Last weekend, Hannah drove to Bluffton to have dinner with Mary's family. As we drove past corn fields and farms and grain bins, Hannah said, "Mary said sometime she wants to take me out on a combine!" "Oh, cool!" I responded. Then there was an awkward silence. Which of us would admit the truth first? Fine, I'm older, I'll swallow my pride and say it: "You know, I don't think I've ever actually seen a combine in action..." "Yeah, me either," she said. More awkward silence. Then I said, "Um, I'm not sure I really know what a combine does..." "Yeah, me either," she said. Even though neither of us knew what on earth a combine was, we both had a feeling it was one of those basic common-knowledge things in Bluffton. And we're going to Bluffton, to a pig farm, for dinner with real farmers. Oh dear.
Thankfully, Mary's family is very gracious, and after getting over the initial shock of having such ignorant city girls in their house, her dad explained combines - what they do and how they do it. Fascinating stuff, actually. He would have taken us out to see one in action, but it was almost dark, the combines were finished working for the day, and there were pork chops and sweet potatoes to be eaten. And her mom asked if it homemade cherry pie was ok for dessert. Ummm... yes, forever! Dinner was amazing - I've never had pork chops so tender that I could cut them with a fork. And it felt so good to have dinner around a table with a family, even if it was a family we were just borrowing for an evening. Made me feel homesick, but also comforted at the same time.
After dinner we looked at photo albums, listened to Mary's brother play music, and told stories and jokes. By the time we finally decided to leave, we felt so loved and accepted... Mary's dad told us to come back anytime, that we were always welcome, and I really believed him.
We left and drove under the starry sky, passing semi-trucks that we now realized were full of corn harvested from the fields. Of course we should have known that a visit to Bluffton cannot be complete without a crazy adventure, which is probably why the water pump in my van broke ten minutes down the road. Mary and her brother and dad came to rescue us, which involved trying to fix it on the side of the road in the cold and darkness, then decided it would be best to leave my van there until the morning. They got me out of my chair and into the passenger seat of their Suburban, then (through dangerous and astounding feats) got my chair in the back of it. Hannah and Mary and I drove back to Fort Wayne in this fashion and went straight to bed. The next day, before noon, Mary's dad had my van fixed and brought it back up to us, waving off any suggestion that I would pay for the new pump he installed.
So now that my van is in good working order and we know what a combine is, maybe we'll find ourselves in Bluffton again soon...