Hello travelers and happiest of Mondays, though I do fully realize the oxymoron of that statement!
This last stop on our road trip travels was all about home. Oh, no, The Kiddo and I are not done with our travels, not even close…but the last stop took us to my hometown for the weekend.
I took the old country roads I know like the back of my hand from the beach to my family home. I have to say, it was more than a little surreal to listen to music, with the current associations of today, while driving the roads filled with memories stacked up since my earliest driving days.
It was time for my brother and son to reconnect, and time for my little man to visit with my old man. And, we shared an afternoon and evening with the grown up kids from my days of childhood in a home more magical than any I’ve visited since. We shared stories of today; travels, tales of parenthood and ailing parents. We laughed until our bellies ached over stories about our parents’ shenanigans, wondering how there are still stories we haven’t all heard at this point in time. We drank Manhattan’s and Port. We were comforted, at least I was, simply by being in each others presence; knowing that this is a safe place of belonging. We all go way back, to the very beginning.
Earlier that day, my son and I shared a unique experience together that neither of us will forget. The world, and opinions are way too complicated for me to share photos here (but I have some awesome pictures!) of our morning out in a countryside vineyard where we both learned how to handle, respect and shoot a rifle. It was a rite of passage for the both of us; just in different ways. And, to see my son and brother bond is priceless. And apparently, I’m a natural. Be afraid…very afraid!
Before leaving, and heading to our next destination, I managed to get…
Me: Dad, what do you most regret NOT doing in your life?
Dad: Not being more friendly, more kind.
I was stunned after that. I just nodded and thanked my dad for his answer. He’s so right. It reminded me, immediately, of the piece recently shared online – the commencement speaker who most regrets his failures of kindness. My dad, he’s a smart cookie.
Before we headed out, The Kiddo asked his Granddad to show him his Colonel uniform from his Army days, and with my brothers help, we got to see and touch and feel this incredible piece of history.
I loved our family stop; and it was hard to leave. Each place has that in common. After that, we hit the road, turned up the volume and opened some candy for the next leg. Oh, the cherry sours? History. Thing of the past. GONE. (sigh)
And now, time for your thinkin’ and Googling hats…
CA DREAMIN’ TRAVEL TRIVIA QUESTION #4 (4 pts)
What small. CA town is considered the Earthquake Capital?
And today, we have a bonus round, for 3 points:
Which of the following CA towns is known as the artichoke capital of the world?
Bonus bonus (extra 1pt) if you’ve ever HAD an artichoke!!
Until next time, safe travels
Wheels, heart, mind and soul.
Bonnie & The Kiddo
“I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that.”
This man, my father, just celebrated the completion of his 93rd year and the start of his 94th year, and that’s no small feat for anyone, and add to that- he’s a self-made man. Born in the oil fields in central California in 1920, and shuttled off on his own at the young age of 13, he enlisted in the army and then jumped rank from soldier to Full Colonel in the Army in WWII, and stationed in the South Pacific for the duration of the war. Upon returning to the US post-war, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his older brother and pursue a career in optometry. This consisted of walking onto the Berkeley campus in the late 40′s and signing up. And then showing up. [When I applied to colleges and universities decades later, he didn't quite understand the admissions angst...] He was THE optometrist in our small town and ran a successful practice until he retired. He’s a depression era make a difference in the lives of others kind of man. He’s a walk-the-precincts to get everyone registered to vote kind of guy.
We affectionately call him the energizer bunny, having survived more surgeries and near medical misses over the years; including open heart surgery and more nights in ICU than we can count. We are convinced that this man does not know there is an option but to keep on going. He’s not perfect, more than complex, suffers from dementia and the craziness that brings out in a person. But without question, this is a good man. Trustworthy. Solid. Responsible. Respected. Funny. And he loves chocolate. I mean, the man LOVES chocolate.
Upon arriving in my childhood home, my first inclination was to curl up on the couch for a little cat nap. My brother and father indulged me and made themselves scarce for what turned out to be nearly an hour and a half. When chided about that not really qualifying as a cat nap, I simply, and admittedly a tad bit ‘snarkily’, in that bratty little sister kind of way, said, well, it was a cheetah nap, you know a big cat!
