My family doesn’t visit a lot. It’s a long drive. They’re older than me, even.
Cindy and Chuck would usually come up once a year. Once Pa got sick that ended. Now that Pa’s gone Cindy gets out more, and that combined with the fact that Brenda had never been to the Festival of the Little Hills, combined with the fact that I had some inheritance coming due, and lo and behold, two siblings and two siblings-in-law converged on my house over the weekend.
Laurie was practically giddy. Who knew she loved having company so much? Now we only have one guest room so having four guests is an issue. Especially since we long ago did away with our couches that turn into beds. Apparently that’s not stylish anymore. If it ever was.
“Cindy and Chuck can have the guest room and Randy and Brenda can have our room and we’ll sleep on the air mattress.”
“What? Why do we get the air mattress?”
“Because we’re the hosts.”
“Right. We’re the hosts. As in that’s my bedroom. I don’t recall Randy ever giving up his bedroom for us.”
“They have two guest rooms.”
“I’m pretty sure Randy wouldn’t give up his bed regardless.”
“You’re sleeping on the floor and you’ll like it.”
R&B had business in Kansas City on Friday morning so they didn’t hook up with C&C until 8:30 p.m. in Springfield which meant they didn’t get to St. Charles until after midnight. After some obligatory chit-chat everyone was ready for bed. Laurie pulls the unopened air mattress out of the box.
“I’m not blowing that up.”
“You don’t have to, it has its own pump.”
I locate the mattress’ internal pump: Requires 4 D batteries.
“Do we have any D batteries?”
“Of course not. Who uses D batteries anymore?”
That night I slept on a sheet on top of my Spider-Man blanket on the basement floor. Or rather, I tried to sleep. At some point I ended up on the upstairs couch and Laurie ended up on the basement couch.
After the long day and late night I wasn’t expecting anyone to be up early, but you know country folk. R&B were the first up. Laurie made coffee while I made a donut run. The festival begins at 9:30 a.m. and it’s important you get there early to get a parking space. Otherwise you’re stuck dealing with shuttle buses.
Looks like rain. Funny. I don’t remember rain being in the forecast. As we step into the cars it begins to rain. You know how with some rains it will come down hard for a few minutes and then clear up? That was not this kind of rain.
This was a soaking rain. Cold and wet and constant. Light to hard to harder. Occasionally it would lighten up, but that was just a tease to get you out of the stores and back on the street, at which point the rain would start up again.
For the festival-impaired, the Festival of the Little Hills is a giant craft fair. It runs the length of Main Street and then spills into the park on the riverfront. 300 vendors or so I’m told. It’s the kind of thing where after an hour you stop in the middle of the street, throw up your arms and yell, “Who would buy all this crap?”
Now you would think the rain would’ve deterred people from coming downtown but no. There were still plenty of people, and now all of them were toting umbrellas and poking you with them. It was a soggy morning and after 90 minutes we had pretty much had enough. We decided to have lunch and maybe the skies would clear while we were eating. Too many people had the same idea as we headed towards Lewis & Clarks, so we wound up at Undertow. They had a limited festival menu but they had burgers and chicken strips and wraps and what more do you need?
Sure enough, by the time we finished eating the sun was peaking through the clouds. So off we went, as if the entire morning had never happened. The street was still quite damp, and deep water in spots, but we made it from one end to the other, then down to the park. The wet, muddy, muddy park. Oh, and since it wasn’t raining any more — all the idiots showed up. Thank you, idiots. Thank you for showing up in force. I was afraid I might have some breathing room as I walked from craft tent to craft tent. I was afraid I wouldn’t be forced to stop in a puddle of water and stand still because no one is moving.
We eventually wound our way to the main stage which meant we’d seen it all. I was more than ready to go home.
“We need to make another loop around the park,” Cindy says. “I was only looking at the booths on the right. Now I need to look at the ones on the left.”
“You have got to be joking.”
“I’m not tired. I could go another round.”
“I’m never too tired for shopping.”
And so it was that Andrew, Chuck and myself made our way back to the house while Laurie, Brenda, Randy and Cindy continued to enjoy the festival.
An hour or so later the phone wakes me up.
“Put the pulled pork in the oven. We’ll be home later”
“You’re still shopping? What more was there to see?”
“There’s always more to see.”
They finally got back around 6 p.m. Insane.
After dinner we filled up the Mizzou cooler on wheels and headed to New Town for a free concert starring popular local rockers Trixie Delight. They rocked pretty well and it was a good evening.
The next morning Randy was getting antsy so it was time to pull out my list of chores. Randy is quite the handyman, you see, while I am whatever the opposite of a handyman would be. handlessman? incompetent boob? either works.
First order of business was a cabinet under the wet bar that Laurie and I have not been able to get open. Something had got stuck in the drawer making opening it impossible. And trust me, I had tried everything.
Randy pulls on it. No go. then he pulls out the drawer next to it, reaches in from the side and moves the offending item. Door opens.
Why didn’t I think of that? I have two college degrees. Randy has a high school diploma. And yet he’s 100,000 times smarter than me. It’s not fair.
But then, the person with the Juris Doctor didn’t think of it either.
So then I went down to the basement and pulled out the metal horse-head hat rack that Laurie bought in Kentucky 20-or-so years ago and has been sitting in the basement because I didn’t know what to do with it or how to hang it without it looking lopsided.
We take it out to the garage and Randy starts knocking on the wall looking for something called a “stud.” Four nails later and success. My caps finally have a home.
I’ve only got one more chance to make my brother look like a stooge, but it’s my secret weapon.
“Here. Open this jar of salsa.”
Several months ago my wife picked up a jar of Over the Border brand (or South of the Border?) salsa. She could not open the jar. I could not open the jar. We tried hot water. We tried the gripper things. I turned and stressed and strained and almost gave myself a hernia. That lid absolutely would not budge.
Randy gives it a twist. No go. He tries harder. Nothing. Pretty soon the peanut gallery is getting into the act.
“Pour hot water on it.”
“Use the gripper thing.”
I sat there smugly as Randy stressed and strained and tried to no avail to open that jar of salsa. Finally — something he can’t do.
“Where’d that hammer go?”
He starts tapping around the lid until POP! the damn thing opens.
Sigh. Using a hammer on it. Why didn’t I think of that?
By now it’s lunch time. We were going to grill but as soon as someone mentioned grilling it started to rain. So we had lasagna.
After lunch it was time to make the long drive home. There was talk about making the festival an annual trip. Fine with me.
But Randy’s not getting my bed next year.