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This month is full of visits to family and friends. From Charleston, I stopped a few days in Grand Rapids, MI with my sister Catherine. The weather was rainy but we entertained ourselves by getting haircuts. We did a decluttering sweep of a sitting room, cut one huge piece of fabric for curtains, repaired an existing linen duvet cover, and then cut deep green fabric for a new duvet cover.

We managed to sneak in lunch with a few of Catherine’s friends who I met on a trip to Italy several years ago. Another highlight was dinner with an old friend from our hometown of Thornwood, NY. I wouldn’t have recognized Dennis Flint, but Catherine found him through the magic of Facebook and we had dinner with him on his way through Grand Rapids on business. We laughed about growing up in Thornwood, with a lot of what-ever-happened-to, and swapped stories about our kids.

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After just a few days enjoying Grand Rapids, I spent a day trying to get to Syracuse to see my mom. It took three flights, but by the end of the day, I made it. As annoying as the trip was, our visit was very low key and relaxing. That’s all to the good considering mom is 94. We took a field trip to Otisco Lake where my brother and sister-in-law live. After admiring their recently renovated lake house, we visited a new farmer’s market/craft sales complex called Willowdale Bend. I carefully toured the barn full of antiques, but didn’t find anything I loved enough to add to my overstuffed suitcase. On the way home we stopped and picked a quart of red raspberries ($4) at Berdock’s berries. They were delicious!

I took a walk in the neighborhood one afternoon and found a long-abandoned road through the trees from the watertower behind my mom’s home down toward the road. I figure it was used long ago before highways connected the towns around Syracuse with the city.

Another evening we had dinner at the Lakeside Vista restaurant overlooking Otisco Lake. The building is unprepossessing but the deck outside is perfect for warm weather and the food was very good. This area is gradually shifting from predominantly summer homes to year-round residences and the success of Lakeside Vista will mean there is a good restaurant in the neighborhood. We hope they’ll stay.

My week in Syracuse ended with a visit to plant a chrysanthemum by my dad’s grave. I have done a spring or fall planting with my mom a few times, as my visits often land in April or September. We admire the graves that have been decorated and planted, chat with my dad, and then head back home.

I flew from Syracuse to Chicago, picked up a car and got to Wheaton before sunset. I stay with my good friend Peggy, who is one of the world’s great hostesses. We saw the new movie Judy, then went to AAUW film night to discuss it, and we had dinner with a different friend every night.

On Sunday, I drove to Champaign, IL to visit my daughter Lillian and son in law Neil. They are settling in to the house they bought in the spring, and I love seeing their progress from visit to visit. We took a walk around the neighborhood enjoying the gorgeous cool, clear day and ran some errands. There was no need to undertake a big event, we just enjoyed being together.

I arrived back in Chicago in time to have dinner with Peggy and one last friend before my trip ended. In the morning, I crept off to the airport, making a stop at the storage unit to toss in a few items that I didn’t want to carry around. I had already picked up a second suitcase to take to Peru. Navigating from Chicago’s car rental center onto the bus and off at the terminal was challenging. I only had to wrangle my two suitcases, carry-on, and handbag as far as the check-in counter. It was a relief to drop them off.

Onward to Portland and my sister Paula, who scooped me up at the airport, saving me hauling my bags more than a few steps. My visit here was perfectly timed to overlap with that of my nephew Brian, his wife Emily, and their darling 13 month-old Eliza, who I had not met in person. She is a charmer, of course, with a huge smile and slightly wobbly legs. She’ll be walking before Christmas. We’ve enjoyed taking Eliza for walks, and catching up on family news. One night I was able to accompany Paula to the rehearsal of the Oregon Repertory Singers. What wonderful music! Their next concert includes a piece where the sound washes over you in undulating waves and makes you close your eyes just to enjoy it.

http://www.orsingers.org/

A big family dinner was the final event of my Portland visit. Eleven of us forgot about the drizzle outside as we dug in to braised beef, roast vegetables, salad, and apple-blueberry crisp, with Oregon wines, of course. After a memorable evening, I packed up and headed for my last stop, Los Angeles.

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