Colorado vacation, 1995
Author’s note: This article is a repeat and after reading it again, I am so surprised to see that this happened 22 years ago, it is still very vivid in my mind. Bernie has that effect on you! Thanks Bernie!
Arriving at Denver International Airport is a trip all in itself. It is situated in the middle of a sagebrush field, east of Denver, in the middle of nowhere. We had landed at the big airport with no city around it. “Where’s Denver?” I ask.
Chuck and Lillian, Bernie’s good friends from Erie, picked us up and took me to Boulder where my sister Ginger and Mom lived. Bernie went home with Lillian. Our stay was very eventful at times. Bubblegum and bikinis happened on this trip.
My mother was so glad to see me in her own fashion, frail, old and suffering from the first stages of Alzheimer’s, she was full of big smiles.
I unpacked the next morning and showed mom a hat that Bernie had made for me out of purple flower material. It had a rim that could be bent in various shapes. She made a big purple fabric rose and tucked it on the side of the brim.
Mom fell in love with the hat! I wore it. She wore it. I wore it. She took it off my head and put it on hers. We played the hat game all day.
The next morning the purple hat was resting on my dresser next to my bedroom door. I looked up just in time to see an old wrinkled hand with the crooked finger, grab the hat. Mom poked her head in the door of the bedroom, jammed the hat on her fuzzy gray haired head and skipped ran down the hall laughing “Tee heee! Teeehee!” She pulled out a chair, sat down at the table and started eating her oatmeal with the hat on. If I came near her she would grab the rim of the hat, pull it down over her ears and say with a grin, “It’s mine!”
She wore that hat off and on each day I was there. We had so much fun with that purple hat. When I packed my suitcase to leave, the purple hat was in her bedroom. I told her she could have it. “Thank you, thank you!” she said with a big grin. I have the feeling that was hers from the very first day. When she passed away, it was worn by Kaylie, my niece for a while. When I got the hat back, I wore it for a while, until I gave it to Susan so she could wear “Grandma’s hat.” I treasure the memories of my mom, her laughter and the purple hat. Thanks Bernie!
Our trip was over and it was time to return to Alaska. I was at Ginger’s in Boulder and Bernie was in Erie. We decided to take a shuttle bus to the Denver airport and save on all the time it took for Ginger to take us to and then return home, which was about three to four hours. The shuttle bus came by Ginger’s house and took us to the hotel where we loaded more passengers in 98-degree heat and 99 percent humidity. The bus was sweltering hot! Pulling and prying on the windows, they would not open.
The driver of the bus got on, “Heheheheh” he says in his Aussie accent, “Anyone know where the airport is? And by the way our air-conditioning is ca-poot – sorry!” He settled down in the driver’s seat, started the bus and chugged along 30 to 35 miles an hour, and sometimes slower than a snail, all the way out of Boulder, onto a cow path of a road, through several small towns. The airport was built several miles from Denver for a reason I am sure. Bernie was patient, but noisy about the hot air and no air conditioning and this old Alaskan gal was just plan HOT.
We finally got to the airport in a little over an hour; we drug our wheelie luggage across the large expanse of the airport and checked in. We had time to spare. So what do you do with Bernie in an airport? You go eat! We ate something very nondescript and looked in all the shops on our way to the passenger boarding area. We sat and we sat and we sat. Finally, Bernie jumps up and says, “I’m going to get a drink of water and go to the bathroom. You stay with our luggage and then you can go.”
“OK,” I say, “but hurry! They just may want to board any minute now.” Bernie looks at me and says, “OH POOH! we have lots of time.”
Off she goes looking into windows and disappears into the bathroom just as the boarding lady announced, time at last to board the airplane! I waited for all the passengers to board and watched and watched for Bernie. The boarding lady asked me if I was getting on, just as Bernie comes sauntering out of the bathroom, slowly saunters across the hall to the water fountain. I holler “Bernie! Bernie! They are boarding!” She did not hear me! I say to the lady, “Shall I go get her?” “No!” she says, “just get on the plane!”
I started waving to Bernie; she sees me and waved back! “Hurry! Hurry!” I shout! Finally she got the message. We were the last ones on the plane. We sat down in our seats after getting our wheelie luggage stowed above our heads. The door of the airplane slams shut and the airplane backs up, then it stops.
We wait and we wait. “It’s HOT in here,” I say. “Wheeie! YES IT IS!” says Bernie.
Just then the pilot announces, “Ladies and gentlemen we will be sitting here for a few minutes until the thunder and lightning and rain passes over. Please be patient.”
Now Bernie in all her wisdom, cannot understand why I was in such a hurry for her to get on the airplane that was not going anywhere. After a few minutes, she jumps up and shouts to the stewardess, “Can’t you take this airplane back to the terminal and let us off? I am not through shopping yet or at least you could serve something cold to drink!”
Some of the passengers applauded and agreed. They brought her some cold water, probably just shut her up. The other passengers want to know where she got the cold water. So Bernie, the most helpful and accommodating person I know, runs back and forth arranging people’s lives and getting them something to drink.
I hid my face and tried to ignore her friendly jabber. Finally after an hour, which Bernie thought was an hour too long, we were in the air. We slumped back in our seats and slept.
Next week: The Anchorage airport and Bernie’s wheelies luggage wheels on fire.
The Pioneer Potluck series is written by 50-year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her mother, a self-taught wonderful cook. She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day. Grannie Annie can be reached at email@example.com.