Monday, July 1, 2013

Grandpa Janik's Pantry

Part of (almost) every foray into the ever-endearing Midwest should include a trip to Grandpa's House.

My Grandpa Janik lives in this crazy custom-built dream home with fish-stocked ponds and a spiral staircase and giant TV's and, well, an amazing amount of food and booze.

When the kids and I arrived after our four-hour drive from Kalamazoo, they were like "oh, hey Great Grandpa, hey Judy (GG's delightful and astoundingly energetic wife), if you need us we'll be in the pool."

They went in the hot tub, too

We waved them off and then began stocking the cooler with every imaginable drink in preparation for the rest of the Janiks & co. to arrive. My Grandpa has always been an impeccable host. Once, my friend Jessica and I made the trek to his place at the ripe young driving age of 16, and upon arrival he asked what we'd like to drink and listed off a dozen options, including beer. Baffled, we reminded him that we were only16 and couldn't drink, but he just poo-pooed this. We drank pop instead. As we were leaving, he and Judy filled our car with snacks and drinks, and he pressed some Zimas into our arms. "Just take 'em," he urged. "I won't drink 'em!" Jess and I looked at each other, blushed, and took the Zimas.

The Janiks are dear to my heart, which I was recently analyzing. I didn't really spend a lot of time with them as a kid - aside from some summertime here, a holiday or two there - and yet I have such a great affection for them all. I realized it might have something to do with the fact that they act from the heart and don't steep every action they take in passive aggressive drama and unnecessary bullshit. In short, they are real people. And I love them!

These visits are always a whirlwind of hugs and half-conversations but I still appreciate anything I can get, and I was happy that the kids got to hang with their cousins. Also, I was kind of hungover from an impromptu night on the town in Kalamazoo the night before, and there's really no better place for a Hair-of-the-Dog drink than at my Grandpa's place, because of his built-in Cantina. Yes, that's right, I said built-in Cantina. Wrap-around bar, opposite booth seating, dusty margarita mix bottles galore...I found some Jack Daniels and some coca-a-cola and all was well with my miserable fuzzy-headed world.

The next morning I walked downstairs to find my kids at the dining room table surrounded by three different kinds of cereal, glistening pints full of orange juice, and plates waiting to be filled with their very specific instructions as to how to make their eggs, which Grandpa was kind enough to oblige, though he had to let me know it was a pain, which he did in is usual good-natured way: "Jonah says he wants an egg pancake, I say 'what the hell is that?' he says 'ya scramble it in a cup and then put it in the pan, then flip it like a pancake!' I say 'okay.'* But it takes up the whole goddam pan! And this one, she wants hers fried!" Then he gestured to me with his spatula: "howd'ya want yours honey?"

"Scrambled, please!" I didn't dare say "egg pancake but then folded over an unbuttered piece of toast." I asked if they had any tea. Grandpa said they did, and began pulling boxes upon boxes out of the upper reaches of a cupboard. "We got peppermint... this one's...we got chamomile here...." Judy appeared behind me and piped up "Geno! Don't give her that tea, that's like twenty years old, don't giver that!" "It's fine! It's all sealed up in it's packages, you know? The paper wrapper? It's fine!" I assured him that I was fine with OJ and proceeded to eat my breakfast sans stale tea.

During breakfast I asked Judy about her volunteering, which she does in abundance and makes me really, really sleepy just hearing about it. I mean, this woman...really. She has this dance troupe for seniors that travels around and performs all the live-long day, and she basically runs the whole freaking show. Their dining room is filled with sparkling hats and songs on tapes and random balloons and feathers. She's been doing it for over a dozen years and she's tired as all get-out but she'll never stop doing it. Oh and then she showed me the 14-page newsletter she singlehandedly creates for the senior center every month. I was like..."um, I'm kind of sleepy from looking at all of this can we nap now?" Look at what she does just for fun here! It's nuts. I saw it live once and I cried like a baby.

As we were preparing to leave, true to form, Judy asked my kids to hold some ziplock bags open and then proceeded to fill one with Oreos and the other with Froot Loops, despite my eye-rolling and protests. She ignored me, saying "oh wait, just a few more. Wait, just a few...just one more...just, wait, there's room for another."

I walked into the pantry to grab a few bottles of water, but Judy scoffed, "honey no, you don't want those, those are old, lemme getcha some fresh ones," and then she disappeared into the basement, emerging a few moments later with three bottles of 'fresh' water.

Rumor has it there's no fresh water here
Then we got out to the car and Judy insisted that we take a cooler full of ice, so that I could put some down my shirt when I got too hot on the way home. I assured them that wasn't necessary, but she was already gone, searching. After waiting for about ten minutes in the oppressive Midwestern humidity, Grandpa and Judy emerged with a small cooler full of ice, which I immediately reached my hand into to pull out a perfectly-formed ice cube, wasting no time to shove it down my shirt.

After a few more hugs and kisses, away we went.

Before falling asleep within three minutes on the road, Jonah sighed, "I want to live at Great Grandpa Janik's house, mom."

I said wistfully, "me too buddy. Me too."

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