My aunt and uncle from Minnesota just visited, and it reminded me of childhood visits from my other Midwestern extended family and their unique visitor behaviors.
Sit around drinking coffee for hours at the kitchen table. This begins right when you wake up. I forgot about the endless pot and kept reminding myself it was my duty to fill the cups. I remember everyone doing this in their bathrobes- so it’s pre-shower and getting dressed. My aunt told me a funny story this trip about when her and her sisters were wearing big bouffant wigs (60s?). When you’re visiting, do you put them on right when you wake up, or do you go to the table in a handkerchief and put them on later? Is it weird that suddenly your hair got big? I always wondered about that, for people wearing wigs. When was it OK to not have your wig on?
Fixing stuff. My uncle started fixing my sink about 5 minutes into visiting. My grandfather used to take on some project and work on it almost the entire visit, revisiting the scene and making hardware store visits, or bringing it up at odd points in the conversation. “Do you have Liquid Plummer?” Etc. It shows a kind of intimacy and trust, I think. My grandmother would start ironing almost right away. She’d see a pile and get out the ironing board and dive in. I think it’s an expression of love, for non-PDA Swedes, to help someone out and make their life better.
Yesterday morning I was doing some spot-ironing on the coffee table. I have an ironing board but it’s a hassle to get out. My aunt was sitting at the kitchen table watching me, and my uncle was flitting around near me waiting for the inevitable disaster. I asked her what was wrong. “The finish will come off,” she said. I told her I’d give up on the table a long time ago, and that I wasn’t using steam. They visibly relaxed. I joked that I knew this was the story they’d share back home: “Just when we were getting used to staying in the apartment in the City, she ironed her pants on the coffee table!”
Picture: my sis and her husband on our road trip. 1/27th of the way through.