07 June 2012


In my opinion, a perfect day starts with a really good morning. Today was a really good day and the morning was close to perfect. I awoke, had my wakey-wakey time in bed and took a little time to relax in the living room before really getting moving. When I looked outside I wondered whether the rain or the sun would come out first. Skies that grey haven’t been seen outside of Ohio.

I made myself some French toast and sliced a pear for breakfast. I spoke with my mom and my grandmother to hear the latest hometown happenings. My grandmother has tripped twice over her big feet (I told her that her feet were the problem because her size 10s are the biggest feet on any woman I know – that’s a size 42 here in Singapore). She laughed at my comment and recalled her parents making fun of her big feet throughout her childhood.

My grandmother was the first in her family of 11 to be born in America. Her parents emigrated from Yugoslavia, now Serbia, through Ellis Island in the early 1900s. “Every time my father came home with new tools, my mother would yell at him, ‘Saya needs new shoes!’ And he would say, ‘Again?!’” Saya, in Serbian, refers to the eldest sister, a nickname that stuck for more than 85 years. Close family friends even call my stara baba (my affectionate term meaning “old woman”) Saya in lieu of Helen, her Americanized given name.

She laughed again when she told me about how it would snow a lot during the Ohio winters and ploughs were not as plentiful as they are today. “My dad used to yell, ‘Let Saya go first. She will make a path for the rest of us.’ I walked with my feet turned out a bit so I would make a trail for everyone to follow,” and she laughed some more.

My conversations with my stara baba typically make me laugh, generally make me roll my eyes and sometimes stop paying attention altogether as she rambles on about something to which I either have no mental attachment or something that does not concern me in the least. The last statement is a rare occasion but it happens. In those cases I usually just concentrate on a television program, something I am reading or housework.

She tells me about the deer she sees in her yard – in full detail. She tells me about birthday parties, class reunion lunches and her weekly Thursday night coffee club that meets at the local McDonald’s. Then there are the times that she starts to tell me about anyone who ever went to my high school and assumes that I know whoever she is talking about.

“Do you know [insert random name here]?”

“No, Gran.”

“Oh. He graduated from Salem in 1973.”

“I wasn’t alive then.” This is when the eye rolling commences.

“Well he was in the paper because…” he died or he did something noteworthy. One time she told me about a man who graduated from my high school and has spent the last 14 years in Singapore. That was actually interesting but I still don’t know the guy.

“What else…” My grandmother says this every time there is a brief lull in the conversation, which I find cute and amusing. Once we have covered the weather, the forest animals, the family and the random people I do not know, we usually find a stopping point and make a date for the following week.

After my morning calls, I decided it was time to clean the kitchen. I did not feel like doing the dishes last night so they were in my face when I walked into the kitchen this morning. I added a few with my breakfast feast and knew I must surrender to KP Duty, as my dad used to call the cleanup process. I have to admit, it feels good to have all of the dishes done, the counters wiped and the stove shiny and clean. There was only one thing left to do – shower so that I could enjoy a cup of coffee at my favorite local Starbucks.

While I waited for the shower water to heat, I struck up a conversation with my friend in SoVa, a.k.a. Southern Virginia. I love catching up with friends.

I had a great 1.3-km walk to Starbucks. The sun was starting to come out but was still mostly hidden by the grey clouds. The air was slightly crisp and cool, just like it is moments before a downpour yet, somehow, I knew the rain was not forthcoming. I didn’t start to break my Singaporean sweat until I was a block away.

I was delighted to see that Starbucks was only had about a third of the seats filled inside, so I ordered my coffee and scoped out a spot. I surveyed the uber-tiny tables with four chairs around them, the bench that looks a bit comfortable but that is constructed at a 90 degree angle from the seat and, with the added cushion space, leads the body into a forward motion not deemed optimal for reading, as I intended.

In the far corner by the window, I spotted a risky opening. Two larger, cushiony chairs were pushed together across from another pair of cushiony chairs, separated by a small, elongated coffee table in between. It was the perfect spot for a small group of ladies chatting over their favorite morning beverages. Since this corner was available, and it did house the only non-wooden chairs in the entire space, I decided to risk the possibility of intruders and claim my spot on one of the four comfy chairs.

I unwrapped my new book from its packaging, carefully unwrapped the book from its covering (sorry book jacket artists, the jackets annoy me greatly) and began with the Prologue. Within a matter of minute, nay, likely seconds, a child appeared in my peripheral vision. I looked up from my book to see a roughly 18-month-old smiling Goldilocks attempting to make eye contact. Her dad, a man likely in his mid to late 30s, sat down beside her in the chair directly across the table. Two minute later, the wife joined in and the three of them sat in the two chairs less than a meter from my body.

The child, though not as rambunctious as most her age, was not a fan of being quiet or sitting still. The parents kept chatting, making phone calls and discussing their schedule for the next week. Hello….I am trying to read here…There are 20 other tables and chairs around here – why did you pick this one?

If two silent people or quiet people sat across from me, I would not have an issue. But this family and the loud chatter, music and other background distractions ultimately made me give up my seat in the air con and move outside to the patio sets under the ceiling fans. I positioned myself on the other side of the glass from my original seat, where the mother then took her place. The child ended up sitting in the window beside me for some time before running around the café and screaming at the top of her lungs like an infant when her mother picked her up and brought her back to my sitting area.

This happens to me a lot. I should really learn my lesson. I go to a café with the intent to read and end up not being able to concentrate. I take a laptop to a Starbucks expecting to get some work done and end up wanting to throw my laptop on the ground because I cannot connect to the free Wi-Fi. Why is it free if I cannot access it? Riddle me that.

I was able to concentrate outside and, when I looked at my watch and realized it was almost 1, I nearly jumped out of my chair. Paul had been home for about an hour and was napping after two morning flights. He was out until about 3, which I found funny. My husband left me yesterday and, though he had been home for about three hours, I had yet to actually see him.

We enjoyed a movie this afternoon – Madagascar 3 in 3-D – and realized that the movie is a lot funnier from an American’s perspective. We were the only two laughing for more than 60 percent of the movie. We did that laughing under our breath thing a few times because we needed to get it all out without disturbing those around us.

A relaxing morning, friendly conversations, a trip to the coffee shop, a book in hand and a movie date with my husband adds up to a pretty amazing day. I am so thankful.

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