Wonderful People


They came before wet heat descended upon Texas. They don’t like the heat—can’t handle it, been planning trips around avoiding it for years now.

“Oh, it’s warm!†they said as the airport doors slid aside for them.

“The nights are still cool,†I said. I may have faked a shiver; I was worried. I had been worried ever since I heard they were all coming to Austin to visit my husband and me: my parents-in-law, my sister-in-law, my Mennonite Pennsylvania Dutch grandparents-in-law.

My first concern? None of them drink. Grandpa Ginder had been a pastor before he retired; he wore a plain suit for fancy occasions and his wife toted a bonnet. It’s not that I disapprove of abstaining; it’s just that I thought wine made family visits happen more than once. I know my family relies on it quite heavily, and I wasn’t so confident in the heady powers of Scrabble to get us through this one.

My second concern? Seven very different people in one apartment. I suggested we find a place for the grandparents to stay in which they would be more comfortable. I didn’t want them to feel unwelcome, and so I had suggested to my husband Scott that we reserve a room in a Hyde Park Bed and Breakfast. He said the price would upset them, and that they would not allow their grandkids (to whom they send five dollars every birthday) to pay for it. Well I was not going to stick those lovely two elderly folks in a rank, I-35 hotel room just because I had issues with seven adults sharing one bathroom—this was my issue, after all, my snotty issue of personal space that Scott’s family has never seemed concerned with—and so I reserved a room at a nearby B&B. I planned to slip my credit card to the owner. I thought this was brilliant. Scott said nothing. He’s not a big talker so I didn’t let it concern me.

In the minivan, however, I grew concerned. Grandma Ginder turned to me and, in the sweetest, most sincere tone of voice asked, “Are these people friends of yours?â€

These people? The Bed and Breakfast owners? I looked at Scott, who said nothing.

“No,†I said. “They’re not friends.â€

She turned her face to look out the window at the lovely, yellow B&B and said, “Well, then, I wonder why are they allowing us to stay here?â€

“Now you say we get a breakfast here?†Grandpa Ginder asked.

“Yes,†I said, “You get a bed and a breakfast.†I knew the next question before he asked it so I preemptively-cringed.

“Well, what time you think they serve this breakfast?â€

“You might have to sleep in a little, Dad,†Grandma Ginder said. “They probably don’t start serving until six.†She turned to me and smiled. “Not everyone keeps Dad’s farmer hours.â€

I pictured Grandpa waking at four, hobbling across the creaky wooden floors of the house, waking all of the normal guests.

“We might just join you for breakfast, anyhow,†Grandma continued. “Do you think we can get a discount if we don’t eat their food?â€

I glared at my husband because I had no one else to blame beside myself— but he was an easy second. He told me to not worry about it, but I found this to be impossible, especially when we piled into the B&B and learned that Grandpa would have to climb a flight of stairs as all guest rooms were on the second floor. I looked at his right leg, the one he drags around like a tree trunk and absent-mindedly taps his cane against when he tells a story. He managed to lug this leg up the stairs, barely, while I crept behind him, cursing myself for not scouting this place out beforehand; and when we saw their room held a regal, waist-high bed and a clawfoot tub (both of which required a small staircase to access), it became clear to everyone that I had screwed up in a major league way.

“Don’t they have any regular hotels in Texas?†Grandpa asked.

“Kate didn’t think you’d be comfortable in one,†my husband said, generous man that he is.