When I was a kid we went visiting. Over to the neighbors, over to the friends, maybe further away to visit the cousins. Visiting consisted firstly of serious amounts of coffee and ‘lunch.’ Usually the latter included sandwiches (white bread, luncheon meat, cheese, butter, jam), sauce (home canned fruits of many kinds), cookies, and cake (the cake having been quickly put together and into the oven after the company arrived) and pots of the blackest of coffee. The other visiting component was talk, as much of that as there was coffee. Talk talk talk, the men in the front room, the women in the kitchen, the kids all over outside. No tea, beer, or wine (maybe Kool-aid in the summer). No TV, no smart phones, no music. Just talk talk talk laugh laugh laugh.
Yes, I am as old as I sound in that paragraph. And I am sentimentalizing my rural childhood! Now, introverted urban dweller me, I would not want to return to those days of unannounced ‘company’ with the women relegated to kitchen while the table’s set and the cake bakes, but every year when I’m home we partially recreate that old art of visiting for at least one drive out to the Week’s.
Helen Week, mom and dad’s only living friend turned 97 while I was in Minnesota. She was the youngest grown-up of the two Weeks’ families that were my folks’ best friends. So of course, Robert, Marsha and I went visiting and, it so happens, Helen had just baked a ginger molasses cake earlier in the day. Three of Helen’s kids were home so old stories got told and we laughed and consumed coffee in respectable Minnesota proportions. Helen’s not quite her boisterous and jokey younger self…but she’s not so far off either.
It is harder to leave each visit with our Week’s family-friends. Helen’s age makes us fearful of not seeing her again while our ages (Robert, Marsha and me) make us only too aware that our freedom to visit scattered family and friends will soon be compromised. We can’t quite foresee all of the ways but the signs (called birthdays!) are impossible to ignore—whether for reasons of strength, health, economics, or worse, desire. I am almost more frightened of not wanting to ‘go’ as I please than of being unable to do so. But that’s not yet…when we drove away I vowed to see Helen and Barb and Kathy and Norm again next year.