I forgot to tell you that we bought a cake. Of course; why wouldn’t you. Didn’t have a lot of space for a special message; YAY YOU’RE BACK would be enough.

This was entirely too taxing for the calligraphy experts of Kowalskis’ Cakes.


It’s not even a bad version of You’re, like Your or Your’e.

I also made T-shirts.

We were wearing matching T-shirts, which I’d teased Daughter about. Your worst nightmare! Conspicuous parents!

We stood right by the entrance to baggage, where all the passengers came down. A few people smiled as they saw the matching T-shirts, and of course I had to quip: “And she’s only been gone four days” or “at least it wasn’t prison” or something.



For the first time since she left, I turned on the tracker.

First time we've all been on the same screen since the last time we were at the airport.


I could have done that in Brazil, but didn’t. A matter of privacy and trust and slightly, in a small way, a matter of my own peace of mind.

I never did worry. It would have been pointless to worry. I trusted her judgment and the program.

Even though I know she’s in the airport, there’s still nerves - excitement, of course, anticipation, the long interval over, the renewal to start. They come back different! we were told again and again. She’ll be changed, people say. Yeah yeah I know, but I’ve seen pictures, she’s not coming back with a mohawk and a declaration of Brazilian citizenship and a flag with a hammer and sickle. She’ll probably -

“There she is!” says wife, recognizing her ankles as she comes down the stairs.

And yes. There she is.

Everything to her eyes was so green and clean. And no walls! Cities in Brazil have miles of walls. Green and neat and clean and fresh and open and SO WEIRD


As I expect it would be, because it was all familiar, deeply so, and so different from what she’d known.

When we got home, the final test: the dog. She opened the door.

Birch . . . barked, a short sharp bark of alarm and shock. HELL NO WHO - WAIT WHAT OH WOW, and then he was all over her. Hugs and slobbers. He remembered.

OH MY GOD THE HOUSE THE HOUSE IS EXACTLY THE SAME Yes, but every day has been different. Her room was the last frontier, and it, too, had the same effect of being intensely familiar and intensely strange.

Then we all went outside and caught up, or started to. Indian food for supper, as she’d requested.

Can’t tell you how delightful and happy it was, but you can probably guess. Yes, she’d changed - but in good ways, with more confidence and stories and experiences you do not get after one year of college. This wasn’t Natalie recoded, but Natalie 2.0, gold master, rock-solid stable.

On the first night she was back . . . she went out with her friends.

Didn’t stay home, catch up, tell tales. Friends. Runnin’ around.

AND THAT WAS PRECISELY as it should have been, and I’ll tell you why: when I used to go home the first year from college I would see my friends as soon as I got back. We’d go to Embers, drink coffee, have that exotic confection they called “cheesecake,” and catch up, revel in the rekindling of our old bonds. And I got grief for it.

Why do you have to go running around.

Long before she got back I knew she’d want to go out and see her friends, and thought: absolutely! With our blessing and smiles and waves and best wishes.

It’s summer! GO RUN AROUND.

later: it’s gotten very late. I wonder if she’s okay

later, discussing it with Daughter: I thought the other night how horrible it would be for you to come back unscathed from a year away in another hemisphere and then come back here and get smacked into by a car within 36 hours. Or 48. Or 24. There’s a limit. She agreed, and said her friends made the same point, but said that the challenge she had experienced had somehow indemnified her against that sort of thing. Ah, to believe the universe has rules.

Well, it does, but mostly of the here’s-what-happens-when-stars-explode variety.

The star did not explode. It made a wide slow orbit, and returned to the place where it was born.

Remember this feature? We never met Bela Lanan himself. We never will.

This was a daily feature, with the solution on Saturday. We'll do it the way they did it then - one entry per day, with the expectation that you'll be following the story.

Just to bring you up to speed, a man wanted a yellow car, and apparently got one.

I can never shake the feeling that these could've been more compelling, but the case has yet to develop - and now we're wondering what the legal issues will be.




It’s 1962.

So there’s nothing like . . . a hot beer?

Granted, sunset and beer go together in the “end of the working day, time to get drunk, slightly perhaps, but it is Wednesday, and it’s a long week, so maybe four tonight, oh what the hell five” sense.


“For fun with buttermilk coolers just stir in vegetable juice for spice”


I don’t know anyone who has been tempted by buttermilk


Ah, the family boating weekend trip; I remember it well. You drive to the lake and get the boat in and drive around for a while and then get in the weeks and shear the cotter pin that connects the propellor to the motor, and try to find the spare. Did you use it last week? You did? Got-damn

You may have a mattress, but is it the MATTRESS OF TOMORROW?

Century 21, the official mattress of the event that has never really been thought of in terms of mattresses, because no one thinks about mattresses at the fair, even if you walk past the booth - what, you want me to buy one and carry it around?

More Big Hands:

I love that training center. It’s a nice piece of early 60s modernism before it lost its mind.

The white goes on the shoe - not on you! Which is how things are for everyone if they pay attention, and don’t do their shoes after they’ve had some Ranier beer!

I only had two! It’s not that! I don’t know how the hell it got on the rug

“What modern ad copy seems to lack is the judicious semi-colon. Gentlemen, I believe it is time to address this historical absence.”

Don’t spend all summer at the sink.

Remember that summer you spent every damned waking moment at the sink? God, that was awful. You felt like crying but, well, not in front of the kids. They worry as it is.

So there’s nothing like . . . watery beer?



Let's drop in on the far-away yet oh-so-relatable world of 1916, as seen through the work of Clare Briggs. See you around.



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