I had to take my usual walk-through and survey this house, my home, where I spent nearly my entire childhood. It’s filled with the smells and feelings that only a place known so well can evoke. Things are the same, and yet not. I am still that little girl inside, peering into the room where she learned to read and wrote secrets in her diary. And yet, at the same time, now a woman who has been freed by sharing her secrets, a sister who’s bonded with her brother in ways neither probably ever expected. A daughter who misses deeply the mother who raised her here in this home and who now so much more deeply understands and accepts this father turning 93 in this moment.
As I made my way around the house, I had to inspect the backyard; my father is an amazing gardener. He always has been, and it’s a deep regret that in my silly, impatient youth, I never let him teach me this art. For when you ask him, ‘how does your garden grow?” all you have to do is take a sweeping look through his yard for the answer. Which he still cares for daily, as much as he can.
We moved on to happy hour, and in my house, that’s a long standing tradition. My parents, of the WWII era, always knew how to enjoy the evening and friends would stop by and enjoy cocktail hour and appetizers; it was a regular occurrence. Being the youngest and not always having a playmate, I wanted to keep myself busy and more than likely, avoid the boring adult conversation, so by the age of 10 or so, I had learned how to make all the regulars – martini’s, an old fashioned, scotch on the rocks, and others. I knew which drink called for the little white onion, the green olive or the maraschino cherry. Hold on, before you call children and family services, be assured that just because I knew how to make and serve the drinks didn’t mean I drank them!
That came later.
So, we started our evening with a cocktail and spent some time catching up.My father sat himself down, ever so gingerly, and once settled in front of the crackers and cheese, he patted the seat on the sofa next to him, indicating I should sit myself down next to him. We talked about my son, and fussed about how to deal with the sliding door so that I could try and snap a shot of the hummingbird who frequents the feeder just outside on the patio.
We never did get that right.
The conversation turned personal and I received the first of what I decided to call Dad-isms, little gifts to me, even though it’s HIS birthday!
Me: Dad, you know that my life has changed a lot lately, right? I know it’s probably a lot to think about.
Dad: Yes. You have my blessings. You’re a good person; things will go well for you.
Over dinner, the conversation was entertaining at best, especially with my father acting like a child about not getting to have as much wine as his kids. When the conversation turned to talk about ages, years, and remember-when’s, I asked my father a question.
Me: Dad, do you remember how old I am?
Dad: Yes. Pause. Yes. You are four years younger than me.
Me: Wow! That’s got to make me the best damned looking 89 yr old around!
On the way home from our celebratory brunch the next morning, I said to my father,
Me: Dad, you’ve lived a lot of life in your 93 years. If you could give out some advice, knowing that others would take your advice, what would you tell them?
Dad: Have the attention of someone who’s personality you like and can grow with.
Me: Gulp. Silent.
Before I left that afternoon, I ducked into his room to change my clothes for the ride home. I noticed something on his dresser and was compelled to investigate…it was something I had never noticed in all my years of snooping around in my parent’s dresser [so many fun little things in there!]. I opened it up and see an old black and white photo of a beautiful young woman. I asked my brother who it was he said he didn’t know and neither did Dad. I went directly to the source and tried to jog his memory, but with no luck. I asked him if it was an old girlfriend, or his cousin, and he just couldn’t remember. What struck me, the hopeless romantic, is that he’s had it all these years, tucked away. I found myself wondering what it would be like for that young lady to know that she’s been admired from afar all these years…
And the final Dad-ism of the day:
Happy Birthday Dad!
Here’s to all the moms…
May your day be filled with jewel beads, clean counters and tidy rooms.
And if not, perhaps a lovely mess filled with love and laughter!
To the Mom’s – what has been one of your favorite, or most ‘memorable’ gifts over the years?
And to the rest of us ‘kids’, is there a gift you remember being so excited or proud to give to your mom?
Happy Mother’s Day!
