Phone Calls and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

For better or worse, when my phone rings I almost always know who is calling.  

99% of the calls I answer are from people I’ve put in my phone as contacts (always leave a message the first time you call me).  The other 1% is broken down between someone from whom I’m expecting a call and the rare solicitation call that comes when I’m expecting a call from someone else.  Hate it when that happens…

Earlier tonight, just about an hour ago, my phone rang and the image on the screen showed my wife looking back at me.

“Hello!” I said after pushing the green button.

“Hi.”  

Silence.

“Hello,” I said again, thinking the connection was bad.

“Hi,” said the voice again.  A voice that was not my wife’s.  A smile crossed my face as I realized it was my youngest granddaughter who was out shopping with her Nana.

“Hello, how are you?” I asked.

“Fine.  I’m calling to see if I can come over tonight.”

Like I’m going to say no.

“Of course.  It would be fun to have you come over!”

“Okay.  I’ll see you later,” she said with a voice that was both confident and unsure all at the same time.

“Okay.  See you in a bit.”

I was reaching for the button to hang up when I heard my wife’s voice through the descending handset.

“Hey,” she started, “is it okay if she comes over tonight?”

I wasn’t sarcastic–not even a little.  That said, I’d just coordinated the evening with a six-year-old; what else was there to say to her grandmother?

“Of course,” I replied instead.

“She said she can be quiet,” Lisa continued.  

“I’m sure she will,” I said.  I’ll see you in a bit!

As I’m writing this, I’m in a Zoom call with my writing group*.

Okay, sure.  She’s six years old and adores spending time with her grandmother.  She’ll be quiet, I thought as I hung up the phone…sure she will.  

Since I’m at the point now where I’m writing about real time events, I’m here to tell you that Lisa and her mini-me are not quiet grilled cheese makers.  

That’s okay.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.


*Looking for an online writing group?  Check out https://www.teachwrite.org (unsolicited endorsement–it’s a great group).

First Hike

Crossed arms.  Lots of crossed arms.

Crossed arms and quiet.  Uncertainty.  Maybe a bit of fear, and maybe a bit of boredom: It was hard to tell.

Behind me, Wade Mountain and its deciduous forest stood some 700 feet above us.  In front of me stood some 50 feet, each pair belonging to about 20 Girl Scouts and a handful of their leaders.  

And they were quiet, with arms crossed and anxious energy on their faces.  Really quiet.

“Okay,” I started.  I always start my sentences with “okay” when I’m nervous, which I was, but for a reason entirely different from that of my young charges.

“Okay, who’s never been in the woods before? I mean, this is your first time up a trail like this,” I asked, gesturing to the path leading in through the trees.  Five or six hands raised slowly, half of them belonging to adults.  A murmur spread through the group, but it was too low for me to understand, so I went on.

“Okay, thanks. Okay, now, how many of you have been in the woods a lot?  Like, you’d be comfortable going alone,” I asked.  I was happy to see three or four hands shoot up, most of them belonging to the middle-school-aged girls.  That was encouraging.

As the hands went down, the group settled back down into silence.  And crossed arms.  Then again, that hadn’t really stopped.

It was just after 2:30 in the afternoon, and I had an hour and a half to introduce this troop to hiking and then lead them on a short trip into the preserve.  The trail we were to hike was relatively flat and easy, since I knew this was a beginner group.

I gave some information on the area and then began to go over some basic trail safety when a hand that was dying to go up couldn’t hold itself down any longer.

“Are there snakes?  Are we going to see any snakes?”

Normally, I answer that question with, “If we’re lucky,” but that clearly wasn’t the correct answer for today.

“Almost certainly not,” I replied.  Pointing to the parking lot behind them, I continued with, “Do you see all of those cars?  With that many people on the trail, any animal we might see is definitely hiding.”

She continued, her anxiety spilling out.  “What about other wildlife?  What lives up there?” 

“Well, there are some deer, raccoons, ‘possums, squirrels, and chipmunks.  Maybe some snakes and a few lizards, but, again, the chances of us seeing anything are pretty slim.”  The “snakes and a few lizards” part of my list came out quieter than the furry part of the list.  That seemed to work.

I’d talked enough, and it was time to go.  I turned to head up the trail, and with just the slightest bit of trepidation that comes with responsibility, the troop leader followed me into the open forest, her group trailing behind.  

North Alabama is beautiful in early November.  The trees still held enough leaves to give the woods a golden hue, and the trail was clear and wide.  The hike itself was wonderful, and confidence levels grew as the hour passed.  

Somewhere around the turnaround point, one of the older girls near the front decided that “Step up!” was the appropriate thing to say as every rock and root was traversed, which was often.  Her natural leadership ability was starting to come to the surface, so I rolled with her enthusiasm despite my love of the quiet woods.

As we rounded the final curve in the trail and the light reflecting off cars became visible, the words that I knew were coming rang out.

“We survived!  We survived!  We survived Wade Mountain!”

Yes, you did, and hopefully you’ll all give yourselves the chance to do it again sometime soon.