Friday, June 24, 2011
Sure, my kids are reading maps, road signs and the occasional local newspaper, and Rhys has become expert at spotting those blue signs along the highway that signal that fast-food and bathrooms might be available soon. But as we spend time in unfamiliar places, with all kinds of people, my kids are doing some kinds of reading that I hadn't considered before. They have learned to read waves on the beach--when to swim forward and catch the wave, and when to dive through the wave or scrunch down a ways and bob over the crest before the curl breaks. On Wednesday night, they learned how to "read" a formal dinner setting at the home of our friends, John and Mildred, in Spartanburg, SC. ( John has always taken great joy in putting together elegant and sumptuous meals. Back in our college days, he was the wizard of the after-concert receptions for his fellow musicians.) When my kids and I arrived at John and Mildred's house on Wednesday, we were greeted with an elegant table, set for 13 (our 5, plus their 8), with the Roche's best china, silver, crystal, and a white linen tablecloth--a kind of poetry they hadn't read before.
Last night, when my husband's Uncle Jimmy met us at the door in Johnson City, Tennessee, with a dazzling grin and "Haaaaaaaaa there!", my kids got a speed-reading class in the broad drawl of East Tennessee. Aunt Charlotte's sweet smiling welcome made them feel right at home, too. At some point, I'm going to have to read up on cousin-labelling so that I know how to refer to the relationship between 8-year-old Joe, the youngest child of my husband's cousin, Susan (is that a second cousin? a third cousin?), and my kids. They needed no such translation. They got all the information they needed when Joe showed them his trampoline, his big backyard, and his collection of toy weaponry, and the chasing, laughter, whooping and mock-warfare began.
This morning, Patti has been invited to "study" the sumptuous jacuzzi tub in Cousin Susan's room, and have a bubble bath while watching cartoons, before we head off again down the road to Memphis, via Nashville. As the Johnston household heads off to work and day-camp, I'm thinking that my kids need to try biscuits and gravy, Johnson City style in a local eatery, and I'll grab some coffee to fortify me for the road miles ahead.