My mom grew up in a small town called Ellis in northern Kansas. Her mom and dad lived in a small house on the edge of town, which was a quaint little place I enjoyed for its 1950s allure and German food smells.
Rather narrow-minded as a child, I wouldn't touch goulash or sauerkraut or radishes or homemade pickles until well past my youth. Instead, I learned about things that only kids can be influenced by and remember in our own internal films.
I wandered across the bridges overlooking small creeks and distinctively recall starting to wonder about photography and light during a Thanksgiving trip when I watched ducks gloriously stream down the water.
There was a small fish pond with big goldfish. My mom took me and my brothers there. The bowling alley pizza was nearly a German deep dish and we could walk a short distance to retrieve a pie. There were older gentlemen sitting at the bar drinking dark stuff, their wrinkly faces chugging cigarettes and hard hands gripping small tumblers. Everyone smoked. We ate potato soup at a diner right off I-70, which you could see from my grandparents living room windows. Once, a tornado hopped across the massive highway. Another time, my mother remembered 13 tornadoes in one night. Much of the local art carries an essence of tornadic activity; in fact, an inherited birdhouse sits on my mother's porch with a tornado fashioned of barb wire fence. My mom will stand on the lawn and watch funnel clouds circling, unafraid. So many she has seen.
A few miles away is an all-American city called Hays, where my parents met on a blind date while attending the university. My father famously, of course, called her ahead of the date to request her liquor of choice. Bourbon. Everyone knows that. He picked her up. She thought he was stoned, but he wasn't. His eyes are always red. He wore the same outfit every day: a white t-shirt, jeans and sandals. My dad is a leader, as you all know, but she took her time deciding if she'd follow.
My mom learned how to cook and bake in that house in Ellis. She was a bowling champion (and can still smoke you). She pranked her brother. She went to Catholic school. She behaved herself. A little dog called Cricket ran around for what seemed like a hundred years nipping her little feet, and then mine, too, another hundred years later.
Mom had a good week. She had her eyes examined and got a flu shot. She sent me a selfie. She scolded me on the phone for something or another. She has an appetite. She asked about my upcoming work trips. She told me to have fun at a happy hour with a good friend. She signed up for a weekend in Denver and we will take Ginger to her first real ballet together.
And as I wistfully think about all the parties I missed in New York City last night--because you all know they were awesome--I sit on my bed with a laptop and my little daughter next to me and think about my mom and hope and wish for her that she enjoys the day with my brother.