Eight-year-old Connor was happy to see his aunt Trina when she came to visit the Hansons in July. Connor’s mother Elaine was happy to see that Connor managed to wait almost a full 10 minutes before asking, “Did you bring us anything?”
Connor wasn’t generally greedy, but since Trina had started working for an ag chemical company in North Carolina, she’d earned a reputation for bringing great presents for her niece and nephew when she managed to come “home.”
Trina’s brother Jeff had picked her up at the airport, mid-afternoon on a hot July day. They had just arrived at the Hanson farm to be greeted by the whole family, including Jeff and Trina’s parents, their grandfather Ed and Ed’s girlfriend Helen.
“Let your aunt relax a few minutes,” Elaine said. “She’s had a long day in airports.”
“I’m getting used to it,” Trina said. “I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately, with my new position.”
Connor tried again. “Did you bring us anything?” His younger sister Jenny joined in. “Anything? Aunt Trina?”
“Nothing, kids,” Trina said, gloomily. When she saw their sad faces she laughed and disappeared into the guest room where Jeff had just set her suitcases. “I’m kidding!” she called as she went. “Of course I brought something for my favourite niece and nephew.”
The kids beamed. They were also Trina’s only niece and nephew, but they hadn’t realized that yet.
Trina emerged with two gift-wrapped boxes. The first was filled with colourful books for Jenny. “I need these,” Jenny said, delighted. “You have to take books in your backpack on the school bus.” Jenny loved letting people know she’d be starting school soon.
Trina knew Connor wouldn’t be as grateful for a gift of books. Instead, Connor’s box was about two feet wide by 10 inches high and it seemed even heavier than Jenny’s books.
“How did you get these here?” Elaine asked.
“I shipped them through work,” Trina said. “To our Regina office. That’s why we’re late. I made Jeff stop there before we came home from the airport.”
With that mystery solved, it was time for the next one.
“What the heck is that?” Jeff and Trina’s grandfather Ed asked when Connor pulled the wrapping off his box.
“Ooh, I know!” Connor yelled. “I saw one of these at the lake.”
The contraption was made up of two sturdy-looking motorized wheels, connected by two foot pads in the middle.
“It’s a hoverboard, Grandpa,” Trina said. “You stand on it and it moves.”
“Hover-what?” Ed asked.
“You put your feet on the pads, stand up, and it moves like a scooter,” Trina explained. “All you need is balance.”
“I’m not sure it’s quite as easy as that,” Jeff said, “but you can give it a try, Connor.”
“That’s all we need,” Ed said. “Kids today won’t even be able to walk on their own feet anymore,” he snorted, pretending to be irritated while Jeff helped Connor take the hoverboard out of the box.
“Is it safe?” Jeff’s mother, Donna, asked.
“He’ll be fine,” Trina said.
Connor was about to step on the board.
“Hang on,” Jeff said. “The living room might not be the best place. Let’s take it outside.”
“I got one with all-terrain tires so he could use it on the grass,” Trina said.
The Hansons trooped outside to watch Connor try his new hoverboard. It took a few falls, but Connor was determined and soon he was zipping around the yard. Jeff gave it a shot, and he was pretty good too.
“Your turn,” Jeff called to Elaine.
“Maybe not,” Elaine said. “You know I don’t have great balance.”
“Don’t worry,” Trina said. “It’s not for everyone.”
While Jeff helped little Jenny take her turn, Elaine and Trina perched on the front steps, watching the action and catching up.
“With all of the mergers and buyouts we’re reading about, I’m always worried you’ll phone us one day and tell us you’re out of a job,” Elaine said to her sister-in-law.
“It’s so exciting,” Trina said. “Something new every day. I’ve had three different business cards in the past four months. But this last one is a great promotion.”
“Wow,” Elaine said. “I’m not sure I’d like living with so much change.”
“You’ve been here quite a few years now,” Trina said, waving her hand to indicate the farm yard. “Maybe you get used to things being the same all the time.”
Before Elaine could react to what sounded to her like an insult, Jenny fell face first off the hoverboard and landed on a nearby cat. The cat snarled, Jenny screamed, and Connor shouted, “You better not’ve broken it!”
While she separated Jenny from the cat, Elaine thought about Trina’s words. Was that what Trina thought? Was that what everyone thought? That Elaine had settled into a dull boring life? That she was rotting away? Elaine didn’t bring the topic up again. For the three days Trina stayed in their guest room, Elaine suddenly had a lot of important errands to run in town, and didn’t have quite as much time to spend with her sister-in-law as she otherwise would have.
By the end of July, Trina had long since flown back to Raleigh and the Hansons were getting ready for harvest. “Going to be an early one this year,” Jeff said. That afternoon, when Jeff went to town to pick up some spare parts, just to have them on hand for harvest, he took the kids along and left Elaine home alone.
“Thanks, Jeff. I’ll mow the lawn while you guys are in town,” Elaine said when they left. She put on her sunglasses and went to the shop to get out the riding mower.
Connor had left his hoverboard inside, next to the mower. By now, the little boy had such great balance he could sweep the cement floor while he zoomed around. “Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea,” Grandpa Ed had said.
With no one else around, Elaine glanced over at the hoverboard. “Think I can’t take on a challenge?” she thought to herself. “We’ll see.”
She put her left foot on tentatively. Then, with one hand on the back of the mower for balance, she slowly raised her right foot up to the other foot pad. Before she knew what was happening, the hoverboard rolled straight out from under her. She fell backwards and landed flat on the concrete, one arm underneath her body, trying to breathe with the wind knocked out of her.
Jeff and the kids had been home long enough to have already made and eaten supper before Elaine’s mother-in-law brought her home from the hospital.
“First time I’ve broken a bone,” Elaine said, holding up her cast for the kids to admire.
“Is it Auntie Trina’s fault?” Connor asked. “Because she brought me the hoverboard? Should we call her and tell her?”
“I called her from the hospital,” Elaine said. Jeff looked worried. He’d heard what had happened during Trina’s visit.
“Don’t worry, Jeff,” Elaine said. “I just wanted to tell her I tried it. And tell her I have new things going on out here all the time.”