The old saying, ‘you can’t go home again’ has some truth to it, as we know. However we choose to define home, the place where we ‘grew up’ – whether physically or metaphorically – we all know that we can’t go back and expect things to be the same, just as they were. Our mind plays tricks on us ; we often remember things as larger than they really were, selectively omit certain details and attach specific feelings to smells and sights. But, perhaps, we can go home if we understand that we will find a new version, with new layers that add to our memory and the richness of all that we have received from that zip code specifically imprinted upon us.
I grew up in a small town and even as a kid, knew that I would need to stretch my wings in a locale not edged with orchards and one little main street. I’m convinced that came from my parents, who had lived and experienced so much of the world before settling in what became our home town. Dad had left home at the age of 13, putting himself through school, jobs; ultimately serving as an Army Colonel in the South Pacific during WWII. The cabinets in our family home contain boxes upon boxes of his military photos, many of which capture him in uniform, touring Sydney, AU and out in the bush of aboriginal New Guinea seated with the natives – and their lack of attire. Post-war, he became a self-made man as the only optometrist in our small town.
Having grown up in Seattle and then San Francisco, Mom was a city girl. And though barely 5 feet tall, she could finagle the worst traffic in San Francisco with the grace of a ballerina and the mouth of a locker-room jock. She could bully her way into just about any parking spot she had her eye on and then stroll into I. Magnin with no one the wiser; she had exquisite taste in shopping and a culinary gift that clearly has not carried on with me. And a heart softer and kinder than I can explain in words.
In our home, dinners were often a formal affair, with the table set beautifully with all elements of the proper stemware, silverware and dinnerware. Our mother took great pride in presenting a meal that not only earned her the chops as wonderful chef, but her presentation was always perfect. In her mind, it had to look as tantalizing as it would taste. She would undoubtedly agonize over the details, often wearing herself out and then serving herself last; a true hostess. Ours was a home where napkins were placed on our laps, cocktails were often served during the 5 – o – clock hour, with hors d’ oeuvres in actual serving dishes, in the formal living room. Ours was a home with a set of every day dishes, a set of ‘nice dishes’, and a set of china. Ours was a home where people were always welcome, but by golly the house better be clean, all the way down to the baseboards.
We said goodbye to mom nearly 16 years ago, and my father, now 92, still lives in our family home along with my brother, who is beyond a shadow of a doubt, one of the most patient men I have ever known. He cares for our dad, with the assistance of a part-time care provider, Gloria. Last week was John’s birthday and my son and I hit the road and made the three-hour trek south for the celebration. The childhood teasing he subjected me to does not merit my mercy, but I will conveniently omit his age [you are welcome John]. But, let it be known that he is my OLDER brother!
Arriving at my childhood home, and walking into the kitchen, I could not help but notice that the table – the very same dining room table – was set impeccably. The decor, though decidedly a departure from what my mother would choose, was so well thought out, down to the last detail, and so perfectly created with my brother in mind. Gloria – the mastermind behind this party – had brought items from her home to create a setting fit for the celebration. For family celebrations, my mother would prepare a leg of lamb that as a 12 yr old I knew was special; and Cornish game hens that still make my mouth water when I remember them; and countless other dishes made to perfection. To the same height, Gloria prepared a feast true to her family; two recipes of fantastically homemade enchiladas, beans, rice, salad and more. “Juan” made the salsa and guacamole. On tap were beer, wine, tequila and drinks for the kids.
My nephew, now 21 and soon to graduate from college, played soccer with my 9 yr old in the backyard, the way that I used to entertain my nephew when he was the only little kid in the room. Friends from our childhood joined us for the evening and stories ranged from reminiscing of the old days, to forging new ground with sharing about the loss of our parents, and a spouse far too early in life, family dramas and old secrets, our parents’ marriages and world travels. We exchanged these stories with a fluency only spoken by those who have come up through the same ranks, inexplicably knowing we belong to each other, because our parents had forged the the bonds for us an entire generation ago. Photos were posted to Facebook and viewed on our phones while sitting 3 feet away from each other, in a living room where as kids we played and hung out, and would never fathom the advent of social networking or smart phones. Shots of tequila were consumed, and with my mother’s every day dishes put aside, we continued to drink and play Mexican Bingo. I quickly became unpopular as I called out “el lotteria’ over and over again. The cards were somehow stacked in my favor; which meant, that everyone else had to drink. While others could walk home, or were home, I had an early drive back the next morning. I needed those wins!
