Mary Lucille Hays teaches writing at UIUC and at Zhejiang University in Haining, China.
Birdland is overcast and grey, but not too cold.
The winter grass is long and mostly a tawny brown but with some green showing through. I think we just need a couple of sunny days for the green to explode. We are home again from Seattle after visiting Chandra, our oldest, and his wife, Lila.
It was a quick, long-weekend trip, and very domestic. This time we didn’t do any sight-seeing, but mostly just visited. It was a challenging trip, too.
I pride myself on packing lightly, but this time packed so lightly that by the time we got to Paxton on our way to the airport, I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten my hearing aid charger. With no possibility of batteries, I would be deaf by the end of the evening.
I quickly turned off the hearing aids to save the battery. Generally, when I stream the news and music for a few hours, one charge will last about a day.
I switched to my headphones I had brought for the plane, which allowed me to listen to the radio in the car, if not converse with Michael. My husband has learned that it’s pretty futile to talk to me when I’m not wearing hearing aids, so we saved our talking for the airport when he could sit right next to me without the car sounds in the background.
Last time I flew into Seattle, the airport traffic was so snarled that Chandra was an extra hour in the car, while I waited by the curb with my suitcases.
So when he proposed that we take the light rail to the Beacon Hill station and he would pick us up there, I cheered. The train is so easy and cheap—just over $5 for both of us. When we got in the car, we told him he should never pick us up at the airport again.
He said it will be even easier when they open the new station that is just walking distance from his house. I love mass transit.
When we got home, Lila and the two dogs (Freija and Grubbie, two Berners) greeted us, and we settled in for a nice evening of catching up and noshing. There’s nothing like just spending time with our adult children in their natural habitat.
They showed us around their new projects—a curved retaining wall in the steep back yard, a new arrangement for the guest room where we would stay. As I said, the visit was low-key. We walked the dogs together one sunny afternoon in the park, remarking at how hilly the neighborhood is, the walk through the park snaking past some ball fields (baseball and soccer), a small rectangle of astroturf that we decided must be a bocce court, down past a skate park and hockey court and slowly down the hill with the view of Mt. Rainier.
Our route down was so gradual that we didn’t notice that we had descended the height of a five-story building—only apparent when we climbed straight back up in two blocks. I kept looking over my shoulder to gauge our ascent by the building directly behind us. “We’re on the third floor now,” I’d say. By the time we reached the top of the hill where the kids live, we were looking down on the roof of the building.
Since I wasn’t streaming, my hearing aids lasted longer than usual—two-and-a-half days. When they went out, we all spent some time trying to find apps where I could use my headphones and my phone as a temporary hearing aid. But my headphones were not compatible.
After a lot of frustration, and the realization that my attitude was ruining the visit, I decided to embrace my deafness. For me that means that I can (mostly) carry on a conversation with someone if they are next to me, but people more than two feet away sound like the adults in a Charlie Brown special.
At restaurants, I could almost hear the conversation at our table, and just counted on other people to order for me. Once I changed my attitude, the warmth of the visit was restored.
We did lazy weekend errands, browsing the record store where we discovered how eclectic our son’s musical tastes are. I reveled in seeing long-lost album covers from my youth: Carole King’s Tapestries; Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s Greatest Hits (I used to play that record endlessly); Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix. Another time we piled into the car to visit a nursery in the rain to buy ferns and a small rake.
And in between we talked, listened to music, watched Lila bake sourdough. Maybe next time we’ll try to think of some sights we haven’t seen yet, or those worthy of a return visit (like the Botanic Garden or meandering around Pioneer Square or Pike’s Peak Market), but this time a lazy Seattle weekend suits me fine.
Walk in Beauty; Work in Peace; Blessed Be.
Mary Lucille Hays teaches writing at UIUC and at Zhejiang University in Haining, China. If you’re missing your weekly dose of Birdland Letters in the News Gazette, you can still read them every week in the Piatt County Journal Republican. Consider subscribing to support your small town newspaper. You can see photos of her travels on Instagram @BirdlandLetters. Mary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via snail mail care of the Journal Republican, 118 E. Washington St., Monticello, IL 81856.