So this weekend I journeyed north to see my paternal side of the family in honor of Ruth, my four-month-old niece. I haven't seen much of this family in ages and hadn't seen Ruth since June, so it was certainly going to be a big event. I drove up to East Lansing and stopped to get my hair cut, then went up the rest of the way and arrived in the evening. It's beautiful up there, Crystal Valley, which is near Hart. It was getting cold, but the light was clear and melting in the trees. My dad and brother-in-law were out cutting brush, so I stopped for quick hugs and then went into the warmth of my granny's house. After hugs all around I sat down to enjoy a chat with the "womenfolk." I watched for the first time my mom be a grandma, and loved seeing the smiles erupting from Ruthie at Grandma's antics, such as "Shoe the Horse" and "So Big." There's no question; she loves her grandma. It was also adorable to watch her grinning through the window at her grandpa and dad when they came up to say hello, and to watch her with her new London-bought Rubber Duckie with the crown on its head when she had her bath.
Eventually, I decided that what I really wanted to do was get dirty and tired, so when my bro came in, exhausted, I went out to take his place. My dad and I set about hauling heavy walnut branches and dumping them in the field. Dad later complimented both my strength and my ability to use my body properly to haul brush up the steep hillside. I always joke about being the family boy, and being glad I now have a brother to help out, but the truth is, I do like getting out there and hanging with my Dad, and getting pure and honest work done. We came in at dark for dinner, which my mom had cooked in advance and brought up to keep my grandma from having to cook for a pile of people. So, after all that work, I got to have some French Beef Stew from my mom's own kitchen. Eventually, my parents left for their hotel while the "kids" were staying with our grandma. I got to have a late-night chat with my sister, something I miss when she's so far away.
The next day was Ruthie's party, and we all went to the Crystal Valley United Methodist Church. She was resplendent in a pink dress with a sheer white pinafore and a bonnet, and while she didn't particularly enjoy the crowd and the noise, she was very well behaved and sweet, and particularly enjoyed playing with her dress (she fluffs her skirts the same way any girl does...and then chews on them) and watching her mom open presents. The white handmade afghan was of special interest. For my part, I got to see tons of relatives and feel like part of the party, since I am The Aunt. I got to chat with lots of people and enjoy the spread put out, including the cake with little peapods iced on it, in honor of our Sweet Pea.
Saturday evening was pretty sleepy for all of us, made more so by our lasagna dinner. Even Ruthie, sitting on great-grandma's lap, was just sort of looking around and taking things in. Imagine my surprise when I heard we were not in fact going to church the next day. It was just as well, because we all were pretty exhausted. We all sort of straggled out of bed and ate breakfast on Sunday, then hung around until dinner and until I had to leave. Highlights included my mom's rhubarb pie, getting to sit and snuggle with my mom for a bit after lunch, and watching my dad put a very cross Ruthie to sleep by whistling through his teeth softly, I gather parts of operas. I also, of course, got to hold the baby for a while, since I was going to be the first to leave; my sister is really good about making sure everyone gets a chance with the baby. I was sad to leave, but had that smug feeling of satisfaction that I'd just had an awesome weekend.
Ruthie is a charming baby. She is pensive about things, studying objects and people; but then you interact with her and she just smiles and smiles. She likes chewing on her clothes and even when she's getting ready to cry for real, her little soprano wails are very ladylike. I'm pretty sure she's a genius.
I miss her already!