- THE DRIVE: Cool. It was short enough to be bearable with the kids, but long enough to be enjoyable for us grown-ups. I loved watching the landscape change as the hours went by–gently rolling hills of farmland and clumps of trees gave way to huge wide open fields of nothing but wheat, speckled with cows as far as the eye could see, followed by what can only be described as the oddest place I’ve ever been–flat land full of squatty, vivid-green mesquite trees, looking almost desert-y at times…rocky soil, sprawling cactus, prickly grasses…and Mistle-toe! The most unusual thing we saw on the way down was a herd of camel outside one of the tiny towns on a back road–what an unexpected surprise!
- THE RELATIVES: Now, being from Pensacola/Mobile, I’ve met some rednecks. I’ve even met hillbillies during my stay in West Virginia. But these Texas people were just straight-up country–just like on the movies! I was a little nervous about meeting them, and that melted after about, oh, 2 MINUTES of being there. Caleb’s grandma, his aunt and his uncle were so sweet and fun and plain kind-hearted–they never had anything bad to say about anything or anybody, at least not around me. I don’t know why, but I expected them all to be stuffy, old-fashioned, close-minded, "church-going" snickety old people–they were exactly the opposite.
- THE DOG: My husband, the dog whisperer, spent half the weekend trying to charm this old, scared-to-death-of-people, shaggy, black dog his aunt and uncle had on their property. After 2 days, he was able to do what no one had ever done before: a) approach the dog, b) pet the dog gently with 2 hands, and c) vigorously rub the dog’s ears. He was obsessed and kept talking about that sweet little animal even after we got home, saying "I bet I could’ve gotten that dog to sit in my lap if I had just one more day…" (This is how we get so many damn dogs around here–he’s a major dog-lover, and I’m a sucker for cute, fluffy puppies.)
- THE PLACE: We stayed in a spare room at his grandma’s, which just so happened to be an old barn that his aunt and uncle had converted into a house just for her, and it was smack dab in the middle of their wheat field. How cool is that? Their house was right next door, and if I was about 10 years old, I would’ve been playing hide-and-seek the whole time, because this place had secret rooms and a basement with a half-finished tunnel–which immediately placed Aunt and Uncle as COOLEST PEOPLE EVER in my book.
- THE FOOD: I ate so much down-home country cooking this weekend that I probably could skip meals for the rest of the week and still be fat and happy. That Aunt had me in the kitchen learning all kinds of fancy cooking tricks and shortcuts, all the while making fun of her husband, who struck me as the most hilarious, adorable old man I’ve ever met. We stopped at McDonald’s on the way back up to Oklahoma, which I considered a huge treat in itself–it’s been so long since I had a greasy, flacid little cheeseburger…I truly love those things. And best of all, Caleb did, indeed, carry the princess cooler–about 10 feet from the house to the car, but he had the strap of the pink thing over his shoulder nonetheless. Wish I’d had gotten a picture of it.
And for anyone who’s wondering, I don’t have the mumps. I’ve concluded the swollen bump that was on the side of my face must have been from the good slam I gave it the other day when I opened the door on my own head. (Yeah, that’s okay. I still don’t understand how that actually happened either.)