems. I need to keep my eyes on my own paper (as Bob Leslie always said)."
Erin gives me a sweet smile and says, "You should just cut back on the number of people whose lives you control. You're really good at it."
Mom, thinking what a meddling fool she is, looks up in the rearview mirror. Erin winks and says: "Wisdom from the mouth of a child."
For those of you waiting to hear about game day with Chet. I am going to hold off for a day or two, in hopes that his wife Lea Ann sends me some of the photos she took of Erin, Chet, and their boys, J.T. and Garrison. I will preview that entry, by telling you that we had a wonderful time, despite the score of the game, and that our bubble about what a wonderful Congressman we have has not been burst.