John and Sally Smith

John and Sally Smith take time to pose for a photograph during a December trip to Hood River.

Like most people, I’ve been desperately searching each day for any tiny sliver of joy that I can find. And, after 647 days of “pandemic-ing,” I’m happy to report that I’ve been mostly successful.

Some days are certainly more joyous than others. There are days when I’ve been getting ready for bed and realize that I haven’t mentally acknowledged anything in particular that brought me joy that day. On those nights, I’ll take a minute to review my day’s events and find a tiny sliver to appreciate. Such joyous recognition might be tied to something like a perfectly brewed and doctored cup of coffee that morning, or something far more trivial and desperate — like realizing I have just enough clean forks to eat dinner with that night.

Then, there are those rare days that overflow with “clean fork moments,” like the 24 hours of bliss recently shared between myself, my sister, Keisha and my maternal grandparents as we traveled to a funeral, of all things. My sister and I drove our grandparents, John and Sally Smith, to Hood River so that they could pay their respects to our grandma’s favorite cousin, Ann, after the loss of her husband. There were clean forks everywhere.

We listened to Willie’s Roadhouse on SiriusXM and overheard our grandparents humming and singing along to Merle Haggard, George Jones, Conway Twitty and Patsy Cline. Joy was found at the Idlewilde Cemetery, where Keisha and I walked with our grandparents as they showed us the final resting places of many of our relatives and shared stories we’d never heard before — or didn’t pay attention to the first time. Forks, forks, forks.

Joy was even found at Rosauers Supermarket where our grandpa returned to the car with trays of steaks and sealed packages of sausages (“Girls, they have the best meat department of any supermarket I’ve ever been to. It’s worth the stop” — and best served with a clean fork, I would imagine).

We enjoyed a post funeral luncheon, complete with wine and views of the beautiful Columbia River that stretched for days, where our grandma visited with family and our grandpa told us stories of how loggers once moved logs high from the surrounding hills down to the river for transport.

It was joyous.

The trip ended with breakfast at Egg River Cafe — four perfectly brewed and doctored cups of coffee, alongside four clean forks on the table — where we hung on every word they shared with us about their time living in Hood River.

As we drove back into the valley, the trip was capped off with a Grammy-worthy performance of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s “Islands in the Stream” — covered by my sister and I, with the sweetest sound coming from the backseat of my grandparent’s Buick — the backup vocals of our 85-year-old grandma. It was one of the single, greatest moments of pure joy that I can recall over the last 647 pandemic days. Or any prepandemic days, for that matter.

I encourage each of you to start day No. 650 of the pandemic, Jan. 1, and every day after in the coming year, finding your clean fork. It’s easier to find than you think.

———

Karrine Brogoitti is the general manager of the Wallowa County Chieftain.

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