Missions Trips Chapter 26: Happy Birthday, Mom!

To read this story from the beginning, click here.

Thursday, Day 13

Today was a relaxing day. We weren’t home, but at least we had nothing to do. I helped Mom in the kitchen some, but that was easy. Pat got to sit and rest, and he needed it. In the afternoon we drove out to my sister Anita’s house. Her husband Richard is a cross-country truck driver and is seldom home. But he was home today, so we got to talk with him. The more I see him, the more I like him. He’s a good man.

I was sort of there on business. Anita has an old piano that was given to her, and it is badly out of tune. I’ve been promising to try to tune it for her, and this time I made good on my promise. I do have a tuning wrench, which is used to adjust the pins, but I have no way to tell if the notes are on the correct pitch. We took Mom’s electronic keyboard over there, but it didn’t take long to realize tuning Anita’s piano to Mom’s keyboard would take all day, as every single string would need to be adjusted. We decided that was not going to happen, and if I could succeed in just tuning the piano to itself, it would be an improvement.

Where to start? I decided to start with Middle C and tune it to the octaves above and below. That was a bad idea. For one thing, Middle C has three strings, as do all the keys from about the center of the keyboard and upwards to the highest pitch. As you go lower, there is a section that has only two strings per note, and the deepest bass notes have one string per key. Those were the easiest to adjust, in a way, but the hardest pitches for my ear to distinguish. After a bit of trial-and-error, I finally had success.

I did not keep track of how long it took to make every octave sound as though it was in perfect unison, but I was there a little while. When I thought I had finished the job, Anita got out a book of classical songs and began to play. Between the two of us, we tested the piano for “yuck” spots. And we found some. Notes that sounded okay when played in octaves sounded horrible when played in full chords. When it was my turn to try out the piano, I would play a bit, then stop and make an adjustment, then play some more. When I was sure that the piano was as in-tune as I could get it, I turned page after page and spent an hour or so just playing. I don’t do that much anymore, and it felt good.

When I reached my saturation level for noise (no one else complained), I put the piano book away, helped Anita move the piano back into place against the wall, then sat down to talk with Pat and Richard. We stayed until it was time to return to Mom and Mike’s house, as we had promised to take them out to dinner. We ate at Cracker Barrel, Mom’s favorite restaurant. I told her we could go somewhere else if she wanted, but she said, “I can’t think of any other place where you can get the same bang for your buck.” The food was good, as always, and I came away from the country store with only a coloring prayer journal that I found on the clearance rack.

Friday, Day 14

Today we celebrated Mom’s birthday with a low-key party at her house. Anita and Richard brought a cake. Amy and Joe brought pizzas and ice cream. Mom and I made a cheese slaw together (she taught me how), and I helped her set out plates, cups, and napkins. We had a very nice time. I even got Mom to pose with a cardboard mustache I had removed from the back of one of the pizza boxes. She opened the cards from Amy and Anita, then opened the big gift that was from all of us. (Pat and I gave her the souvenirs from Trinidad last night because I wasn’t sure if there would be other gifts besides the big one.) Our youngest sister, Michelle, was not able to join us for the party. It was her idea for us all to go in together and buy Mom a new laptop, so that’s what we did. Mom was like a school girl again, giddy with excitement over her new “toy.” We even bought her (Amy did) a year of Geek Squad to help her get started.

Saturday, Day 15

Pat and I wanted to leave bright and early to go home, but Mom had planned to make “Overnight French Toast” for breakfast. I’ve had her French toast, and I assured Pat it was worth the delay. We had breakfast at 7:00, and oh, was it good! I also helped her put this together, and I photographed her recipe so I can make it at home. I’ll include it here too, for you. But I must warn you that it is not a health food—it’s more like a dessert you eat in the morning. We tempered the sugar rush with scrambled eggs, bacon, and venison sausage, and then we said our goodbyes and got on the road. The truck was already packed, as Pat took care of that before breakfast.

Overnight French Toast

  • Combine 1/2 c. melted butter (1 stick) and 1 c. brown sugar; spread in bottom of a 9×13 dish.
  • Lay 6 slices bread into the butter/brown sugar mixture.
  • Whisk together 4 eggs, 1 c. milk, and 1 Tbsp. vanilla; pour half the mixture over the bread.
  • Combine 2 Tbsp. brown sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon; sprinkle half the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the bread.
  • Lay 6 more slices of bread on top.
  • Pour remaining egg mixture over all.
  • Top with remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  • Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight, or 4-5 hours.
  • Bake, covered, 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes to crisp the tops.
  • Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and enjoy!

It takes as long to drive from Jacksonville to Milton as it does from Jacksonville to Miami, but it didn’t seem as long because we were happy to be heading home. A bit reluctantly, we drove past our exit and went straight to the Sieglers’ house to pick up Mary. We stayed and talked just a little while (less than an hour), then went home.

It feels good to be home. I have a laundry to do, but it will wait until I have breathed a few times, and perhaps even slept in my own bed. I was extremely happy to get a good report from the boys. They had been home alone for two weeks and hadn’t broken anything, or fought, or done any foolishness. They took turns cooking dinner and cleaning up afterwards, fending for themselves for the other meals. One of them cut the grass, although it needs it again. Both were outside when we arrived. Bobby was working on his antique car, and Matthew was vacuuming his Explorer. We shared the goodies that Grandpa Kawal’s nephew sent for them, told them stories, listened to theirs, and just enjoyed being together again as a family. It was a Kodak moment, if ever there was one—and I didn’t get out my camera. My cup was filled to running over. I thanked God for friends, family, home… and for the opportunity to make a difference.

When may we go back?

A penny for your thoughts...

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