The last time I set foot in Missouri was six months ago, at the end of a grueling four-day road trip to help our youngest son, Jordan, move across country into the college town of Columbia.
We unloaded a 20-foot U-Haul truck and I left, exhausted, early the following morning.
When I returned last week with Lori at my side, everything had changed.
- The townhouse I had last seen piled with boxes and furniture had been remade into an appealing space.
- Jamie and baby Emalyn, who had stayed with Lori during the move, welcomed us into their home.
- Jordan was now six months into a fellowship program at the University of Missouri designed to prepare students for graduate study in biomedical research.
- I’d just finished giving the final exam and posted grades for my class at Portland State.
Now, we were here — 2,000 miles from home — to spend a few days with the kids and our 18-month-old granddaughter.
The visit went well. In fact, as Lori remarked, it’s hard to imagine a better time.
We booked our flight months ago, opting to visit well ahead of the craziness of the Christmas rush yet close enough to feel the holiday spirit.
The weather was clear and crisp, with bright sunshine and subfreezing temperatures that reminded us of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where we once lived for a year during a sabbatical.
We made a couple of trips to the local mall, did some shopping, saw Santa, put Emalyn on the carousel, and visited the ranch outside Columbia where the famous Budweiser Clydesdales are born and bred.
(Click on images to view captions.)
We did some babysitting, visited a nearby park and played with their dog, Jax, a gentle pit bull. We also watched a forgettable Netflix movie (“The Ref”) and a new-to-us TV series (“The Punisher”).
Jordan and I got some guy time, and he showed me the lab where he does his research.
Most of all, we enjoyed every minute around Emalyn. She is a delight.
At this age, she is walking confidently, communicating in sign language with a vocabulary I estimate at 50-plus words, and smiling her way through the day. She’s an adventurous eater (watch your hummus if she’s nearby), a lover of books and animals, and a physically active girl.
She takes Baby Yoga with her mom, goes to the municipal pool for swimming, clambers on the play equipment at the park, and throws a slobbery rubber ball for Jax.
Emalyn sees us regularly on FaceTime, so it didn’t take long for her to connect the small-screen images with the real-life Nonni Lori and Papa George.
What’s most striking about Em — aside from being the most photogenic child on the planet — is that she is just so happy. Jamie, as a stay-at-home mom, has done a wonderful job as a parent and teacher with Jordan’s help and reinforcement.
Lori and I arrived on a Wednesday evening and flew home Sunday afternoon. It was a wonderful visit and one we hope to repeat again next year.