Mighty Woman

older woman, grandmother, mother, mother-daughterMy mom just celebrated an incredible birthday milestone. She never shares her age (and gets mad if either of her children do), so I’ll just mention that it rhymes with mighty.

Which is exactly what she is – a mighty woman.

Surprisingly, she and I get along, despite the fact that in many ways we’re polar opposites: she’s small, I’m tall; she’s feisty, I’m more precise; she takes no bull, I avoid bull(ies); she likes to party, I’m usually tardy, always reading a book.

But, somehow, we mix and match, always coming away during our time together with a mighty story.

Like the one that involves a cop, the Golden Gate Bridge, and a departure.

Mom and I are in the car driving toward the San Francisco Airport after one of her non-stop visits – both of us exhausted. But I’ve got a Barry Manilow tune playing (Mom’s favorite) and we’re humming along (“You know I can’t smile without you, I can’t laugh, and I can’t sing, I’m finding it hard to do anything…”) when a thunderous “Wrrrrrrrr, Wrrrrrrrrrr” causes us both to let out a yelp. Golden Gate Bridge, road trip

“What is that noise?” Mom asks, both of us peering ahead, the SF Bay sparkling on our left, the vast Pacific Ocean yawning wide on our right, traffic moving swiftly with us on the Bridge.

I glance in the rear view mirror and gasp.

“A motorcycle cop,” I sputter.

“Well why doesn’t he pass you?” Mom asks, turning up Barry.

“Um, because he’s motioning for me to move over!”

We both turn our heads backward and Mom exclaims, “Shit.” Then she takes the word away, “Don’t tell anyone I said that; I told your children I never use a swear word.”

“Shit,” I respond, “where am I supposed to stop?” On the Golden Gate Bridge, there are no slow lanes, much less empty lanes.

golden gate bridge, motorcycle cop“Turn off before the toll booth and stop,” a robotic voice emits thunderously from the black-helmeted, motorcycle-riding policeman.

What, they have speakers in their helmets now?

“I’m going to give him a piece of my mind,” Mom shrieks as my heart races in anxiety. “He scared us to death – you could have had an accident!”

“Mom, don’t say a word!” I order. As I pull over and we both watch a humongous scowling man get off his motorcycle, his dark police uniform filled with hard lumps of muscle, I repeat louder and slower: “D O  N O T  S A Y  A  W O R D.”

The giant strolls over, John-Wayne like, as I roll down my window. Out of his rock-like face a thin hard mouth opens enough to spit out: “License and registration.”

My tiny mom crawls her upper body across me and shouts out the window to the cop: “I hope you make this fast! I have a plane to catch!!”

If looks could squash someone into a big crushed blob, my mom and I would have been two dead bugs on the Bridge pavement at this point. “I don’t care about your airplane. This car was speeding at 51 miles per hour.”

Before I could exclaim, The speed limit is 45, please give me a break, the policeman turns and macho-strolls back to his motorcycle, glaring up at us every three seconds as if we’re high-risk flights.

Ten anxious minutes later (after which my right ear is numb from listening to my mom’s protestations, recriminations, and demonstrations against the “insensitive, incompetent, insignificant, and impotent bully”) the officer approaches us again, standing with legs wide and expression as serious as dirt.

Before I reopen my window for him, I turn to my mom and plead, “Not a word – pleeeeaaaase.”

He returns my driver’s license, hands me a ticket, and remonstrates, “Speeding is not tolerated on the Bridge. Slow down. When you leave here, go through the toll.”

I swallow my retort and start the car, hoping to get away before my angry passenger can do any more damage. But she opens her window and throws her head out, screaming, “The least you can do is give us a police escort to the airport! I can’t be late!”

Lord above, the mean man stops on his way back to his motorcycle, turning around toward us slow-mo like in a Sylvester Stallone action film.

I gun my car and leave him in the dust, praying, praying, he will not follow, lock us up, and throw away the key.

My mom, after some loud mutterings that I refuse to understand, starts to laugh.

All the way to the airport.

mothers and daughters

Celebrating a mighty birthday this week.

May we have many more mighty fine trips together, Mom. Next time, though, I’m using the window lock position.

Tunnel Vision

Golden Gate Bridge, San FranciscoI make it through the six-hour flight from Boston to LA. I endure the two-hour wait at LAX, a sprawling compound of too many high-stressed, higher ego-ed people, and then the hour hop to SFO.

I hold my breath, remember to release it as we wait, and wait, and wait for our baggage, which finally rolls around the moving horseshoe 45 minutes after we’ve landed.

Our driver, as roly poly as a malt ball, leads us to his small sedan. I fall back in the car seat, my guy’s briefcase sitting like a rock between us as we speed away from the airport and toward the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin County, and freedom from motion once our front door is reached.

But no, instead the car idles in stop and go, bumper-to-bumper malaise on 19th Avenue. On this beautiful Sunday afternoon, thousands and thousands of Bay Area lovers are traveling – somewhere – and are stuck instead on a concrete highway to nowhere.

San Francisco, 19th Avenue, Golden Gate Bridge, traffic

I look out the window at tiny duplexes, the commercial shops selling rubber tires and plastic flowers, the newly sprouted garden lots and dingy gas stations, and I think… uh oh.

A hundred yards from the MacArthur tunnel (the big dark hole we have to drive through to get nearer to the Golden Gate Bridge), I exclaim, loudly yet unintentionally, “Okay, I have to get OUT of here!!”

