Last Friday we drove upriver to Hager City, where we met several friends from the “olden days” at Donna and Leon Nesbitt’s home there on the banks of the Mississippi River backwaters. Nesbitts and two of their kids now own Nesbitt’s Nursery, where they raise fir trees for landscapers, and have an apple operation, a restaurant, and a kid-friendly area where they can see baby animals and go for a ride through the fields. We had dinner at Nesbitt’s house with Candace Gordon and Pam and Jake Dahl, who used to run the William’s Annex restaurant where Brother’s Bar is now on the corner of Johnson and Third streets.
We stayed overnight, and the next morning Leon made us a breakfast of poached eggs on toast made from homemade bread they sell at Nesbitts. We also had delicious ham from a former inhabitant of the baby animal exhibit. Then we sped back to Winona to begin a weekend of baby-sitting our two granddaughters, always a source of humor. I suppose when you’ve only been alive for two or four years, you think anything is possible, and life is full of surprises.
A month or so ago, when it was really cold, I got my old fur coat out of the closet. I went over to my daughter’s house to visit, but the girls were out with their father shopping. I was standing near the kitchen door when they returned. The four-year-old opened the door to come in, and immediately shut it. Then she opened it again slowly and saw that I was standing there. “Oh, good!” she said. “For a minute I thought there was a bear in my kitchen.”
Saturday night we took the girls to our new neighborhood bar (Signatures lounge area) where we met friends who had just returned from a month away. I told the girls they could run around in the room a little, since there was no one else there, and they can’t sit still for very long.
In a little while, in came our old neighbors Scott and Jane Biesanz with their kids and their 18-month-old granddaughter, Lily. Our girls by this time had taken their napkins and were wearing them on their heads like kerchiefs. Pretty soon Lily wanted a napkin kerchief, too, and all three of them were running around looking like novices in the convent. Then the pizza came and they all retreated to their respective tables. It’s a great spot for taking kids if you are a grandparent. I’m not so sure the bartender wants that message to get out, however, unless he gets hazard pay.
They slept well that night, until 8:30 in the morning. They and I went to the kitchen to have breakfast, passing the dog, who was sequestered in the pantry. The girls treat the dog as some exotic animal who must be approached carefully, like a ferocious lion in the zoo. They stand a couple feet from his gate and squeal, making him crazy with desire to break out and play with them. I gave them each half a dog biscuit to feed him, showing them how to put it in their palms and offer it to him. When I thought they had it down, I allowed them to get close to the dog. But they both lost their nerve at the last minute and threw the bones at the poor dog and ran away screaming.
When John got up, he made us a second breakfast of bacon and eggs. They both asked politely for more bacon, please — about four times each until it was all gone. When Andie went up for her nap, we brought the dolls and doll furniture from their bedroom to the den, where Peyton played nicely for a long time while I read the paper. But then she put all her babies to bed, and went into cruise ship recreation director mode.
We played Go Fish, and each time I told her to “go fish,” she said “thank you.” We played Mickey Mouse Bingo, and then for a long while we played Dominoes. She has a healthy competitive spirit, and soon learned a few tricks that made her a formidable player. But she doesn’t quite understand the concept of winning by getting rid of pieces. She’d much rather accumulate them and takes delight in having the most of whatever it is.
But it felt sometimes that the four-year-old was baby-sitting us and her little sister, too. She cleaned up after herself, told me when to put the two-year-old on the potty, chose yogurt over junk food, and made sure we knew what they were and were not allowed to do.
When their parents came and took them home, it was very lonely in the house. The only one who didn’t miss them was the dog, who immediately raced around looking for traces of them, and unfortunately found a wet diaper and ran all over with it until I could catch him. Then we all settled down for a long winter’s nap.