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Surprise, surprise

September15
Happy Birthday, Ted

Happy Birthday, Ted

I arrived home from school shortly before Ted left to pick up Gabby, our normal Monday routine.  I had stopped for ice cream, pineapples, cherries, and nuts on the way home.  Ted didn’t notice me put the ice cream in the freezer.  He brought the mixer up from the basement at my request.  While he read the mail and Gabby did her math on the porch, I baked a pineapple upside down cake.  He never noticed!  When the oven cooled enough, I hid the cake in it.

We made dinner ‘together.’ I prepared the burgers, which he cooked on the patio, using his new grill, a birthday gift from Chad and Becca.  I cooked the rice and vegetables in the kitchen.  We ate on the porch.  I cleaned up after dinner while he and Gabby played board games.  Around 6:30 Gabby told him she wanted to play badminton in the back yard–her plan to get him out of the sight of her parents arrival. 

As soon as Gabby and Ted left the house, I began putting the Star Wars table cloth on the dining room table and setting up the cake and ice cream.  Right on schedule, Paul and Signe arrived. They stayed in the far corner of the dining room while I went down to get Ted and Gabby.  I told Gabby she had to go home early.  She came up and pretended to pack her bookbag. 

When Ted came along behind her, he was totally surprised to see us all there ready to sing ‘Happy Birthday.’  I don’t know who was more surprised, Ted or I.  How could we have fooled him?

After everyone went home, I asked him if he knew about the cake and guessed about the party.  He had no idea!

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Coasting Home

September1

Ted and I took a bike ride on the rails-to-trails path from Cumberland to Frostburg today. The route is on a gradual incline. We rode seven miles next to the old track now used for the scenic railway train. Much of the route is shady and the path is well-paved or smoothly graveled. Often on our left was a cliff where the railbed was cut into the side of a mountain. And on the right, a steep drop off sometimes took my breath away. At one point the view on the right opened to a beautiful vista of green meadows and distant hills. About six miles from Cumberland we came to a tunnel through the mountain. It was about ½ mile long, and I forgot to remove my sunglasses. So, about halfway through, I panicked and had to stop and walk my bike.

The best part of the trip was the way back. Although the incline was not steep enough to make our ride too difficult on the way up, it made a big difference on our return trip. We were able to coast at 11 to 14 mph, only pedaling when we felt like it. I was able to concentrate more on the scenery and smells of the wildflowers. It was a good ride.

My Aunt Ethel coasted home this weekend—at least I hope it was a coast. Randy told me that when he visited her in the hospital, she indicated she was ready to die. She was in her 90s. Ethel loved socializing—from coffee klatching when she was a young mother to keeping up with all the news of friends and family when she lived at the Danish Home. Appropriately, she died surrounded by family.

I remember Auntie Ethel best from our days living a few houses away when I was between perhaps 7 and 10 years old. She was the neighborhood auntie. My brother, sister, and I could not convince the others on the block that she was REALLY our aunt. She was not an auntie just in name. She loved all the kids on the block, and there must have been fifty of us in that baby-boom neighborhood. An immaculate housekeeper, she shocked me once by setting a dirty-faced little guy with a sopping diaper on her counter in order to talk to him before giving him a treat. Today I understand that a child in diapers who is allowed regularly to wander across the street without supervision is not someone to be scorned, but is a child who needed her compassion and care, and Ethel gave it unconditionally.

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I am a Christian, a mother and grandmother, a sister, a daughter, a teacher, a widow, a friend. . .  My life is first of all defined by relationships–to God, to my family, to my students, to my friends. Of course, I am many other things: a reader, an e-mail writer, a piano player, and a somewhat reluctant traveler, for example.  And now I am a blogger.  I’m not sure why, except it seems to be a logical next step for someone addicted to e-mail.

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