My guy’s startled glance helps me realize that I sound a bit – crazy? – and the eyes of the front-seat malt ball get rounder and bigger as he stares at me through his rearview mirror.

I open my window – car fumes, anyone? – and pray we don’t stop inside that tunnel. I could lose it – like an inmate too long in her cell. I could kick open the door and run away from the dark dangerous hole of a tunnel toward – what? Would there be light at the end of my tunnel? Or would there be…

MacArthur Tunnel, San Francisco, traffic, Golden Gate Bridge

Something is tapping my knee. Softly at first, then more insistently.

I open my eyes (not realizing they had been squeezed tightly shut) and reach for the item my guy is handing me. His cell phone? With a cord attached to it?

Oh, ear plugs.

Wordlessly, he motions for me to put the ear pieces on. I do, reluctantly. What bad news am I going to hear? The traffic report, for God’s sake?classical  music, music, driving, tunnel, claustrophobia

But no, I hear flute and cello, violin and piano, harmonizing the sounds of angels singing. The music wafts into my brain and my body and my heart. Sweet soulful sounds symbolizing life on the other side of the highways and small cars and tunnels. Life full of green grass, blue skies, puffy clouds, birds soaring, lovers hugging, children laughing. joy trumpeting.

The car stops. My guy reaches for his phone and turns off his app to KDFC, the classical station, because…

            We

                        Are

                                    Home.

Golden Gate Bridge, Marin County

The Fear of Walking

Golden Gate Bridge, pelicans, walkingWalking scares me, yet I practice it every day.

Of course, the actual motion of moving one foot in front of the other, swinging arms, smiling at the dog by my side, feeling the cool San Francisco fog on my face and appreciating the rising rosy sun isn’t scary.

But my walking thoughts are.

What, for instance, would it be like to trade places with the pelican swaying above me right now, showing off its ability to use the power of the wind while eying me with beady distain? If I were he, and he were me, I’d ignore such a useless two-footed creature, stuck in slow motion on a hard surface at limited eye level with the grace of a tree stump.

I’d soar above the blue gray water to search for the tell-tale scaly flash and YES, point my long sharp beak straight down to smash past the wave, pelican, walkling, soul, Golden Gate Bridgegrabbing my meal in one sharp swallow.

Instead, I swallow my disappointment that, in my human form, only dry toast with some sticky peanut butter awaits my slow-footed return to home.

I wonder, if only I tried harder, I could learn the secret of how to release my lighter, brighter soul, the “it” inside of my tree stump of a body, and zoom up and away, exploring the underside of the Golden Gate Bridge, past the Farallon Islands, cross the endless miles of melodic monotonous ocean waters, mingling with the other endless souls released from bunioned toes and stalky legs.

Zap…NO! I don’t want to be released yet from these mortal coils, I scream silently, holding on to my soul like a woman holding down her hat on a too windy day. I’ll stick with the crackling knees and blistered heels, the chapped red knuckles and running nose, the stress of too little time for a deadline-heavy day, and the pang of missing family who live on the wrong coast. I want to continue enjoying the glory of the left coast with sunsets and fog horns and handheld hikes with husband along the soul-drenched waters of life.

dog, walking, San Francisco Bay, soulThe dog tugs and suddenly my thoughts are leashed to the day ahead, the bread to toast, the office desk to manage, the bills to pay, groceries to buy, phones to answer, news to digest, rugs to vacuum, and words to write.

Until tomorrow morning – and another scary walk.

What about you? How scary are YOUR walks?

IT’S ALL GOLDEN

Golden Gate Bridge, traveling, mother/sonThe city sparkles after a rain storm, so if you have a chance, drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, around noon, when a Pacific Ocean storm has just blown through the Gate, Marin County, and the mountains beyond with gale force winds and driving, ravenous rain.

By 9 a.m., after a noisy storm-riddled night, the air is clear and fresh; white and gray puffy clouds dot the sky.  Some thunder tries to roll over Mt. Tam and Mt. Diablo, but then it sighs slowly, giving in to springtime optimism.

Like me, flying out of the office at noon and racing over the Golden Gate Bridge to meet my 30-year-old son, once my ‘hard child,’ as hard as sleet on soft green grass.

I was the grass.grass, family, mother/son

Sometimes he mowed me down when he was a child and teenager, with his sharp edges and relentless questions. “Why can’t I play paint ball on a school day?” “Why do we have to stay home during school vacation?” “Why do I have to study when I get good grades anyway?” “Why do you always say NO?”

Soft grass was I back then, roughening to a weed-like texture with his bombardment of whys.

So why, now, am I soaring over the San Francisco Bay in anticipation of meeting that same son for lunch?

The day brightens with every mile I travel; the city looms ahead like a white Oz, all new and gleaming and magical. The streets stretch smoothly ahead of me, leading me down Lombard, up Van Ness, over Broadway, and then right on the Embarcadero.

My son calls three times, checking on my progress, assuring himself that I’m coming, that Marin County hasn’t gobbled me up in my activities of work and walking, writing and wearing out by mid-afternoon.

No, No, I insist through my handless cell phone speaker. “I’m on Front Street; I’m parking; I’m walking toward you…”

There.

And my ‘hard’ child, the one who has loved me like an old man loves his 80-year-old wife, the son who charmed me with flowers when he was 10 while I was still gritting my teeth over his demands – that son now waits for me with a trimmed beard highlighting his welcoming smile, his dimple hidden by the thick brown hair, his lips touching my cheek lightly, softly, as he whispers,

“Hi Mom.”

Oz, beautiful city, San Francisco