End of the day goodness

End of the day goodness
Backyard travel

Sunday, January 25, 2015

50,000 Carnations on the Bubble Gum Float Part Deux

So where was I?  Oh yes, the most fun I have ever had trying not to snore up lead paint.  You see I was staying with dear friends at what HDTV would lovingly refer to as a 1929 California Bungalow.  James and Rich had recently purchased this place and while indeed charming, she had a few years on her and was in need of some cosmetic surgery.  They took this adventure on with gusto.  While I was busy being ridiculously unsuccessful at managing my life, these guys were my age, renovating a house and open to houseguests.  What better environment for me to rebound under?  Seriously, going from Dallas in December to Pasadena California is in itself transformative.  Even the sun is transformed, it baths every plant, every human, every building in the most flattering light possible.   Everything simply looks happy.

So it was in the glow of happy that I arrived at the bungalow.  James apologizing profusely for his solid dirt yard, apparently the victim of a vicious chinch bug attack;  home ownership, the joy.  We walk inside and he apologizes for the lawn furniture, they haven’t picked out furniture yet and I think they have just finished redoing the floors, ripping up silly gross carpet to reveal these gorgeous floors.  I get the full tour, the house is cool and breezy.  It is California, I forget, they can open their windows without millions of bugs taking up residence.  Wait, hmmm, there do not appear to be windows.  James apologizes and explains the complexity of fixing 1929 panes in the 1990’s.  Not a lot of people do it, they got the windows off, started and apparently the craftsman working on fixing them has gone AWOL.  Now getting the original windows back on is proving difficult because everything shifted and now they won’t go back on.  He ominously states the first person to get up in the morning claims the one real chair in the living room.  I think to myself, I am the guest; I have no problem with plastic lawn chairs.  Not to mention I am recently divorced.  Recently re-employed.  And currently residing under my parent’s roof with a giant scarlet “L” tattooed on my brain.  To me, everything about their place was wonderful.  This is how it is suppose to be when you start life in your twenties.   It is exciting and wonky and I feel unbelievably lucky to be standing in the middle of it.  Of course there are going to be the chinch bugs of life killing your sod; but the upside to that period of life is that you don’t let a bald yard keep you from doing fun stuff.  You explore the cool coffee houses.  You eat at the new Thai restaurant.   The itinerary that awaited me would make the Prince and Princess of Windsor jealous. 

We started with a hike.   They had great hiking right out their front door but we decided to go to “real” mountains that were not far away. One of the downsides of being young and immortal is that you don’t think about practical things like packing trail mix and water.  In fact, you don’t pack.  You just head for the hills.   I think we got a later start than we intended, but the day was our oyster; we saw no need to hurry. James and I were flat-landers.  We weren’t thinking how quickly the sun falls out of the sky when it slides behind a mountain.   We started up and over, and talked and walked, walked and talked, and suddenly stopped to look around.  Wow.  It was later than we thought.  Wow.  It was getting kind of cold.  Hmm, we could not see the parking lot.  We had better start walking down.  Quickly. 

After about 15 or 20 minutes, the trees cleared so we were able to move to the side of the mountain and try to figure out where we were.   This side was fairly steep and rocky.  In fact, it looked slightly daunting, still, in our current predicament, time was not on our side and going down this way would probably give us an important extra 30 minutes of daylight.  We had no food or water, it goes without saying we had no flashlight.  This was the pre cell phone era so flashlight apps, gps apps, anything useful to knuckleheads had not yet been invented.   Rich took off down the side and made it look, if not exactly easy, doable.  He stood looking up at us from the bottom trying to give pointers.  I sat down on a large rock and could see my path down.  I had just climbed from the large rock onto a gravely section right below it.  There was something wrong.   The path I had just seen disappeared as all the rock that had been sitting there for God knows how long decided to go for a roll.  But it wasn’t finished.  I don’t know how to describe it but there was something that felt like rumbling underneath me.  I was in scoot position when I put one arm up to James.  “Something is about to happen.”  “What do you want me to do?” he asked.  “Just hold my arm with all your might.”  And he did, thank God because everything underneath me just went.

