While planning the drive to New Jersey, some friends mentioned I could stay with their family in Kearney, Nebraska. It would be a six hour drive from Golden — far enough on the first day, with a heavy spring snow still falling. When I arrived at Nancy and Dan’s home, I was greeted with a warm hug, tails wagging on the porch and an adorable granddaughter running circles around Nelson.
She had just lost her very first tooth. Would I like to see it? And had I ever met the Tooth Fairy?
Nancy and Dan have a 100-plus-year-old white farmhouse — with horses in a nearby pasture and an odd collection of cactus planted between the dog houses and a trampoline for the many grandkids. Spring had been so wet, there was no corn yet planted. Otherwise, Kearney would have been a scene reminiscent of “Field of Dreams.” They were quick to welcome me to their kitchen table, where we sat for several hours, speaking of our families and interests in gardening. Nancy showed me one of her many scrapbooks, and talked about that cactus garden — one she’s created over the years as she can find the rare plants in middle America. Dan talked about his work around town, including at their church. As night fell, they served pot roast, roasted potatoes and carrots and homemade bread and that was as white and sweet as it was decadent. Their six-year-old granddaughter had her own song as she watched the bread come out of the oven to the table:
“Bread, bread, bread. More, more more!” She hummed this repeatedly through the meal, sneaking Nelson the dark tan crust as she could.
These were my kind of people.
Nancy laughed while showing me my room with vintage quilts at the foot of a comfy bed and shaggy green carpet underfoot.
“You know this house used to be one of disrepute,” she whispered. “Way before we bought it, of course.” She raised one eyebrow. We’d just spent two hours talking about families and our love of God. Now that she had me alone, I was delighted to discover this nuance in Nancy’s personality.
“Like a brothel?” I asked, scanning the walls, innocently decorated with family photos and aging school projects.
“Oh, wow.” I wondered where the conversation was going, when it took a very unexpected turn.
“And the rumor is, someone was killed in this room!” She said it with a big smile and genuine enthusiasm. I gulped.
I was thinking, “Uh, Nancy? You should probably tell visitors that after the leave. Not before they climb in.”
Instead I said, “Uh, well thanks for the hospitality!” Crickets chirped nearby.
She must have heard the unease in my voice.
“Oh, honey. You’ll be fine. We’ve never seen the ghost! Good night!”
And with that, she was out the door. Nelson, none the wiser, did his characteristic three turns at the foot of the bed before soon snoring like a lumberjack. I pulled back the quilts, settled in and listened as the house creaked. I heard the old wooden stairs leading up to that bedroom shift several times in the night.
Must have been the Tooth Fairy.
Before I left the next morning, Nancy had cut an ear off of her prized Galapagos cactus to take to New Jersey as a housewarming gift, and had filled a small bag with her handmade stamped cards, which I had admired after dinner. They even called to make sure we got in okay the next night in Chicago.
Families like these that fill me with hope. Their kindness for a stranger and her mutt was extraordinary.Thank you Nancy and Dan — you exceeded all stereotypical expectations for the caring and warmth of a Midwestern family!
Bread, bread, bread. More More More!