Somehow, my new brother, Tanner, and I instantly clicked when we met for the first time in July 2019. Then I met his family in Montana and I adore them all. How did I get so lucky to get a sudden and awesome extra family? We’ve talked about it multiple times: finding a new family via DNA test could have resulted in someone we weren’t particularly interested in getting close to. But in our case, we hit the lottery. I am grateful.
They all stopped here while on vacation in March of this year, and I offered to host the kids for a while during the summer, to give Mom and Dad a break. My Sister-in-law Laurie was enthusiastic. Her quick agreement and the multiple times she double-checked, “Do you really mean it?” let me know that I had offered a real gift. The kids came last month and I enjoyed them so much. I’m pretty sure the kids liked it too. They are constantly polite, so it’s possible that they were just being polite to an elder Aunt, but I don’t think they could have faked smiles for that many days in a row.
I drove south to pick them up from their Grandma & Grandpa, who had come north to split the distance and make the exchange. Brandon talked me into stopping at a Cabela’s on the way into Portland, since there isn’t one where he lives. Megan asked to see downtown Portland, so even though I could have gone around the city, and it was smack in the middle of rush hour, I drove right through the heart of Portland to let them see. Interstate 5 goes through on high bridges, so the view is pretty awesome, and the stop-and-go traffic forced me to go pretty slowly, so the kids got a good, long look.
These two kids were some of the nicest, most polite and helpful kids I have ever known. They never forgot please, or thank you, not ever. They never forgot to ask “Is there anything I can do to help?” And when I said, “Yeah, can you take the trash out?” or “Will you set the table for dinner?” they readily jumped in to help with no negative spirit. They frequently laughed together. They often thought of each other, like when I asked what station to play on Pandora, and Brandon said, “My sister likes Cage the Elephant. You should play that.” They showered and brushed teeth without hesitation when asked. They enthusiastically gulped up every meal I cooked for them.
Brandon was very excited about fishing in my pond and tried it out as soon as we got home. We found a fishing pole in my garage, and found two hooks – I could hardly believe it since I have not yet fished at my pond or the creek, and don’t even remember where the pole came from. He got a bite right away and that sealed the deal. Whenever there was down time, Brandon was usually down at the pond, fishing. By the next day both hooks were lost and we went to the local hardware store to get more hooks and also some live worms for bait. He caught many fish, though all of them were small. He also had his bow and arrows (with soft points) and a target, so he could practice with it.
We spent a lot of time in the yard. Megan caught a bullfrog, and also fished a little bit. She was happier to sit in the shade and watch her brother fish. Brandon and I jumped into the pond AND the creek and went swimming. That was fun, but the pond has a lot of green floaties – eew. We also went over to the fruit trees and found that some of my plums were ripe. We ate plums right off the tree – so cool. Megan also helped me haul some firewood recently chopped where a huge tree had fallen beside the creek over the winter. In the evenings, we played cards. Brandon taught me to play rummy, and we played many many rounds. While I was cooking in the kitchen, they would play each other. And often after I went to bed, they were still up playing rummy.
* No bullfrogs were harmed in the making of this blog post.
Home for M and B is a small town in Montana, outside the nearby “city,” which is still pretty small for a city. So I thought one thing they might enjoy would be a trip into a larger city. We swung by Pedro’s house one day to pick him up, then we all went to the biggest mall in Portland. The kids had their own money and in no time were comfortable on their own. While Pedro and I shopped for things we wanted, M and B went off and did their own thing, checking back pretty regularly.
On another day, I took them to the coast, reasoning that oceans are another thing they don’t get to see very often in Montana.
I always like to take guests to the Astoria Column because it gives a person a good sense of where they are in relation to the land, the river, and the sea. I posted the above photo to facebook and said I was enjoying the coast with my niece and nephew.
Then we headed for the beach. On the way toward Warrenton and the Pacific, we all decided to detour and drive across the Astoria-Megler bridge and back just for fun. Then we went out to Ft. Stevens State Park and found a parking area near the wreck of the Peter Iredale. In the parking lot I checked my phone. Pedro had seen my facebook post and messaged me, “who’s Bruce?” I checked and my dumb smartphone had auto-corrected “niece” to “Bruce.” I double-checked that I was spelling niece correctly, and I was. I fixed the post on facebook. Later on, I messaged a couple of other friends photos from our day, and the stupid phone kept correcting the phrase to “Bruce and nephew.” Naturally, I had to start calling my niece Bruce.
We ran around for at least an hour, into the water till our feet froze, then up onto the hot sand till we warmed up, then back into the sea. I got both kids to taste the ocean, which they had never done. Bruce found a dead jellyfish, which we played with for awhile till she tossed it back into the sea. We all dug holes down to wet sand, and used it to construct sand walls. Bruce and I spent more time in the warm sand digging holes, and Brandon ran back down to the sea and splashed in the waves. All three of us collected heaps of sand in various places on our bodies, mostly in our hair. By then, we were hungry and I took us to Moe’s to get some fresh seafood, which I guessed was another thing that is harder to come by in Montana. We also walked through the town a little bit, and did some shopping. I bought spices and Halawa from a tiny Middle Eastern market and Bruce bought some henna.
Eventually our time was up and it was time to make the long trip home to Montana. Again, my niece and nephew were so, so good and when I woke them very early in the morning to begin our 10-hour drive, they both immediately got up and packed all their stuff into the Jeep and off we went. I told their parents I would be happy to have them again next summer.
My quick journey to Montana and back was pretty cool, too. My next post will cover all the excellent photos!