Monday, March 18, 2013

Investing in a Day

My grandpa has been living in Arizona for two months, avoiding one of the harshest winters in Utah in decades. It has been a wonderful opportunity for us to spend time with him and for him to spend time with little Madelyn.

This past weekend my uncle picked up Grandpa to take him home via the small Arizona town where my grandpa grew up. Dave and I made plans to meet them there on Sunday so that we could spend the afternoon seeing the town, hearing stories and walking the cemetery where my great and great-great grandparents are buried alongside great uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.

On Sunday morning, our car broke down. Or rather, our car became dangerous to drive even though it did still drive.

Dave decided to put windshield wiper fluid in the car right before we left and noticed while he did so that our coolant was out.  Bone dry. And it's not such a wise idea to start a three-hour mountainous desert drive with no coolant. Though we normally do not shop on Sunday (scroll down), we decided that we needed the coolant to make the drive safely. At the Walmart where Dave took the car, they discovered that our fans had stopped functioning and several other things were making our car overheat quickly. It would not be a quick fix like we had hoped.

Dave's accidental discovery was a blessing. If he had not decided to add wiper fluid, we probably would have broken down, possibly irreparably, in the middle of the desert somewhere. On the other hand, it was easier to be frustrated and angry when it happened than to admit the blessing. This was probably my last chance to see Grandpa's hometown with Grandpa. Seeing it alone or with someone else wouldn't ever be quite the same.

Thankfully, I have a sweet and thoughtful husband who understood how important this was to me. Before I even had reasonable time to become upset, Dave had already called up three of the local rental car places to compare prices and availability. After gathering the information he came to discuss with me the possibility of renting for the day. We would get there later than planned, but we would get there. It was money spent on Sunday travel; was it appropriate? It was money we hadn't budgeted; was it worth it? Dave helped me feel okay about saying "YES!" Others (even in my own family) probably would have said the opposite, but I am grateful that Dave was so supportive of my desires to connect a little more with my ancestors.

After taking advantage of generous friends who drove us and all our food, baby supplies and cameras to the rental car place, we were able to start out only two hours later than planned.The drive was gorgeous; the desert was blooming with thick carpets of green grass and purple and yellow wildflowers. I wanted so badly to stop and take pictures but I didn't want to sacrifice the time. I am, however, highly tempted to drive north 45 minutes another weekend just to try out my camera on such springtime Arizona beauty!

My grandpa has always been good at scraping up distant relatives. We met him and my uncle at my grandpa's cousin's son's house with his mom and several children and grandchildren. That means...(ready?), that I was able to meet my third cousins and my grandpa's first cousin (a very old lady by now) was able to meet her first cousin twice removed (me) and three times removed (Madelyn). My grandpa's first cousin once removed was able to meet his second cousin once removed (me again!) and his second cousin twice removed (Madelyn).  At one point there were a couple of fourth cousins in the room (Madelyn and my grandpa's cousin's great-granddaughters). In fact, at one point there were two first cousins, two second cousins, three third cousins and two fourth cousins in the same room! Not too shabby.

After a St. Patrick's Day dinner of corned beef and cabbage, we spent some time driving around the town with a video camera while my grandpa pointed out houses, corners and hills where relatives used to live or where he tobogganed as a boy or would go to wait for his dad to come home from the ranch. Most of the original buildings are no longer standing, but it was neat to hear Grandpa relive his childhood with such clarity. Grandpa was prepared with a packet of old photographs and maps so that we could envision the way it used to be. I would have loved to take modern pictures along the way in addition to video, but again our delay made that impossible.

We also stopped at the beautiful old cemetery. It was a bit cold and windy by that time, so we weren't able to spend as much quiet time as I would have liked. I love cemeteries.


On the way home we stopped to see the nearby temple. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful Sabbath.

PS. This is a public blog so I haven't posted pictures of direct family stones. If you are interested in seeing pictures of family plots, please email me and I will be glad to send them. (I realize, of course, that most of my family has been to this cemetery at least once before, but I wanted to explain the lack of more personal pictures.) 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Difference of a Year

One year ago I was still reeling from my new state of pregnancy (and first trimester sickness!). I was also thinking deep thoughts about the role of the Jewish Temple in seventeenth-century English literature.

Nowadays my deep thoughts tend to be parenting related...

...Like the night I jumped out of bed in a panic thinking I had accidentally given my baby's teddy bear the same name as the bad-guy bear's in Toy Story 3.

Never fear, the name is Lonzo-Bear, not Lotso. Phew. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Difference of a Mile

I didn't grow up shopping at Walmart and was never typically a Walmart fan.  We did all of our grocery shopping at the local Cub Foods (which still holds an oddly prominent place in my childhood memories).

But when we moved to Arizona the closest grocery store (other than a more expensive "gourmet"-type store) was a very small neighborhood Walmart down the main street a few blocks. It wasn't a bad little place and I grew to like it.

When we purchased our home, we found ourselves too far away from that grocery store to justify the trip. Now we go to one of the massive Super Walmarts that takes up at least one square block and has a garden center, a tire shop, a grocery store and an expansive electronics site.

My frustration with our Walmart has been growing. Every time I go, something I need is out of stock. It started happening around Thanksgiving and it's become an expected part of my trips there. If I'm in a plucky mood, I'm sardonically amused by it; if I'm in a hurry then I'm disgusted.

And then there's the normal annoyances: it's over-crowded and cramped, the lines can get tiresomely long despite the 45 check-out lanes, most of which lie unused, etc. You've been to Walmart so you know.

The other day I dropped David off at work and decided to do my grocery shopping at our old Walmart, which is a little closer to his workplace than the big one we now normally use. It was an extremely pleasant experience! The store was well-lit, the aisles were well-stocked (I found everything I needed - amazing!), and the employees were smiling. When I got to the check-out lane, there was one elderly woman ahead of me. The cashier remembered her from a visit to the store a week ago, when the shopper had been purchasing large quantities of dessert ingredients for her son's funeral. The cashier asked her how the desserts had turned out, if she had had enough to go around and told the shopper she had been thinking about her all week, hoping that she was making it through this difficult time. I was pleased that the cashier cared enough about her job to pay attention to the people who passed through her line, even remembering significant stories like that of the woman in front of me.

When it was my turn to check-out, the cashier started applying ad-match prices for me, even though I hadn't asked her to and had not brought my own ads with me. In fact, I had been kicking myself for leaving my store ads at home since I ended up purchasing quite a bit of produce. The cashier's thoughtfulness saved me a decent sum of money.

In the end, this isn't a morality tale. This isn't "Thus, Walmart is evil" or "Thus, Walmart is great." This isn't even "Thus, if you work in retail you should all remember conversations you had with customers one week ago." This is just a retelling of one of those moments during an otherwise ordinary day that made me feel a little bit better about the world.