Sunday Afternoons with my Mother: Episode 1; Moose and Ice Cream
The road unfurls in front of us like a tightly wound string from a coil, waving back and forth, back and forth, as we drive slowly over the graded gravel surface, tires crunching lightly against the stones. We're--my mother and I, that is--somewhere north of Bridgewater, Vermont, on a back road, with no destination in mind other than wherever we end up. It's a Sunday afternoon in August, the blue skies are clotted with white clouds, and the smell of hay wafts in through the open windows. Life is good.
I started taking these drives with my mother several years ago--after she gave up her driving license--and I think we have been on every back road in Central Vermont since. There is something about driving the back roads that we love; could be a lot of things, I suppose. Like today we ran into a moose (not literally, but it was close) eating leaves on the side of the brook paralleling the road. We saw a black bear last week, scurrying across the road just east of Killington. A few weeks ago we watched a Pileated woodpecker go ham on a dead tree, showering the earth with wood chips. And, in no particular order, we have seen: flocks of turkeys and geese, a belted Kingfisher flying over a river, an Indigo Bunting gleaming in the sunlight, a Cooper's Hawk almost take out a crow. It's amazing how many things you see when are not in a hurry.
But it's not just the animals and birds we love to see. Did I mention the flowers? This time of year the hydrangeas are turning pink, the petals of the sunflowers are painting the sky gold, and the dahlias are as big as dinner plates. (Why grow them yourself when you can just hop in your car and gawk at everybody else's.) Nothing makes my mother happier than commenting on the coneflowers. I have to say she says the same things quite often, but she's 94 for crying out loud: The coneflowers don't mind the repetition, and neither do I.
We always stop for ice cream, regardless of the season, because... it's ice cream. I think we have stopped at every Creamy stand, snack shack, Stewart's shop, ice cream truck etc. in the state. This week, we visited this roadside stand that made their own blueberry ice cream, which did not disappoint. My favorite part is my mother telling me she won't be able to eat it all before eating it all and scraping the container to get every last drop to boot.
And then the ride is over and I return her to her apartment in assisted living with a big smile on her face and blueberry stains on her shirt. On the ride home, I notice myself driving faster and getting irritated by the bad drivers on the road; but none of that happens when I drive with my mother, because when you have no place to go, you don't mind the time it takes to get there, and you're just flat out more patient. I think that is one one of the reasons I like my Sunday Afternoons with my Mother so much: No agenda; No Destination; No Goals; No Nothin'. Just spending time together, moose and ice cream. I should do more it often.
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