I sat and marveled at this new version of home, my home. My brother’s home. My mother’s dishes serving a beautiful meal that was never part of her repertoire, raucous laughter and banter from an unlikely group that spanned the ages from 9 to 92 and everything in between. Our childhood friends, and folks I had never met, but hope I see again, all sharing the same dining room table where I had sat as a child. English, Spanish, and probably some Spanglish mixed in. At one point, I looked over and my dad was mixing a martini; 10 minutes later in the same spot, my brother was attempting to learn to dance the Salsa, in spite of a knee refusing to let him forget his age, in the same kitchen where so many of our memories are safely held. And before I know it, my father has produced his trusty harmonica and proves that though his mind is a bit fuzzy most days, his lungs work just fine.
Report from the home front as I write is that the party may have been too much for our Dad; yesterday he had a martini at 3:30 and a bowl of cereal at 5:30. Who needs rules when you are 92!?
It seems plausible to say that it’s true, you can’t really go home again. Everything changes. We change. Physically and otherwise. The streets change, the landscape changes. It will never be the same as it was, and it really shouldn’t be.
But, after this last visit, I find myself realizing that maybe we can go home, if we can accept that things have changed, that we are different, and when we understand that what we remember will always be with us, a part of who we are. Perhaps the key is letting ourselves allow our memories to welcome new ones – new stories, new people, new recipes – in layers, like the perfect birthday cake?
So that, combined, with each layer resting upon the next, as if held together by the most perfect frosting - all the delicious life we savor during the years; the joys, losses, comforts, people, perspectives – is the “home” that we can return to whenever we need to.
It was an almost ordinary Friday night, save for the full moon, 70 degrees at 8pm, the new Mumford & Sons cd playing and my kiddo and his dog in the backseat. We had just finished up getting dinner and doggie treats and on the way home, it came over me to just drive, get away from the city lights with the music loud, sunroof open, windows down, and 2 of my favorites with me. I just wanted to go.
Mom: ”Wanna go for a ride”?
Kid: “What? Huh?
Mom: “Do you want to go for a drive, you know like that night we drove home through the mountains from seeing Uncle Hank?”
Kid: “Sure, can we drive to Oregon?”
Mom: ”What? Huh?”
Kid: “Sure, where are we going?”
Mom: “I’ll find a spot…”
We drove out of the city, on the freeway, and I was feeling that spontaneous, free, expansive, wide-awake feeling where thoughts seemed clearer than clear, and yet rushing in from all directions. I was thinking about things I had read that day, the simplicity of dinner with my boy and his dog on a warm-summer-is-over-but-it-doesn’t-feel-like-it evening, the music and lyrics and how they filtered in and out and attached to passing thoughts, formed new ones and helped make some thoughts just make more sense. Music has its way with us, yes?
Feeling the undertow of all this, we sped down the center lane of the 3 lane highway, when a car on my left raced past me, cutting me off as it darted at a diagonal to make the off-ramp on my right. It was alarmingly close and in the split second it took, I realized how fast things can change sometimes; in just an instant. The car sped off down the off-ramp, my heart raced, and I second-guessed whether I had tempted fate by taking this detour from our normal routine. I curbed my enthusiasm to use some four letter words, remembering I am already in debt to my kiddo for ‘indiscretions’ already made…
I found my country road and the darkness I was seeking so that the moon could cast its glow upon the faces of my companions, cuddled up in the back seat. We took turns standing up through the sunroof, moon bathing of sorts. As much as I liked this solitary location, in equal amounts I felt uneasy about being out in the dark countryside sitting by the side of the road.
So, off we drove, onto a road with gently rolling hills, undulations you might say.
I would speed up, and then coast down the descent, each time feeling in our bellies that swoosh you get with each downturn on a swing. My grin matching his giggle, I heard the words, “this is awesome”. We turned around, and rode the hills, heading for home. But, I realized I wasn’t done yet.
Mom: “Do you want to do that again?”
