Chisago? Schmisago?

Behind on blogging, oh well, I’ll do a bit of catchup at the end.

Two weekends ago I took an extended weekend to go visit my niece and her family in Minnesota – flew in on Thursday, left on Monday. It happened to be Easter weekend, but was really timed to coincide with other niece’s spring break from school, so we could be there at the same time.

Sam and Branden and the kids had moved a couple of years ago from suburban St. Paul out to Chisago City (still looks like a typo to me) and we hadn’t seen the new house. Sam had recommended a regional shuttle to me, so I flew into MSP and found the shuttle waiting room, no problem. As I waited, drivers for shuttles going other places came in with ipads, called out their routes, and did a roll call of their passengers. Then, about my time, a guy schlumped in, didn’t look at his ipad, and said ‘OK, who’s going to Duluth?” I was like, um, maybe? I’m getting off at Long Branch. So we all got on the shuttle, but it wasn’t until we actually saw highway signs for Long Branch that I knew I was actually on the right shuttle.

Sam was there to pick me up at the gas station (which is the Long Branch stop, not far from her office). She drove me back home, giving commentary along the way. That part of the country is quite flat, it’s just lakes and trees, looking pretty, but bleak. There was still snow on the ground – I heard from more than one person that they had the third-biggest snowfall this year from the history of recording snowfalls. But it wasn’t particularly cold, and got warmer as the weekend went on.

Sam and Branden’s new house is nice and big, in a quiet neighborhood (clearly a fairly recently-built development) and there are lots of kids in the neighborhood for their kids to play with. They even have a little library! (although it came with the house, and I don’t think Branden particularly wanted one)

Allie and the kids were there to greet me and there were many hugs and rejoicings. (Branden, who works nights, was asleep, but he got up for dinner.) The kids, as kids do, had gotten big – they’re now in 3rd and 2nd grade and are not tiny tots any more. They also have two adorable dogs – Rusty (who I’d met before) and Ruby, who’s new, and they’re both total sweethearts.

We had dinner, then after the kids were in bed, had some adult discussion, like what’s going on with the estate and how we’re all dealing with C’s passing. C was very close to the nieces, was the ‘nice adult’ in the family when they were growing up. We all were teary.

Friday, we went on excursions. Both kids have birthdays very close to Christmas, and while Uncle Eric had gotten them Christmas presents, he’d dropped the ball on the birthday presents, so had promised to take them to Target to pick out whatever they wanted. This turned out to be a great success and we may repeat that plan this year. Olivia, for some reason, fixated on getting a water bottle (and was just delighted when we got her one), but also got one of these weird creepy-ghouly dolls which pretty cool, actually. (I forget the brand, but you don’t know which doll you got until you open the package.) Jackson picked this fighting game, kind of like Rock’m Sock’m robots, but with different guys you could swap in and out (if you got the expansion package, which we did). He played with that constantly for the rest of the day, which was awesome, except it was a noisy game and, well.. you’re welcome, parents. Hee hee hee.

Then to lunch at a fun restaurant, and afterward to the Swedish bakery in Lindstrom, the next town over. Adorable town, yummy food. We then went to the history museum, which was mostly a gift shop, and to some other stores (I bought some much-needed dishtowels. In other news, I buy dishtowels now). And then to a winery, where the kids had root beers, Sam and Allie shared a wine slushy, and Uncle Eric tried a flight, which was enormous and served very elegantly in an iron tree.

I liked (or mostly liked) 3 of the 4, so bought a bottle of each for the house.

And then we had a fun leisurely night at home. Allison, brave soul did two nights of ‘sleepovers’ with the kids, all in the same room. She’s the best aunt. Uncle Eric, who adores these kids, but doesn’t know how to deal with kids in general, was not nearly so adventurous.

Saturday was pretty leisurely. In the morning, we watched kid’s TV in the rec room (I knitted). The kids also put together the Easter equivalent of gingerbread houses – these were sugar cookie houses and Jackson sort of gave up on his, so Allison finished it and made it a haunted house, heh.

Then Sam and the kids drove Allison to the airport – I stayed behind to have some decompression time, took a walk, did some work.

We went out to an early dinner – I forget the name, but the food was great, and Branden wouldn’t let me pick up the check. Then went back home, switched cars, and Branden went to work while we went to the Saturday night Easter vigil. This was from 8:00 to 10:00 and we were worried that the kids wouldn’t make it, but they were OK. They go to ‘Sunday school’ (on Wednesday) there and got to be part of the opening procession, which started in darkness and then had a fire in a big torch-bowl and everyone had candles. It was a lovely service, actually, and I was happy to be there for it. Then home to crash.

Sunday was Easter, yay! I’d gotten up and opened the blinds to the living room, then Sam came downstairs and closed the blinds again. I realized that was because Branden would be coming home and hiding the eggs outside before coming into the house. So there was an easter egg hunt and baskets inside (including for Uncle Eric).

Then, mid-afternoon, we headed into St. Paul for an Easter dinner at Branden’s aunt’s house. I’d met most of these people before – Branden’s two cousins and their families, and a few others. Branden’s Aunt Mary had lost her husband last year to COVID, so we at some point had a commiserating chat about ‘I’m so sorry for your loss, and doesn’t being a widow suck?’. Other commiserations from the family, most of whom found out about C just then. But everyone was nice and the food was great. I had a glass of wine or two, but seemed to be the only one drinking. It was a nice party, and once again, I’m grateful to have ‘extended family’ who welcome me into their gatherings.

And then home to wrap things up.

My return shuttle was 7:00 am, which I thought was awfully early, but Sam actually likes to go into work that early, so we got up super-early and headed out. However… the shuttle never showed up! After about 7:20, Sam started to get antsy, she was already late for work, so I told her I’d wait and if nothing happened by 8:00, I’d call her and she’d come get me and we’d figure something out. But I ended up just googling and finding a cab company that agreed to take me to the airport for TEN BAZILLION DOLLARS. OK then. Texted Sam, told her it was all settled, and the cab showed up.

While in the cab, I got a very apologetic call from the shuttle company. The driver realized he’d forgotten me sometime after passing Long Branch, and shamefacedly called it in. The lady who called me was like, “are you still there [at the stop]?”. No, ma’am, I’m in a cab. So they refunded my money, but as many people pointed out later, I should have dinged them for the cab ride. No real damage, I made my flight.

Oh, yeah, forgot about this – for some reason, when I booked the flight, I’d forgotten to pick my seats. And I didn’t notice this until a few days before I flew – and by then nothing was available but middle seats. But I’d booked “Comfort Plus” an as it turned out, even this fat ass was reasonable comfortable in a middle seat for a 2+ hour flight. So that’s good to know. But I won’t make that mistake again soon.

So… lovely trip! I’ll probably try to do that visit every year or so, maybe in the summer. And Charles would have loved being there for Easter with the kids. *sniff*.

I’m moments from closing up the apartment to go up to Connecticut for the weekend, to see a show and spend overnight with my college roommate and his husband. Other things to blog about – went to a band concert, saw The Play That Goes Wrong again, forward movement on the estate. Stay tuned!

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