I smell peanut butter. Do you smell peanut butter?
It was a dark and stormy night. Last Saturday night, to be exact, and rain was raging down onto highway 74 through Indianapolis when I heard a muffled BLRUUPPGH coming from the kid sleeping in her car seat behind me. Oh God, Niko she's barfing! Pull over! . . . No, not in the middle of the road!
(When my husband gets panicked he follows literal directions.)
On the SIDE of the road! Pull over on the SIDE! Ahh, what's wrong with you? Oh God! It's everywhere.
I don't think my sinuses will ever not burn with the smell of peanut butter mixed with stomach acid after that road trip down the entire state of Indiana. We were well afoot on a 300-mile journey to my hometown to see my tiny, toy-like grandparents who live on the Kentucky border. They kind of remind me of smoke men, minus the smooth skin and plus a lot of carby country food:
"Jennifer! Come in this house! Let me look at those baby girls! AND EAT."
I've never lost a close family member through death. I'm 33 years old and still have the three biological grandparents I was born with. Sure, there's been two cases of cancer and a quadruple bypass, but I come from a long, hearty line of Germans. I'm glad that it's finally okay again to be proud of being German. Hitler? He didn't have the attributes of a real German - the stoicism, the humor. He was just an asshole. I like to think he got his insanity from Austria.
So puke or no puke, we were staying on this road trip. It came out of no where though. One minute, the car is a peaceful vessel through the rain and the next, I see glops of semi-digested peanut butter sandwich sort of casually tumbling out my kid's mouth like the weird, rock lava that pops out of the volcanos in Costa Rica. But I had to get to my grandparents. It was special this time. This time, I was getting a branch of the rose bushes that have been blooming in my family for five generations.
It all started down the street where my papaw was born, presumably on the kitchen table as Abe Lincoln strolled past. Maybe the rose bushes came out of Eden. I mean, these people are old, dude. It's hard to fathom how ancient my grandmother's mother-in-law must have been and we're talking about a rose plant that she planted when she got married. Were there even seven days of the week back that far? Did God let there be light yet? (To tell you how old my family lives to be, I clearly remember that woman). A generation later when my grandmother came over from Germany and married my grandfather, they begrudgingly stuck a stick from the original rose bush in their own new garden. Mothers-in-law. It's been the same since the dawn of time. Apparently great-granny snapped the rose branch off and my grandmother had to act like she loved it, but secretly hoped the plant would die.
Well it didn't die. That literal stick in the mud covered in a mason jar rooted and bloomed and still blooms to this day, 60 years later. So what's the big deal about a blooming rose bush? Maybe I haven't lost a family member to death, but our family is pretty fractured. Relationships are fragile. Life is fragile. I know I won't always have my grandparents but if I can plant that rose bush, maybe it will bloom. Maybe I'll always have a piece of them with me. I want that rose bush to weather through storms like it always has before.
After a day of sweet potatoes and corn in the country kitchen on the border of Kentucky, we carefully loaded the rose branches into the car. We were off to make the six-hour hike back to Chicago with all of our precious cargo (none of whom got sick on the way back).
Now we're home and forked branches from that ancient bush are half buried in the mud at my house. They're just sticks today, but who knows? Bloom, baby, bloom.
See my little branch hiding in there? She's a German. She'll be okay.