February 18, 2007
Newton and I tried out the Delta day flight from São Paulo to Atlanta, connected and landed in San Francisco and Tulsa respectively by that evening. I missed the ice storm that preceded me, though the local news in Natal had mentioned it on the TV sitting on a crate below the produce at the little street market! Most Tulsans I saw were still stunned by the ferocity and the duration. I stayed with my adorable 92-year-old Mother at the Methodist Manor retirement community, where she is the champion high scorer in bridge for the year and the stand-up comic at the annual talent show. Thank goodness there are others there who still have the twinkle in their eye, so I know she is in good company. True to her lifelong form, she is a friend to everyone there, including all staff, no exceptions. We had a grand time visiting friends and relatives and just having time to sit around together. We attended a concert of Celtic music, where Mother got a new joke for her next routine:
The new monk was instructed by the Abbot to go into the basement and begin copying manuscripts. The monk returned to the Abbot, distressed that he was copying from copies rather than from originals, and what if there were mistakes being perpetuated? So the Abbot descends to study the problem, comparing the copy to the original. After some hours the monks hear him wailing from below and run to see what is the matter; "Oh my God," the Abbot shouts, the word was CELEBRATE!"
How do you know there are not enough Italians in Tulsa? When the retirement community dining room serves eggplant Parmesan and one of the residents wonders why she can't find any eggs in there.
Mother called the security guy at the Manor after I was gone for 3 hours on my trip to Target. Luckily, I returned just at the moment he showed up, since she didn't even know what rental car I had. Which brings me to one of the prime objectives of the trip: to get cheap stuff that we can't get here! I felt the heady buzz of shopping perestroika (and I'm not a willing shopper).
Newton and I had each taken our little rolling suitcases inside gigantic suitcases for the purpose of lugging as much as possible back from stores and from our storage unit. Of course the airline weight limits are ridiculously low, but we had a scheme. More on this later.
I saw my sister Donna and her husband and daughter in Lawrenceville, NJ - the hosts of the family! There is always generosity and fun at their house. (Every time my maid calls me "Dona Sandra," I can only think of the list of the four Needham sisters : Janet, Dorothy, Donna, Sandra.)
I got to walk into the Blue Rock School without feeling the burden of responsibility for the first time in years. I got hugged by children from Pre-K through 8th grade - most I had known since they were 4 or 5 years old. That was a highlight of the trip! I was able to take the 4th/5th grade lunch duty, which segued rapidly from reading their serial lunch book to telling them all about Brazil! The school looks great, and, as always, feels like a joyful place.
Newton arrived in NY from San Francisco. He had been skiing with his partners (and our son) and attending a trade show. He and I spent a whole day looking (sometimes in vain) for particular items in our storage unit. Most were in boxes we had obliviously buried behind tons of furniture back in August, so Newt had sore muscles the next day! Our rental car was stuffed, so what about fitting everything into the suitcases?
We had a perfect moment of winter in Wykoff, NJ, meeting our longtime friends from Newton's first job for dinner. Huge snowflakes were coming down with that audibly perceptible, non-sound they make. How nice! But the roads were not dangerous. We were lucky with the weather.
Our old friends, Joe and Guadalupe, put us up in the city for our last night. Newton and I created a "staging area" in their den the next morning, indeed fitting all our loot into the 4 suitcases, being careful to put the heaviest things in the two smaller roller ones and carry-on pieces. The limits on weight are the strictest on the last leg from São Paulo to Natal, where even carry-on weight is supposedly limited to 10 pounds (though we had never seen them weigh carry-ons). We were banking on their not noticing that we were carrying on two rolling suitcases, as well as the backpack, computer bag, box, large purse, and coats. That was our scheme!
We finally had a chance to see our daughter Elise before taking off. She showed us the newly refurbished Havana Central restaurant where she works way uptown. She had just started her FIT semester and loves school and work.
SO, we zero in on the verdict about the baggage for the first leg home. We thought the international flight limit was still 70 pounds per bag, but discovered it has been reduced to the same domestic limit of 50 pounds. For our two over-70-pound bags we owed $100 extra weight fee, but with some coaxing since we were very near the $50 level, the merciful counter clerk reduced the fee to $50.
Now we're in São Paulo, in line to catch the flight to Natal. Our plan is to roll the cart with the two gigantic suitcases up to the counter next to the baggage conveyor, and sneak the other cart with the two "carry-on" suitcases in front of the high counter so the clerk won't notice them. We expect to shell out muito $R reais to pay for the overweight again, but the perky clerk appears to be having way too good a time to notice any digital weight numbers. After the two oversized bags roll past her, she cheerfully inquires if we have any more bags to check? We catch each other's eye and casually reply, "Yes, these two here." On go the other two, without a blink from the agent at the kilos registering on the scale. No having to get them past the gate people. No hoisting them into the overhead compartment. We were lucky with the baggage.
Home again to our beautiful house, which I missed every winter morning.
from Sandy Needham
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