Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 1, 2009

Christmas in April

The last time Mom and I had visited her sister Edith in Council Grove was last summer. Mom's Christmas gift to Edith had sat on her desk since the holiday season - a reminder that the weeks and months kept passing by. But one day last week we decided it was time to make the trip.

The flames of burning prairie fires licked at the roadside in spots, but even the haziness from the smoke couldn't mask the beauty of the Flint Hills. The pastures on the west side of K-177 had already been burned and were now a lush spring green. Those on the east were either black from the fires or still golden yellow.

We arrived in Council Grove just before lunch, stopped to get Edith and headed over to the Trail Days Café and Bakery. Edith had meatloaf while Mom and I had salmon patties. I also ordered two pieces of rhubarb pie and two giant cinnamon rolls to take home with me.

"Let's go see Bud," I suggested after lunch.

Edith and Mom laughed.. Uncle Bud has been gone nearly 10 years and is buried on the west side of the Council Grove cemetery. We drove to his grave and then went to the older part of the cemetery, where his parents and aunts are buried.

From the cemetery, we drove to the east side of town to see the home Edith and Bud had purchased after they sold their farm in 1987. Then we traveled south of town to see the farm. The red barn is gone, replaced by an off-white building with a green roof.

Big John School, one of the first schools where Edith taught, still stands across the road from the farm. Turkey buzzards seem to have made a home on its roof.

We went a bit further east and then north to see the Monument to the Unknown Indian. The area, called Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park, marks the site of the last Kaw Indian village in Kansas prior to the forced removal of the tribe to Oklahoma in 1873.

After sightseeing, we headed to Edith's apartment, where she and Mom exchanged Christmas and birthday gifts. Mom's 85th birthday was in March and Edith's 89th birthday is this weekend so our trip was timed perfectly between the two.

A set with black gloves, scarf and hat was Mom's Christmas gift to Edith. She immediately modeled them for us. Edith gave Mom an angel ornament and cocoa packets.

"Just turn up your air conditioning and pretend it's winter when you fix the cocoa," Edith said, laughing.

For her upcoming birthday, Mom gave Edith a crystal bell for her collection, along with a toiletries kit for her next cruise with her daughter and family.

Edith gave Mom two large-print books - A Marriage Made in Heaven or Too Tired for an Affair by Erma Bombeck and Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon.

Mom and I arrived back in Manhattan late in the afternoon. In most regards, it had been a very un-Christmas-like day. The roads were good and the scenery was pleasant - and the shopping had been done a long time ago. But in some odd way, I think perhaps we enjoyed the day more than if we had sandwiched it into our busy December. Art even remarked how much he enjoyed his piece of rhubarb pie, an experience probably amplified because it wasn't lost in the normal sea of Christmas sweets.

So all in all, it was indeed a Merry Christmas . . . in April!

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