Monday, February 27, 2012

Backpacking to California

In case you've been wondering where I've been, I'm going to tell you. A one-week trip, and I got everything into my daypack. Of course, my feet are so weird I can hardly wear any shoes, so I wore my Merrill trainers -- in tasteful black -- every day. For dressup, I brought my other jeans -- also in tasteful black -- and a posh scarf to wear with a sweater, but I never needed them. To tell you the awful truth, I wore my Levi's 525s every goll-darn day. I was on vacation! I did what I wanted!

My kids live in Petaluma. They moved; it's a new house to me, a townhouse in a development. From the master bedroom, where I got to stay while my stepdaughter and her husband went off to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary, I looked through the heavy, turning limbs of a crispy-leaved California oak into a historic cemetery.

We said goodbye to the parents, my 17-year-old granddaughter and 9-year-old grandson, and I. Then Parker and I made sandwiches and headed for the cemetery. We spent part of each of my three days there. We made rubbings, first with old purple crayon and copy paper, then with a graphite pencil and newsprint. We found a part of the cemetery that was all babies. We read on a tall tombstone the history of a family in which three children had died within a few months. We saw the graves of a family that must have fallen, in 1912, to the flu epidemic. We peered into mausoleums, with their stained glass windows, plastic flower arrangements, a potted plant with a baseball on the soil, a marble interior with a broom slouched in the corner.

Parker has become voluble, and interesting, since my last visit. I asked him that first lunchtime in the cemetery about school. He told me all about his social studies unit on the local Miwok people, articulately and with detail. He mentioned that he was on page six of a story he's writing.

We were both intrigued, it turned out, with a tiny yellow house just across the playground from his home. When I saw it, I said, "If I lived in Petaluma, that would be my house." It has a corrugated metal roof, and a front door with a window on each side, like a child's drawing. Parker pointed out that the door is blocked by a shrub; hmm.

On Sunday morning, prior to his tryout for an elite competitive soccer team, I said, "I'm going to write a story about the yellow house. You want to write one too?"

He did. He disappeared to get his thick binder full of lined notebook paper, and we both just wrote. Then we read our stories to each other. Grammy heaven.

We ate oranges from their tree, and made a lemon sponge dessert from their lemons. I cooked with granddaughter Audrey, one of our favorite things. Parker and I walked to the grocery store and mastered self-checkout, and hiked downtown for a secret stop at Bovine Bakery: cookie for him, brownie for me.

We played the Game of Life, and Farkle, a dice game my stepson introduced us to after his birthday dinner on Sunday night.

Then I was delivered to Mark and Susan, at the top of Inverness Ridge. My little room was a dream: A single bed, right up by the window so I could feel the sweet cool air on my face all night. A view over the ridge to Tomales Bay below. On my second night, I woke at 4:38 and put on my glasses, so I could see the layers of fog filling the valley and the bay, and above them, a sky full of stars.

And those are just a few of the highlights of my lovely trip. So now I'm home in Seattle and, true, there's snow here and there, but also sunshine, and I'm biking off to work with my beloved kindergartners in a minute.


Mom said...

I had heard some of this, of course, but I'm so pleased to have a beautifully written copy to enjoy over and over again.

Suzi said...

What a wonderful trip and great memories for your grandson too. I also love old cemeteries.

Beth said...

So neat that you are passing on the love for writing to your grandson.


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