So back up on the big rock I went, thankful not to be in the new pile down below.  Now James and I opted to go the long way round and Rich was stuck waiting for us on the other side of the mountain.  The thing about hiking is that the first half is so glorious that by the time you decide to head back, it is too late.  The blisters are already forming.  The warm air has turned to a chilly wind that pokes at your chapped lips and sunburned nose.  Suddenly you are aware of muscles that did not exist a mere three hours ago.  The trek back could be completely miserable were you not in the company of friends.  James and I had each other to take our minds off these minor irritations.  Rich did not.  When we discovered him he was wandering around a stream trying to find his sock.  You really would not think a sock could get up and run away from such a tiny area.  Rich had walked in the direction he figured we would pop out at and there happened upon a small stream.  One can only wait alone by a stream for so long with fresh blisters without succumbing to the temptation to plunge feet into what Coors has always taught us is the most magical water on earth.   No doubt other creatures find them magical as well.  Like the snake, a.k.a. cleverly disguised stick, which caused Rich to drop his sock and run for his life.   We looked and looked for that darn sock.  Somewhere on that mountain I picture a giant glob of single socks, a memorial to the snake stick.

By the time we got back to the car there was only a tiny shred of light in the sky.  We were dirty and exhausted and ridiculously high on surviving.  I went to my cozy little room in the bungalow.  Ready to stand for hours under the shower head in the petite shower attached to my room.  This bathroom was a huge benefit to the house.  I think it started its life as a closet and perhaps the owners before had up'd the market value 10 fold by turning the house from one bathroom into the coveted two.   However, at this moment, the shower was working only slightly better than a leak.  It was hot.  I will give it that.  But the water only came out in a trickle so I had to wait to gather a handful at a time and throw it on different body parts.  I did get to spend my hours under the shower head but only because it takes a while to get hike filth off a handful at a time.  I lay down grateful for my sleeping pad on the floor.  James poked his head in, said something deep and meaningful about me being there.  My heart swelled.  Then he looked around the room at all the interesting white and silver flecks that coated the floor like snow all around me.  “Oh, try not to breath any of that in, houses built in 1929, lead paint.  We are in the process of scraping it all off.  Good night.”

In two minutes I was out like a log.  Not that I have any desire to go back to being under 30, but I would love to be able to sleep like a log on a floor, with no windows, no fear of intruders and lead paint all around me.  Now, the hoot owl in the woods keeps me awake.  A beep on the other side of the house wakes me up.  Peeing every morning at 4am wakes me.   Perhaps I would go back to my youth not to party but to sleep.

I guess this post is going to have to be a trilogy.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

16 Not So Easy Pieces

Back in October or the beginning of November, I am not sure, I have a horrible sense of time, Helen joined the 3rd grade Music Memory team.  Their competition was yesterday.  It has been a short ride on a fast machine to get to the certificate displayed on the dining room table.  When it started, I had no idea how much I would learn about my wise little 8 year old and her ability to listen fully.

My role in this has been mostly to provide opportunities for her to listen.  The music teachers at her elementary school have done all the heavy lifting.  They provided us flash cards, a cd of the music, a folder with information on each of the pieces and composers.  They have been working with the students twice a week before and after school.  And as I said, the girls and I listen.  We have the cd in the car and we listen to it on the way to school, to and from the Reading Ranch and back and forth to the grocery.  It has been a long time since I have listened to one cd non-stop over and over.  I think the last one was The Indigo Girls when I was in college or maybe Graceland.  I had forgotten what it is like to have a musical companion like that.  One that lifts you with its carefully placed notes that speak directly to your heart.  This was even sweeter because it was Helen, Lauren and I listening together.  We all had our favorites.  Lauren loves Pa Pa Pa Papagena by Mozart.  Helen loves the Cello Suite #1: Prelude by Bach.  And, I never tire of Copeland's Fanfare for the Common man.  

As time went on, Helen would say things like, "Listen, do you hear this part?  It sounds happy which is confusing because it is suppose to be a march to the death but it is happy.  That is how you know he is writing about a dream."  Lauren and I would learn these things and then we too were able to listen more fully with an appreciation and understanding that Helen was giving us.  She never did this in a bossy way, it would pop out as she would hear it, with understanding and clarity.  An "aha" moment where she connected what her teachers had taught her.  

It is a wonderful thing to share music with your children.  It is quiet connected time.  It is also the first time where I listened to Helen less as a Mom and more as a person interested in what she has to say.  It is good for both of us.  We are emerging into an age where she is becoming more complex.  It is important that I notice the changes in her tempo, rhythm and mood.

So, by yesterday we had been living and breathing Music Memory for awhile and as a result, we were pretty invested in the competition.  She needed to be to the high school by 8am.  I had visions of the whole team forfeiting because I failed to get her there on time.  Thank God, this was not the case.  She finished by 9:30am.  We were free until 2pm when the winners would be announced.  Mom and Dad came in for lunch and the ceremony.  Helen's piano teacher braved the chaos and was there to cheer Helen on too.  

