Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 31, 2009

A treasure trove of memories

Endings quite naturally spur reflection, and parting with someone you are close to but won't see again for some time is such an ending.

When sister Gaila visited South America in 1983, she went to visit friends and see the sights, never expecting she would also find a husband. She married Humberto in 1985 and they have made their home in Bolivia.

But she has returned to Kansas every summer except one. The summer she didn't come, she was pregnant with Larisa and due in September and I was pregnant with Katie and due in November, so neither of us wanted to travel. We decided that even if we had, all we would have done would have been to sit around and feel fat.

I feel extremely lucky that in the nearly 25 years since she married, Gaila has been able to spend most summers with us. It would be nice to have her closer so we could just decide on a whim to go shopping or make dinner or go to a movie. But since we know our time is limited, we try to make the most of it. In past years, we crammed in swimming lessons for the girls, visits to the farm, shopping, movies, picnics and other activities so our daughters would have great memories of spending time with their cousins.

Although we did a lot this year, too, somehow it felt different and more relaxed than previous years. Perhaps it's because our girls are virtually grown now. Daughter Mariya graduated from K-State in December, Gaila's daughter Gabriela is a junior at Macalester College, and both Larisa and Katie are nearly 17, so all four are more than able to entertain themselves.

We still visited the farm, traveled to Salina and Council Grove to visit family, shopped, had picnics and went to movies, but it all seemed less hectic.

Early on, we scheduled our annual "sister day," the one day in the summer where we plan activities just for the two of us. This year, we stayed in Manhattan and explored shops we hadn't been to before. We had fun looking at toys, games and books at Four and Twenty Blackbirds. When the owner asked if she could help us find anything, Gaila and I replied that we were just "playing." Gaila, the librarian at the American School in La Paz, is always looking for books. I checked out baby things for the new great niece we're expecting in August.

We also spent time in a few other downtown shops, went to the library, had lunch at the Chef Café and bought green beans, peas, corn on the cob and rhubarb at the farmers' market..

And in between those activities, we cleaned. Cleaning wouldn't normally rank high on most people's lists as a fun activity, but sister Gaila and I enjoyed it. We cleaned Mom's garage, kitchen cabinets, closets and basement storage room. We cleaned my basement and kitchen cabinets and went through Mariya's and Katie's baby clothes. In the end, we took a pick-up load and a van load of kitchen gadgets, clothing, knick-knacks, books and other items to the Salvation Army.

Gaila even set aside 10 days to travel with Mom and Larisa to St. Paul to spend time with Gabriela at Macalester. They returned with Gabs so we could all be together for a few days.

Gaila and I talked some about Mom and our aunts and uncles. Mom turned 85 in March. Uncle Bob is almost 94 and his wife Iris is 91. Aunt Edith will be 90 next May and Stan and Kay are 86 and 87.

"When did they get to be so old?" Gaila asked. "We're not any older, are we?" Then we both giggled.

When I asked what happens when we get too old to travel, Gaila told me we have 30 more years before we have to worry about that.

I sure hope she's right! But even if things don't turn out that way, I still feel extremely lucky. It isn't just our girls who have a treasure trove of great memories.

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