HAPPY 17TH BIRTHDAY
As we got out of the car I could see Grandma and Aunt Wilma waiting for us through the dusty plate glass window. Joy was unbuckling the baby from her new infant car seat in back, just as Mom and Dad drove up on the gravel and parked behind us. I looked up at the sign that read 'Oasis Cafe' as it sat perched over the blue roof of the long white building, then thought what a strange place it was for such a special moment in life. Joy had come around the car with Kory in her arms, and she looked too young to be a mother. Her blond hair was pulled into a sideways ponytail and it swung as she walked over to the screen door. The town of Juntura was perpetually lonely, only a rest stop on the long drive from somewhere to somewhere else. Both sides of the highway here were bordered by lovely tall cottonwood trees, now December barren and moving restlessly in the lonely winter wind.
John took my hand and pulled open the screen door and pushed open the wooden one to let me enter. The smells of hot food, strong coffee and wood smoke assailed me as a blanket of warm air surrounded me. On this December day it was good to be here. There were a few scattered tables and chairs about, and a few dilapidated booths along the wall under the plate glass window. A handful of customers barely looked around as we came in, and most sat on red topped stools at the gray Formica counter. Grandma and Aunt Wilma were at a corner table big enough to seat the seven of us. I could tell by their exited smiles just how eager they were to meet Grandma's first great-great grandchild.
We threaded our way over to them and chairs scraped as they stood for hugs all around. The next several minutes were spent oohing and aahing over Kory and taking their respective turns holding our tiny dark-haired girl. For those minutes no one existed in the restaurant, indeed in the whole world, except the six of us and our oh-so-special girl.
Finally we settled down in our seats with Kory fastened into her baby carrier. We now turned our attention to the menus on the table, thinking about what each would like for dessert and something hot to drink with it. By the time the older, tired waitress came for our orders we had all decided. We told each other about our trips, Mom, Dad, John, Joy, Kory and I from Bend and Burns, and Grandma and Aunt Wilma from Ontario. We congratulated ourselves on meeting half-way, as if it was our doing that a restaurant had magically sprung up conveniently located at just the half-way spot. As we ate, we told about Kory's birth with all the pride of a brand new mother, and new grandparents still struggling to decide what she would call us. Mom couldn't leave Kory in her carrier, but wanted to hold her while she ate. She made it most of the way through her dessert before Kory let it be known that she wasn't content to be sitting quietly anymore. Grandma got up and walked around the table to take Kory, then walked back and forth with her, patting her back just the way she had done with her mother before her, and her papa before that. Grandma Brown just had a way with babies.
We continued talking excitedly about Grandma's birthday celebration that we had just attended in Ontario for her 100th birthday. Grandma and Kory were 100 years apart in age, and as I watched them together I thought how lucky Kory was to meet her very special great great grandmother.
Soon cameras came out and we re-arranged chairs to accommodate a grouping of five generations. The impact of that hit me with happy tears as I watched the visible blessings of Grandma's years on earth crowd around her. None of us knew how much longer we would have this precious person with us, but for this hour, this moment, we were all here in a happy blend of timelessness.