I went into parent auto pilot, relying on all those things that have been said forever, "do your best, we are proud of you know matter what, you know this stuff like the back of your hand...you will be fine, eat your eggs and pumpkin pie so you have lots of brain power.  I love you."  We were very well prepared except that apparently we dropped her off needing to pee like a race horse at exactly 2pm.  Apparently I misread Helen crossing her fingers at me from the gym floor.  It was not hoping they would place in the competition.  It was hoping she wasn't going to pee in front of 500 onlookers.  Luckily the music teacher likes her and had a very sweet look on her face as she and Helen raced to the bathroom moments before the rankings were announced.  They made it back in time. 

There is something very satisfying about watching your kid sitting in the middle of a team they are part of.  All of them beaming with happy anticipation.  Of course up in the stands Mom, Dad, John and I sat befuddled by a wompy PA system trying to use our spy brains to figure out what was being said.  We knew Music Memory womp womp womp was happening.  Helen and several of her team mates were going to the podium.  We assumed since they were all going up, that they had gotten 5th place.  But something wasn't right, they were getting certificates and so were kids from other schools.  Still it must have been overlapping because it was all of Helen's team.  They started calling out 6th place.  5th place.  4th place.  3rd place.  Maybe Helen's team got honorable mention then?  2nd place.  1st place, Cheatham Elementary.  Helen's team got first place!!!  All the kids came up to the front carrying their certificates and being presented blue ribbons.  Come to find out, the certificates were for perfect papers.  Five of the six people on Helen's team did not miss one thing on their tests.  That is why they all came up.  They were receiving Certificates of Excellence.  Helen of course felt bad for the one girl on her team who did not get a perfect paper.  She felt bad for Cheatham's 5th grade team for getting 6th place because there had been a 5 way tie and they had not done well on the tie breaker so no one would realize that they had all scored perfectly on the first round and had originally tied for first.  Mostly though she was happy and proud of her team, her rocking music teacher and herself.  

We celebrated in McGurk style with Slurpees.  I am sure future activities will end in ribbons, tears or both but this will always have that distinction of being the first.  This will be the one where we fell in love with 16 beautiful pieces of music.  Where we realized how different it is to vaguely hear than to listen with awareness.

For my sweet girl who has reminded me how to listen.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

50,000 Pink Carnations on this Bubble Gum Float - Part Une

When I say that I have a reputation for torturing others with the Rose Bowl parade on New Years day, I am not kidding or exaggerating a bit.  Even in college where the New Year’s Eve festivities went on until 3 or 4 am, I would pop up in a hazy hotel room filled with people coating every piece of floor and furniture, quietly turn on the tv and rejoice in the floral borage through my hang over.  I would keep it as quiet as possible but I desperately needed to know how many 100’s of daisy’s, thousands of tapioca pearls, and millions of cranberry seeds were used on the animated butterfly on the Mutual of Omaha float.  I know, it is a strange obsession to have at 21.  I think most people don’t get the weather and tournament of roses obsessions until they have been on the planet at least 6 or 7 decades. 

Needless to say, no matter how quiet the parade announcers are in their perky morning personality voices, it is not quiet enough for 20-somethings on New Year’s morning.  I was fortunate to make it through this period of my life with friends.  Of course the next period of life was even weirder.  I married a guy who wore muscle shirts, smoked Marlborough’s in a gold and white package, drove a 1970 Chevelle and though I have tried not to say these words ever, when we first dated he did in fact have what could have been viewed as a mullet.  There is nothing wrong with these things.  But if you know me, this would be pretty much an exact opposite description of my soul mate.   I am sure I was the only one who was surprised after 9 months to realize this marriage was not going to work.  I put on the black hat and told this really sweet guy that I was riding off into the sunset without him. 

Nothing sobers a person up to adulthood like a failed marriage.  I was now a statistic.  I didn’t even have the excuse of getting married when I was too young to know better.  I was mid-twenties when I lost my mind.   I walked away from my marriage and my bohemian Wimberley lifestyle.  I decided it was time to start acting like a grown up.  I moved home.  I got a real job with people who did not drink vodka and smoke pot before noon.  So after Christmas I decided, what better way to embrace my new older wiser self, then to take a trip.  A trip to Pasadena Ca where one of my best childhood friend’s had just bought a house.  That is what I needed to ring in the New Year.  A trip to visit the person who spent hours comforting me when I could not admit to anyone else my marriage was crumbling.  The one person who would love me enough to be harassed into going to see the Rose Bowl Parade at 8am on New Year’s Day.

There are trips in life and then there are the monuments.  This was a monument.  When I look back, I am always amazed that the rock slide incident, the trickle shower, Coronado Bay, West Hollywood and the Rose Parade were all the same trip.  It was the most fun I ever had trying not to snore and inadvertently suck up lead paint.