---- — COLUMBUS _ The little miscreant is off to college this month, and we had a dinner in her honor at Uncle Chet and Aunt Alice's log cabin Sunday.
The kitchen table was set and we crowded around it as soon as we arrived, because our 17-year-old, the star attraction, had plans for the evening.
"So, little girl, you're all grown up," Uncle Chet said and held her chair.
"Thank you," she said, texting someone as she sat down before discreetly closing the phone.
Our hosts were ready for our gang and started serving lasagna, garlic bread, salad with leaf lettuce, tomatoes, scallions fresh from the garden, and a big bowl of blueberries from Leonardsville.
"This looks delicious," Hon said, setting her napkin in her lap.
"I hope it is," Alice said as she sat down. "Let's dig in."
Serving dishes moved around the table. I took too much, as usual, but it was delicious, meant to be savored.
"So, can this be the little girl who used to ride in grocery carts, the one we took on dump runs?" Uncle Chet eyed her.
"I remember that," she said.
"What?" he said.
"Going to the dump with you and Dad," she said.
"I go now," said Buddy, who's 10.
"And you get out of the truck, and help," I said pointedly.
"Dad..." she shot me a look.
"Whereas you were just good company," I said.
"You wouldn't let me do anything," she said.
"There's probably some truth to that," I admitted.
"Still, you turned out pretty good," Uncle Chet interceded.
"Thank you," she said.
"When do you leave?"
"Aug. 23rd," she said, "and I think I'm working every day until then."
"Welcome to the adult world," he said. "Deadlines and to-do lists."
"Any words of advice?" she asked.
"For you?" he put down his fork, reached for the wine glass, cogitating. "Buy American," he said finally. "If you want a job someday, buy American, whenever you can."
"Chet, that's not much advice," Alice chided. "She's going to college, not the mall."
"That's not all I was going to say," he took a sip, "but if the next generation doesn't insist on American jobs, there won't be any. Even buying American isn't good enough. If we're going to do better than crawl along, we need to buy locally, whenever we can. Keep the farms going, support local businesses, create a few jobs here so when you're done with four years of college, you might consider coming home," he said.
"Forget it," she said. "I'm going to California."
"Well, maybe someone like you." he said. "And you may feel differently in 2016."
"Maybe," she allowed.
"And there's plenty more to say, but how to convey it?" he said. "Don't be chicken, but don't be overconfident or you'll learn everything the hard way."
"The way I did," I said.
"Yes, that's what I'm afraid of," he turned to her, "and whenever you're having an argument, put yourself in the other person's shoes."
"I do," she said.
"I don't mean just saying it, but actually taking his or her side, supposing you were wrong for a minute," he said. "But if you examine the other side, and later still think you're right, then stick to your guns," he said.
"Get to bed on time," Hon chimed in.
"Pay cash," I said.
"Avoid older boys," Hon said.
"Stay off the phone," said Buddy.
"You, be quiet," she glowered at him and a grin crept across his lips.
"Keep your nose to the grindstone, your ear to the ground, and anything else?" Uncle Chet glanced around the table, then back at the incoming freshman.
"I'm not a contortionist," she protested.
"Then that's it, I guess, except the obvious," Uncle Chet said. "You're in charge now, so take good care of yourself."
Tom Grace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847-9806.