Kid: “Only if you do”
Mom: “No, it’s for you, do you want to?”
Kid: “If you do”
Mom: “No honey, if you want to then let’s, if not we can head home”
Kid: “Mom, if you want to, then let’s do it”
Mom: “Nah, that’s ok, I thought you’d want to”
I am headed towards the freeway entrance when I hear:
“Actually, I do kinda want to do that again…”
Just in time, and with a grin as big as my face, I turned the car around, found the rolling hills, all lit up by the full moon and we laughed our way up and down, up and down.
It was an almost ordinary Friday night.
Come along for the ride…windows down, volume up loud [go full screen if you can]…
One thing can make all the difference in the world.
How one father’s life taken, far too early, can inexplicably change the course of a family for generations, forever.
How one person can change an entire day with just a smile.
How one mother can forever change the world of one little girl.
How one person who abuses their power can cause the suffering of an entire people.
How one child makes a family.
How one leader can dash the morale of an entire soul.
How one partner can render someone invisible to themselves.
How one comment starts a conversation.
How one degree hotter makes water boil.
How one conversation can start a friendship.
How one word can change a whole story.
How one song can lift spirits.
How one friend can make you feel so at home.
Yes, one thing can make all the difference in world.
Do you have a one?
Summer is officially over, and tomorrow commences a new season. But, before summer packs its tank tops, shortens our days and flip flops out the door to let fall rush in, I bring you one last bastion of summer. A follow through on a dare from my friend Paula at Stuff I Tell My Sister. It was a double dog dare that we turned into a double triple – three of us, three times.
If you are like the 17 yr old I asked to take our pictures in Round One of this dare, a teen who ever so subtly rolled her eyes when I asked her to snap the shots, as if to imply that ‘duh, old lady, yes, of course I know‘, then you will know what planking is. But if not, she did indulge me and snapped away while we adjusted knee caps, ribs and other ‘parts’ on the uneven surfaces of gorgeous, but oh so unforgiving, granite boulders so that I could make good on this dare and bring you proof of having carried out the planking promise I made to Paula.
First up was a test run with the junior member of our planking team – (there are different ideas of proper form in planking, and we opted with the one you see here) - and you will see a slight faltering in his form – hands and feet should not be touching the surface, but his face is correctly nose to the grindstone, so he gets points for that. He did move on to the first round of the finals and served as mentor to our other planking amateur.
Judges rank of the plank: so so. Those hands should not be waving, we need to see some superman action here.
Family wins ROUND ONE
The planking mama and kiddo, surveying the land for our next opportunity to strike a pose.
You can see we each competed in our own category:
kiddo’s involved a bit more of a handicap with that granite ledge.
My older, ahem, wiser body
couldn’t wouldn’t quite ‘adapt’ to those contours.
Kiddo wins ROUND TWO
The Final Round went to extremes, planking on the edge of the earth.
My planking partner has some training sessions he missed, and so…
Planking Mama wins the FINAL ROUND.
Paula and I will be representing blogland in the upcoming international planking championships and we are recruiting members of the team. Applications are now being accepted.
So, yesterday I had made a ‘committment’ to spend my Sunday drinking and browsing, but as it turned out, I was outnumbered and outvoted by the men in my house. Which doesn’t take much, as I am the token female in our family. The cat doesn’t count.
But, if I couldn’t spend the day in my pjs curled up with a cup of coffee and the world wide web, at least I could spend the day in my second choice favorites: shorts and a tank top and instead of the couch, here
The boys would have none of this lounging bit, so off we went for a day hike up in one of my favorite place, Desolation Wilderness. I find it ironic how something known as desolation somehow lifts my soul no matter how many times I traverse it’s stark, surface-of-the-moon like terrain.
It was this guy’s first foray into the wilderness, and he held his own and set his sights on vistas far and wide.
We made our contributions to the ‘community rock garden’
And when I am a middle-aged woman, I
shall, I will, (I do now – thanks to the clearance rack at the REI on the way up the hill) wear purple hiking shoes; for in my middle age, I somehow forgot to bring my hiking shoes, for our day of hiking. Tally one for ol’ Twinkle Toes!
