Monday, September 21, 2009

Nana on the Train, Part I: The Cornflakes Episode

Edit: I realized that the first draft of this post violated my privacy policy, which is that NO ONE (except my Aunt Joyce and cousin Becky, who post under their real names anyway-- hi, guys!) gets called by their correct names on my blog unless I have their express permission. I have now edited out the name of the friend that Mom(/Nana) tried to drive to California with.

Nana was born in California and she grew up there, but about a year after she joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, she moved to Utah to go to school at BYU. Once she married Papa, they lived in Utah for a little while, but after that they moved up to Idaho, where most of Papa's family lived. Nana and Papa were pretty poor, so it was difficult for her to go to see her family as often as she wanted to.

One day, Nana was excited to find out that a friend of hers, Johanna Red, was planning to drive to California in her Volkswagen Beetle. Nana asked if she could come along. Sister Red said that of course she could! On the day they planned to leave, they started to drive from Blackfoot, where they lived, towards California. Unfortunately, just before they reached Pocatello (which was the first big city along the way--about 25 or 30 miles from Blackfoot), Sister Red forgot to shift in to high gear when she needed to, and the transmission in her car was damaged. Sister Red had a friend in Pocatello, so they drove to the friend's house; Sister Red was afraid to drive any further before the Beetle was checked out by a mechanic. (Remember, this was in the days before cell phones, so going somewhere in a maybe-broken car was a bigger deal than it would be now; you couldn't just call someone if you broke down at the side of the road.)

Sister Red called her husband, Ben, from the friend's house in Pocatello, to come get her. He came down from Blackfoot to get her and arrange to have the car fixed. Nana, however, still wanted to go see her family. She remembered that there was a special deal going on with Amtrak (the train company) and Kellog's Cornflakes. She called Amtrak from Sister Red's friend's house to find out what the details were. The deal was for reduced price tickets for children if you had a certain number of cupons from cornflakes boxes. Nana can't remember for sure, but she thinks that Auntie Weathercolour was about two years old at that time and that I, Auntie Cornelia, was a babe in arms (meaning, a baby small enough that she had to carry me everywhere). Nana found out from Amtrak that there was only one train per day that left from Pocatello to Salt Lake City, which was where she needed to go in order to get to California. That train was leaving in about an hour and a half from when Nana called, so Nana decided to hurry to get the things she needed to done in time!

Sister Red's friend drove Nana to the grocery store. Nana remembers buying six boxes of cornflakes and carefully cutting the coupons off the backs of the boxes. She didn't want to tear the inner liner that contained the cornflakes. She couldn't afford to just throw the boxes of cornflakes away, and she didn't want them to be stale when our family ate them. The friend loaned her some scissors (or it might have been a razor blade) so that she could do the job. Nana sent the cornflakes back to Blackfoot with Sister Red and her husband, who dropped them off at the Oak Street Apartments, which is where Nana and Papa lived. Nana says that they ate cornflakes from boxes that had holes in the backs of them for about a year after this happened.

By the time Nana was done getting the cornflakes boxes and cutting the coupons from them, there was only a little time left, so Sister Red's friend drove her over to the train station. Nana isn't sure how she juggled her luggage and two children, but she figures that she couldn't have had very much luggage, because they had been traveling in a Bug to start with.

I asked Nana: was it a good visit? And she said, Oh, yeah. The only trip she remembers that wasn't a good visit was right after Auntie Day was born, when she wanted to visit her grandmother. I will write that story another time.

This story somehow illustrates a kind of quintessential my-mom-ness, though I'm not quite sure exactly how. Maybe my siblings can help me track it down as they comment.

(When I asked her, Mom said that she thinks it's because she really wanted this thing, and she figured out how to do it in a way that they could afford. She thinks that she's probably pretty good at logistics.)

(To me, this story illustrates two things about my mom. First, she is very ingenious when it comes to finding ways to see her family, and particularly when she doesn't have a lot of money to accomplish her task. Second, Nana really likes coupons.)

What does it say to you about Nana?

1 comment:

N said...

I think I must have been older than two, because I remember getting on the train - we were standing by a sort of hill, covered with dry yellow grass, and the doors were blue, and the carpet was purple-y. And the conductor had a conductor's uniform, with a round hat with a black brim and a flat top and everything. Don't really remember anything else, just that I was excited to ride a train.