I wasn’t sure what I was expecting 17 years ago when I went on my first date with my husband. Dinner and a movie maybe? Flowers or candy? Maybe a peck on the cheek goodnight? What I did not expect was watching “The Sound of Music” — with his grandparents.
We drove to a tidy, little blue and white house — tulips and roses lining the sidewalk. Usually one has a little more time to prepare for “meeting the parents” or grandparents — like several months, maybe a year? As if a first date wasn’t enough stress, now I had to try to make a good impression on three people.
His grandmother was worrying too — albeit for different reasons. She was concerned about us sitting idle in front of the TV for three hours. We had hardly made introductions before we were hustled in to the back room and given scissors and felts to cut out for a project she was working on. For three hours, we listened to Julie Andrews sing while we dutifully cut out felt animals and stacked them into piles.
The date, while unusual, unorthodox and productive, turned out to be enjoyable enough that one turned into two, then five, and before I knew it, his grandmother had invited me back for a birthday party.
The whole family turned out, a lovely dinner was set and then the guest of honor was pushed up to the head of the table — the family poodle. He had a nicely shaped can of dog food on a china plate, with carrots for candles. I guess the surprise showed on my face, because my future husband leaned over and whispered, “At least this year she didn’t make everyone’s food look like dog food!”
Going to her house became an adventure — and you could never predict what was going to happen. One evening we dropped by at supper time.
“Oh there’s plenty of tomato soup,” she said, scurrying to set two more bowls on the table. “Here, to make sure, we’ll just add some ketchup and water, after all it’s mostly tomatoes anyway, right?”
Ketchup soup? Mmm, wonder why this hasn’t been picked up by a chain restaurant yet?
On a family camping trip, she accidentally threw out her can opener with the trash. After searching the whole trailer, my husband and I had given up and went hiking. Arriving back into the camp site, we found his grandmother near the dumpster — where she had organized a small group of other campers to help her look through the trash in hopes of finding her “very expensive” can opener. It eventually turned up in a bag of bananas in the camp trailer — no dumpster digging had been needed after all.
Several years after her husband had passed away, she was on another trip with us to the coast. She had been seeing a lot of an elderly gentleman, and spent the majority of our trip waving her cellphone around trying to find reception to call him. Many times through the day we would see her out on the beach standing on a big rock, her back to the wind and the phone pressed tightly to her ear. We had just finished a fresh batch of hot, homemade salsa when she came into the camp trailer from one of these calls.
“I have found myself a lover!” she announced, with a pleased expression.
Just for the record, hot salsa seems even hotter coming out your nose!
My husband’s grandmother is turning 90 this month — and would still find sitting for a three-hour movie to be a waste of time, unless there was a project to be finished. Seventeen years ago, I had no idea that ketchup soup or dog birthday parties were in my future. It was an unusual first date, to meet an unusual woman, with unusual ideas, and who has influenced my life — unusually so.
Brianna Walker occasionally writes about the Farmer’s Fate for the Blue Mountain Eagle.