And at the end of the day,
There’s always tomorrow!
We took off for a family adventure last weekend; it was a birthday present for that guy I call husband. He’s impossible to shop for: he is not the gadget guy equivalent of my gadget girl, clothes are ho-hum in his opinion and there is no fancy finery he pines for. What he does like are cool experiences shared with his family. In years past it has been things like kayaking, scavenger hunts, hiking, private plane rides, and last year I had promised him a zip line adventure. Then, I got stuck in the sky, well, the airport actually, in Denver on the way home from a conference, and we missed the whole day.
We made up for that this year and headed south + east of our zip code and made our way to the Mother Lode country. Theres gold in them thar hills. If only…
We started out with a journey to the center of the earth. Ok, just 165 feet below the surface. 262 stairs down…262 stairs up.
See, we got about 10 stairs down [see that first set of stairs in the image below], and my kiddo decided something. He. Did. Not. Want. To. Go. Down. His decision was firm, there was nothing wishy washy about it. But we had about 30 people behind us on a stairway maybe 2 feet across. We had to keep going, but we hear this,
“You can’t make me do it”
Well, sort of. He had to get to the bottom of the wooden staircase before we could pull away from the rest of the group.
We tried to allay his fears, but there would be no discussion. So, birthday boy took the plunge to the depths of the earth while the kiddo and I remained on the landing. We watched two guys rappel down through that ‘tube/chute’ - they floated down on ropes all 165′ down to the bottom. All I could think, ‘you can’t make me do it!”
Do you know the difference between a stalagtite and a stalagmite?
I do. Now!
So, once back up in the light of day, above the earth’s crusty exterior, my kiddo is smiling again. We had a little chat about fears, facing them and courage. We were getting ready to take a little ride. A 1500 foot long ride, many feet above the ground. A zip line ride. The harness doesn’t accommodate fear very well…
Sometimes, two heads are just better than one. That’s when we ride tandem. He is old enough and weighs enough to ride solo, but based on the cave experience, we figured together is better.
We got geared up…
…and made our approach to the launch tower. I have to admit, I was nervous as we went higher and higher and then when I caught a glimpse of the cables stretching out in front of us for what felt like forever, my belly did some flip flops and I began to question my sanity.
And I wondered about my kiddo.
He was riding tandem with his dad and I was getting set up to launch next to them.
[Launch = jump off a perfectly stable and perfectly fine platform...]
Together, they took the leap…
…and they did great and make the perfect landing. My fears about my son being afraid were unecessary! Whew!
I shot a video as I
screamed woo-hoo-ed my way down the cable on our first ride. I will spare you that. You’re welcome.
We all loved it and couldn’t wait to ride again, so kiddo and I went tandem
and this guy flew like Superman!
The best moment was when I hear the kid strapped to my lap exclaim,
“This is awesome!”
as we went screaming through the air
Then it was on to the 38′ climbing tower. This time, it was my turn for fear to get the best of me. I was about to reach the top and ring that elusive bell when I just
wouldn’t couldn’t go any higher. I was [enthusiastically] expressing my fear and trepidation about going any higher while the kiddo was at the bottom encouraging me and cheering me on.
The irony of the situation was not lost on me…here we were again having a ‘little chat’ about facing your fears…
So, I gave it what I had, and my brain said go, but my arms wimped out and my fear of falling prevailed. Yes, belay was on, but there is something unnatural about letting yourself fall…
The kid made it to the top though and rang that bell. Later, I was very proud of him when he said that was his favorite moment of the day. I was proud that despite the thrill and the instant fun of the zip line ride, for him, his best moment was an accomplishment only he could take credit for.
I regret not trying again to make it to the top and push a little harder, dig a little deeper, but it’s more important to me that my son had that moment of success and victory!
Apparently, Superman is also part Spiderman. Yes, he rang the bell too. 2 out of 3. Sigh…
On the way, home cruising through the charming old time towns; we could just imagine them in their hey day, before time marched on.
But for us, I’d say, hands down, that our day was no less than…
It was indeed a very good day, and while I tease my husband, a day below and above the earth is much more fun than a new shirt. But, he got that too