The Drop In

//The Drop In

The Drop In

If her place wasn’t on my way home, or going somewhere, well it was just around the country corner. Why not drop in? I was always welcome. Greeted with a smile, fuchsia pink if her lipstick was on. The scents were earthy and homegrown: potatoes, juicy fat tomatoes, Dove soap.

If it was morning? She’d pour coffee, old style. Percolated. Black. Cream and sugar? No way. A woman did not need those extra calories. If I hadn’t eaten? I’d get breakfast too. Traditional: eggs, bacon, home fries, toast.

If it was late afternoon? She’d pour a rye and ginger. Perhaps dinner if I had no plans: a fresh salad from the garden, roasted meat and veg, boiled potatoes. With so many people always dropping by the farm, food was abundant in that house.

As was conversation. If it was just the two of us? She’d prod, want to know. What is going on?

Oh gee, I said. This guy at work is driving me nuts.

Well why?

Well the horse races are heating up, I told her. There’s more races than ever now. I’m having trouble keeping up. It’s hard. Getting all those details down, the press releases out in time.

Hmmm, she said. Sipped her coffee. You know, Rita. Here she looked me in the eye, to see my truth. You can do it. You’re a good writer. You can do better.

Hmmm, I thought. She’s right.

I went to work that day and did better. Because she believed in me, which made me believe in me. I have a tendency to overthink things, make them more complicated than necessary. And I sometimes, well oftentimes, bring too much emotion to situations. Our coffee talk helped me focus, simplify.

She was always teaching me. I thought she was teaching me to become the person she was. For my kids, their spouses, their kids. I mean, I had a big enough house, over there. Three kids, just like her. Who’s to say they won’t be dropping in on me one day, just like this, for coffee talk?

Things don’t always turn out the way you expect, though. First, her youngest son, my husband, died mid-sentence, mid-laugh, mid-life. Then, she was diagnosed with cancer. That disease attacked her quickly, without mercy. And being the person she was? She showed no weakness, to me anyway. Was strong, stoic. Kept as busy as she could, crocheting skeins of wool into afghans so fast it’s a wonder she didn’t set the house on fire.

Always teaching. Before the diagnosis? How to be a lady. I know I’m more than capable of opening my own car door, she once told me. But, if a man wants to do it for me? That feels so good, so special. Why not let him?

On a discussion about celebrities getting face lifts, tummy tucks, etc. What ever happened to growing old gracefully? she asked.

While she was graceful in aging, unfortunately she didn’t get to grow that old. Her final teachings to me: how to accept a grave diagnosis. How to die. Gracefully.

And the teachings expanded from her to him, her husband, who I’d always fiercely respected, but saw as more assertive than gentle. It’s an image that won’t go. A man, married 50 years to a woman, who was fading before us like a frail bird. There, there, he said, as he tenderly placed orange slices, plump and succulent, into her mouth.

For years after, he became the one I dropped in on. He poured me coffee from a Thermos in the warm room at the barn. We sat on over-turned plastic buckets, lamenting our losses. I don’t see any way around it, he told me. You’re just going to have to go on. I watched him; I tried it. Eventually got the hang of it.

After he left us, I sold the house, the big one, over there. Two of my three kids moved west. I met and married a man way more interested in spending time in the kitchen than me.

The other day, I dropped in at my daughter’s place around noon. Am I in time for lunch? I joked as their giant golden doodle, Archie, tried to knock me over at the front door. He loves when I visit. My daughter’s son, six, was smiling like a Cheshire cat over a set of kids’ golf clubs his dad had gotten from a co-worker. The girls, 10 and eight now, had just come inside from playing and were sprawled in the TV room watching a kids’ show on Netflix.

I sat at their huge island and my daughter made me a latte. (With the growth of coffee culture, I’ve discovered it tastes pretty yummy to froth up the coffee from time to time.) After filling plates for her kids she made us a salad and toasted bagels. We yakked away, about the Elvis movie (loved it!), the remarkable images from the James Webb Space Telescope, the price of cherries (her younger daughter explained it’s due to the pandemic and inflation), family gossip.

Driving home, with a full belly-heart-mind, it hit me. Perhaps the drop in skipped a generation! She’s it now. My daughter is the drop in!

Memories of that warm farmhouse and cool barn prevail. There are times, still, when I picture all of us – my late husband’s family and friends – sitting out in the family room on a Friday night with drinks and Tony’s pizza, yakking and laughing away. The images are so vivid sometimes, I feel that it’s a place I could actually get back to, drop in on again. But time, like us, must go on. The page turns. People and scenes get shuffled around, new memories get plunked atop the old.



