I’ve always like spending time with people who are older than I am. However, after spending weeks and months with only the occasional punctuation of a companion under the age of 60, I wasn’t looking forward to the Farm Bureau picnic, even though the food was guaranteed to be good. The mean age at that event was sure to be about 67, and taking a book would likely be considered bad form (though I would do so anyway, in a pinch).
And then I convinced my sisters to come to visit.
My sisters and I get along very well, indeed. It wasn’t always that way, unfortunately; there was a time where leaving me alone with my youngest sister, Chloe, was guaranteed to end in screaming and maybe a bruise or two. Even with my (older) younger sister, Molly, there were a few years where we often fought, and she’s the classic “peacemaking” middle child. (Puberty is cruel to us all.) Those times have passed, though, and when we’re together, we spend most of our time laughing until our abs ache and mascara smudges.
Thus I was thrilled when they agreed to come down at a time that coincided with the picnic. Not only would they bring the average age down by about four years, but–between the three of us–even the dullest of situations could become the stuff of dinner-conversation legend. We would descend upon the tiny farming town like vultures, seeking out entertainment wherever it could be found.
The day of the picnic dawned, sunny and already warm as we left for church. By the time we headed out for the park, the heat was blurring the pavement lines and creamy castles disrupted the cerulean sky. It was a dry heat, certainly, but the result was a salty film that clung to the skin and attracted hair to the back of the neck. The food was set out underneath tents, and the tables were beneath trees, but it was hot enough that food wouldn’t have appeared at all if we hadn’t eaten in about six or seven hours.
My fear that the food would be the highlight of the event was soon put to rest. After eating, my sisters and I decided to explore. The picnic was held across from a park, and across the park–catching my thrift-shopper extraordinaire’s eye–was a shop that seemed to be part antique parlor, part nursery, part bookstore. In other words, my ideal shop.
The gal who ran the shop turned out to be one of the sweetest ladies I’ve met in quite a while. We chatted for a while as I browsed; she’d dreamed of owning a bookstore for years, and this shop was a culmination of a lifetime of dreams. The old magazines and pamphlets, freely given from a wicker basket beside the door, held Molly’s attention. Chloe was studying the weak sprouts of catnip and basil that wilted outside. An ancient terrier begged for affection from a worn rug. To quote the truly iconic film The Lizzie McGuire Movie, “Hey now, hey now, this is what dreams are made of.”
My sisters and I couldn’t avoid sad plants, so we talked the price down–like I said, this woman was incredibly sweet–and took home a basil plant and two catnip starts along with the most aesthetically pleasing pamphlets that Molly could find. From there, the sticky afternoon transformed into an excursion that would fit into the aesthetic of something like The Sand Lot or Because of Winn Dixie. We traipsed around the tiny town, popping into its miniature library and wandering through the gas station and quick-mart (where Molly picked up another wilted plant: some tired petunias). After walking the length of the town several times (it was only a few blocks long), we rejoined the party, dusty, dirty, and laughing.
The threat of a thunderstorm was heavy on our lungs as we drove off, back hours through the fields of alfalfa with Elvis crooning under my grandparents’ arguement about which road to take. I couldn’t care less. The road less travelled makes less of a difference than the company you take with you.