By Linda Porter Carlyle
MacKenzie Isabelle Evans pressed her nose against the back seat window of the car. She watched the flat land of Kansas slide by outside. “How much farther is it?” she asked. “Are we almost there yet?”
“We’re almost there!” Dad answered happily. Dad was happy for several reasons. He was happy to see the places near where he had grown up. He was happy to think he would be seeing his own mother and father very soon. And he was happy he did not have to spend a whole day in the car with Mac again for at least a week!
“I feel sorry for the poor people who have to live here,” Mac muttered. “There’s absolutely nothing to look at! Just flat land, flat land, flat land!”
“It’s called ‘great, open spaces,’” Mom said, looking back at Mac with a smile. “Some people actually like it. They feel all hemmed in when they’re surrounded by mountains and tall trees.”
Mac shook her head. “I don’t think anybody who has seen Oregon would ever come back here to live!” she said.
“Well, you’ll notice I left Kansas and never moved back,” Dad pointed out. “But I’m really glad we are able to come back and visit all the relatives this summer!”
“Tell me about the family reunion,” Mac said, bouncing on the seat. It wasn’t a very satisfactory bounce though because of her seat belt. “Tell me what it will be like!”
“All the aunts, and uncles, and cousins will come to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm,” Dad began. “Everybody will bring their very favorite potluck food—Aunt Pat will bake her famous peach pie, I’m sure—and we’ll eat until we’re stuffed, and we’ll visit and catch up on all the family news, and we’ll play croquet.”
“Will there be any kid cousins there?” Mac asked. “What if I can’t remember everybody’s name? They’ll think it’s pretty weird if I’m related to them and I can’t remember their names!”
Dad chuckled. “Don’t worry about it! Just sneak over and ask me, and I’ll whisper in your ear. Everyone will be impressed with your fabulous memory! Look!” he pointed. “We’re here! There’s the farm!” Dad turned off the highway onto a long, gravel driveway.
Mac watched the little two-story farmhouse grow bigger as they got closer. She saw the door open and a gray-haired woman wave from the porch.
As soon as the car stopped, Mac leaped out and ran straight into Grandma’s arms. “I thought we would never get here! Why is Kansas so far away from Oregon? How can you live where it is so hot? I’ve never been so hot before in my whole life!”
Dad laughed. He bounded up the steps, put his arms around Grandma’s shoulders, and gave her a big kiss on the cheek. Then he stood up straight and took a deep breath. “Mac’s right. It sure is hot! Just as hot as I remember it. But it’s good to be home.”
Mac poked him in the side. “This isn’t home!” she reminded him fiercely. “We live in Oregon!”
Dad ruffled her red curls. “Of course, we do,” he assured her. “But if you grow up, and get married, and move away from Oregon someday, you’ll feel the same way when you go back and visit Oregon. You’ll say, ‘It’s so good to be home!’”
“I’m never growing up, and getting married, and moving somewhere else!” Mac exclaimed.
Grandma laughed. “You may have something to say about the getting married and moving away part, but not about the growing up part,” she said. “You’ve grown so much since I saw you last! You’re almost as tall as I am!”
“Where’s Grandpa?” Mac asked, flinging her arms wide and jumping off the top porch step.
Grandma looked down the long driveway. “He just went to the store to get some milk. Here he comes now.”
Mac took one look at the gray pickup bouncing over the gravel. She raced toward it.
Grandpa stopped the truck. He opened his door and climbed out just in time to catch Mac in a giant hug.
“Hi, Grandpa!” Mac shouted. “We’re here! I thought we’d never get to Kansas! Did you know the United States is so huge? It’s too hot here!” she gasped, wiping her sweaty forehead with the back of her hand.
“It’s certainly too hot to be running like that,” Grandpa agreed. “Let’s go see if Grandma has some lemonade in the refrigerator. Hop in.”
There were greetings and hugs all around when Grandpa stopped.
“Let’s go inside and get out of the sun,” Grandma suggested.
“You can unpack the car later when it’s a little cooler,” Grandpa said. “Let’s get something cold to drink.”
Soon the family was gathered around Grandma’s dining-room table with tall glasses of icy lemonade. They could smell the fat, raisin-packed oatmeal cookies Grandma had baked for dessert. Grandpa looked happily at each beloved face. “Every time we’re together,” he said, “I look forward even more to heaven. Then we’ll never have to say goodbye to each other again!”
“Amen!” Dad whispered. He reached over and squeezed Grandpa’s hand.
Mac held her glass of lemonade against her cheek. “And it won’t ever be too hot in heaven!” she exclaimed. “And I don’t think it will be flat, flat, flat there either! Why, it can’t be! Heaven is going to be perfect! It will probably look a lot like Oregon!”