  1. Kathleen Kelly August 9, 2022 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    I can visualize every moment through your words Rita…may Jetanne carry the “drop in” torch forward…gotta love a latte 😜

    • Rita Hartley August 9, 2022 at 2:59 pm - Reply

      Gotta love a latte! Yes indeed!! Thx for reading and commenting 🙏. Jetanne has big shoes to fill but I think she’s up to the task!!

  2. Sandy Reid August 9, 2022 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    Lovely Rita I believe you’re right! That was a beautiful reflection of the past! I like the drop in era. thank you 🥰

    • Rita Hartley August 9, 2022 at 3:43 pm - Reply

      Thx for commenting. “The drop in era”. Yes, perhaps it was more prevalent back then. But I think it’s good to try to keep it going forward- we all need to feel welcome, loved and nourished from time to time!

  3. Linda smart August 9, 2022 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    Loved this…now I drop in at Tara’s for lunch and a chin-wag. ❤️

    • Rita Hartley August 9, 2022 at 3:44 pm - Reply

      That’s cool- your drop in is like mine! Feels good when the torch is passed along.

  4. Sam Smith August 9, 2022 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    What a great story. I feel like I’m in that kitchen again. Such great memories for us also.

    • Rita Hartley August 9, 2022 at 4:03 pm - Reply

      Yes I’m sure you can picture it all as well! Such a great kitchen-gathering-place 💚

  5. Heather Heathcote August 9, 2022 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    Thank you Rita. A very evocative piece.

    • Rita Hartley August 9, 2022 at 4:47 pm - Reply

      Thx for reading & commenting Heather! It’s so great in one’s life to have a “drop in” ☺️

  6. Lorna Davis August 9, 2022 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    Oh my , I loved this one so much. Aunt E was such a lady we all could learn from. Her advice to me was , are you sure ? Do it 🙂 She made you feel like not only a neice but a friend. I’m so glad she encouraged you

    • Rita Hartley August 9, 2022 at 6:14 pm - Reply

      Thx so much Lorna. Yeah she was one special lady huh? Making us all feel special all the time. Sure do miss her 😢

  7. Lorna Davis August 9, 2022 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    I should also mention I was fortunate enough to blow a front tire in front of Davis Downs one Sunday on my way to kintore. At the time I put gas and oil in my 67 Pontiac, but that was it. Uncle Pete looked at my slicks and gave me 4 new tires 🙂 it was like a lottery win gor me. Love them 💕

    • Rita Hartley August 9, 2022 at 7:49 pm - Reply

      That’s the Davis optimism I love! “Fortunate enough to to blow a front tire”! Hahaha. What a score. My family had a Pontiac of that vintage. A boat of a car and a gas-guzzler.

  8. Grant Clark August 9, 2022 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    Like it was yesterday memories rush back into my head and heart. Love this Rita

    • Rita Hartley August 9, 2022 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      Thx Grant. We just can’t stop time from moving on 💔

  9. Kira August 11, 2022 at 8:37 am - Reply

    Really beautiful.

  10. Cathy Popovic August 11, 2022 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    Hmmm, well… that actually made me cry. Really cry. I don’t know why. Maybe just thinking of everyone we’ve lost over the years? I can’t even talk about my dad without crying, and he died 45 years ago. I just really miss him every day. And it makes me cry just to think about everyone you lost in one or two years. I think I’d have to be highly medicated. I’d love to drop in and have a coffee with you sometime 😊

    • Rita Hartley August 17, 2022 at 10:58 am - Reply

      Sorry to make you cry but sometimes it’s good to cry yes? I actually cried rereading it – at the part where Pete & I are sitting on the upturned buckets. That was a big deal for Hugh – chatting with Pete at the barn that way 😢. We should do coffee! I’m away next week but will reach out when I get back 🙏

  11. HILARY+D+SLATER August 17, 2022 at 10:04 am - Reply

    Lovely poignant details, so visually descriptive that I felt as if I was there with her, your mother in law!
    We used to drop in on neighbours too.. the good old days before texts, cellphones and zoom !
    I think it’s a great loss to our culture. I was just thinking yesterday how strange it is that we’d rather take ages typing a text than just pick up the phone and communicate directly. Guilty as charged. Our world is less human now.
    I love seeing the window into your past world! Xxx

    • Rita Hartley August 17, 2022 at 11:01 am - Reply

      Thx so much Hilary. Yes – technology has changed our habits, but we mustn’t let it change us! I do call people from time to time when I’m just plain fed up. And I think dropping in – as you did recently with your painting! – is good to continue to do. We’re social creatures 💚

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