The tent worked out great. It was easy to set up and spacious. Before going to sleep, we went on a walk through Spring City. In case you're wondering, the population of Spring City is just over 950. I don't know what the exact number is, but it's grown quite drastically since I was a kid.
Spring City is made up of a motley group of intellectuals, artists, simple good people, widows (like my grandma), white trash and perhaps a few meth addicts. I guess since it's quite small, the weirdos stick out. On our walk we passed some trashy looking homes, you know the kind, Jeff Foxworthy would call the residents rednecks, and they might be. The point is, they give off a strange aura: unkempt yards with overgrown shrubs, three trucks parked on the grass, two of them with their insides spread out in the long, long grass, and the run-down house with dusty windows—through them, the cliche but very accurate, eerie, blue glow of a television. All of these features are drastically exaggerated in the dark.
And every house had a dog. So everywhere we were there were at least three dogs barking. Through the solemnity of the night, ran this undercurrent of irritation at the dogs. Blasted dogs. But with that came the comfort of another feeling, that I was living in an Indigo Girls song, one with some barking dogs, like "Mystery": "Now we're out in the back with the barking dogs / My heart the red sun / Your heart the moon clouded / I could go crazy on a night like tonight / Summer's beginning to give up her fight . . ."
Perhaps the best part of the walk was that we could see the lowest stars in the southern part of the night sky. I don't know the names of the constellations. They're very unfamiliar to me because in Salt Lake, the mountains and the lights of the cities and towns obscure that part of the sky—it glows gray instead of glowing with stars. You know what I mean. So it was one of those fulfilling religious experiences to see them, feeling that they were new to me.
I have this book called The Soul of the Night, by Chet Raymo. Stoker and I were like Raymo that night, though in his book, he's always alone when he's looking at the stars. "The night is the beginning of terror, as every child knows. Who is not afraid of the dark? The gods are creatures of daylight. At night we are on our own" (Raymo, 15). We are always alone, it's true. Our minds make sure of that, but it's wonderful to walk at night and when something moves your soul like seeing new stars, or when something speeds your heart like a phantom shape or noise, it's comforting to be with someone you trust.
Anyway, if you haven't read The Soul of the Night, you should. It's one of the most well-done compositions of literature and science. He combines poetry with astronomy—not a poet himself, Raymo, an astronomer, draws on literary figures such as Rilke and Burroughs. It's one of my top creative non-fiction books.
The next day we helped my grandma with things, like getting the “whirler” (a sprinkler that turns) out of the old chicken coop so she could water a part of her grass that doesn’t get “sprinkled.” My grandma is exactly 60 years older than me (my mom is exactly 30 years old than me, coincidence? I don’t think so because I'm also the 3rd child of a 3rd child. I’m like the 7th son of a 7th son, only a daughter. Do you follow?) and she has the most amazing dialect ever. In the morning, she said she looked outside at the tent and wondered if we “was baked.” And by no means does this dialect make her or anyone, for that matter, dim. I have to constantly point that out to people because A) I studied English in college, and so people worry that I’m weighing their intelligence quotient based on how they speak, but they don’t realize B) I studied folklore to gain a master’s degree and dialects, or colloquial languages, are a point of interest for me in how they relate to culture.
When she’s in a good mood my grandma truly cackles, very mischievously. You have no idea how adorable it is. She’s young and spry, but she won’t admit it. Yesterday, she continuously called herself “old and decrepit,” to which my mom vehemently protested, telling her that she’s a beautiful woman and in remarkable health.
“Oh my lord, what’s she askin’ for? A nickel?” Grandma responded to my mom’s flattery.
Stoker loved this macramé plant thing, the kind that hangs down from the ceiling with a plant pot in it, beautiful jack-o-lantern orange. He was going on and on about how sweet it was, so my mom told us we could have it.
“I don’t want them to take it until I’m gone . . .” Grandma said, referring to her impending death (I’m sure. She’s just waiting to die and she let’s us know all the time that she’s going to at any minute).
“Oh, they can take it,” my mom said, forcefully. “I’m sick of looking at it, you’ve had it since the 70s.”
“I don’t want it to be gone when I look over there, then I’ll go huntin’ around for it,” she said, exasperated.
“They can take it!” My mom, herself exasperated.
“I don’t want them to until I’m gone.” Finally, she agreed to let us take the other macramé, the one in the entryway corner where no one would notice it’s absence (so, yes, now we have a macramé plant holder with a beautiful 70s pot to go in it).
Last week Grandma got a new remote control for the television, but she couldn’t get it working. Stoker fixed it, the batteries (“batt’ries”) needed to be turned around. So my mom wanted Grandma to throw the old one away, which only works occasionally. Never one to throw anything away, she naturally refused to. I mean, it works sometimes.
“You got a new one, now throw the old one away,” said my mom. “You keep way too much stuff.”
“Oh, I know.”
“Then throw it away.”
“You can throw it away when I’m dead,” she responded calmly, infinitely patient. “I don’t want to throw it away, I just put new batt’ries in it.” So Stoker removed the batteries, then my mom picked it up and headed for the garbage can.
“Then I’m throwing it away,” my mom said.
“I’ll just fish it out of the trash when you’re gone,” responded grandma, with a mischievous cackle. “It’s a relic, you’re supposed to keep relics.”
“Don’t worry, this new remote is a very good one. It’s a universal remote,” Stoker reassured her.
“And it was only 7 bucks,” Grandma said. “I’ve been pounding on that other one for 2 or 3 years!”
“7 or 8 years, Mom!” My mom shouted from the back room, where she was apparently burying the other remote deep in the trash so Grandma couldn’t “fish it out.”