I decided last spring that I wasn't going to go home any more often than I needed to in the future. I stayed at home for eight weeks and was going crazy by the time I headed back to Provo for school. While I love my family dearly, eight weeks of them after being used to living on my own was too much for me. I needed to be independent. Back to Provo I went.
With that in mind, you can understand why it's a big deal for me when my family is around. I was really excited to see everyone when they came into town yesterday. They live far enough away from Utah that coming here on a regular basis really just isn't practical. Visits are a treat. The family came here to celebrate what I assumed was my great-grandmother's billionth birthday. (After a certain age, the actual number really doesn't matter all that much anymore. When I turn 90, I may as well be a billion, I think.) As it turned out, they were here to celebrate what would have been my great-grandfather's 100th birthday, were he still alive. Family came from near and far in a huge family reunion. Everyone was really excited.
I exaggerate a little when I say that everyone was really excited, because I don't think that I really was. I was excited to see my immediate family, as I always am, but the prospect of seeing relatives who I haven't seen in a decade or two and thus really don't know was not especially appealing to me. I was there to see my family and the aunts and cousins that I usually see around here. While I wasn't planning on actively socializing with anyone else, I would be there in case they wanted to see me. That said, I brought the latest book I wanted to read (John Updike's Rabbit Redux) with me so I would have something to occupy me.
It was a good thing that I brought a book. The activity we had planned was taking a ride on the Heber Creeper. For those of you either not local or familiar with said Creeper, I offer a short explanation. Heber is a small town around here. The Creeper is an old train that takes people around and shows them scenic views of the area. It's fun to ride, but the snag is that the train moves at about fifteen miles an hour the whole way. Our particular trip was going to take three hours from start to finish. Already not being enthralled with the prospect of sitting with relatives I didn't really know, I dreaded boarding the train.
I sat down and immediately opened my book. So strong was the sense of my being on a train waiting to go that I transposed that feeling on the characters - in my mind, they too were all waiting on a train about to depart for some unknown destination. (Those few of you familiar with Rabbit Redux will know that trains don't even play a minor role in the book. Pity, really.) Various relatives and my parents tried to get me to talk so I wouldn't just shut myself out from everyone, but I persisted. Besides, the book was just starting to get interesting.
We rode out by the reservoir and through a brisk breeze. The weather was lovely - it was warm enough that we didn't have to worry about bundling up at all (it's August, for crying out loud), but the breeze kept us cool. I sat in an open-air car and continued to enjoy my book. I was conscious of relatives coming and going, some sitting next to me, some standing near me, others keeping toddlers from leaping to a gruesome fifteen mile per hour death, but didn't really pay much attention to them.
Apparently I became somewhat of a spectacle for everyone else on the train. My book was just over 400 pages long, and it was looking like I was going to finish it before the train ride was over. This came as no surprise to me - I brought the book fully intending to have it finished by the end of the ride. I've been reading a lot this summer, and I've been going at the pace of about one decent-sized book a day. This one certainly wasn't going to be an exception. Apparently these plans of mine thoroughly boggled everyone else on the train. People would come up to me while I was reading and ask me things like, "Are you really going to finish that?" Of course, I would reply, a bit nonplussed that such a thing should be so surprising. Do these people not know me at all? Clearly, they didn't. The pestering continued unabated.
By about 4:30, I was coming toward the end of my book. Unbeknownst to me, enrapt in my novel, people were actually gathering around me and marvelling at the fact that I was going to finish it. I recognized that there were more people around me, but didn't make the connection that I had anything to do with it. As I turned to the final page, one cousin tried to take the book from me so she could hurl it into the reservoir. Everyone just seemed astounded that I could finish a book so quickly.
I feel like I was the smart one for thinking ahead to bring a book, although, in retrospect, I wish that I'd brought a slightly longer one. I finished about half an hour before the end of the train ride.
Oh, did I mention that the ride was really pleasant? The breeze was lovely and the weather was beautiful. I was completely exhausted by the time it was over, but I really enjoyed myself. All that, and I got to check another book off my list. Today was a full day.