Never Ever Say Never

fall, New EnglandWhen my man and I left New England four years ago, I swallowed a huge lump in my throat – a lump of fear and relief, joy and dread, wonder and excitement. After ten years of incredible autumns, rejuvenating springs, god-awful winters and soul-satisfying summers, we were moving back to the land that I love – San Francisco Bay area.

And when our friends greeted us on the left coast, I blithely and ridiculously said, “I’ll never live on the East Coast again.” Continue reading

Adventures in Babysitting

babysitting, grandmother, granddaughter, flyingTraveling with a 5-year-old is not for the faint-at-heart.

My Boston granddaughter visits my man and me for a wonderful wacky week, but now it’s time for me to fly her back to the “right” coast.

Because of a planned 6:30 a.m. shuttle for a 9 a.m. flight, I urge my rosebud to bed early the night before and warn her that “I’ll wake you up tomorrow so we can make our flight on time!”

Every other morning, the sleepy princess slumbers past 8:30, and her devious grandmother (yes, that’s me), anxious for the day’s fun to begin, releases the button to her air mattress, deflating the bed and waking the befuddled girl.

So on flight day, I wake up at 5 a.m., figuring I have 75 minutes to shower, dress, and pack before the little one is woken.

But at 5:15, I hear a noise in the child’s room and find her dressed (including headband, shoes, and bracelet), ready to “help” her Madre.

Have you ever packed with a 5-year-old? Each item is lovingly petted, then thrown into the suitcase with wild abandon. The child practices bouncing and jumping on the said suitcase so that it closes properly.

However, her red carry-on case is cajoled to close too aggressively, and one of the side locks suddenly appears in the girl’s hand. Her wide blue eyes express the perfect sentiment:flying with child, granddaughter, suitcase, grandmother


We swirl to the airport and stand in line at security, me handling my suitcase, her suitcase, my carry on and her carry on,  while simultaneously holding granddaughter’s hand.

The line is long, the wait interminable for a wide-awake little girl. “Mommy always lets me sit on my carry on,” she explains patiently.

Well, Mommy wasn’t missing a lock, I mumble to myself, but for the sake of happiness, I let my sweetuns sit (softly! I admonish) on her hard red case.

But the damn lock is missing, and with 10 people ahead of us, and 98 behind, the red case explodes open.

child's medical kit, security lines, airport, grandmotheringOut pops 6 My Little Ponies; 1 toothbrush; 4 headbands; 1 long-legged, pink-clad doll; 3 Fancy Nancy books; and 1 kid’s medical kit that includes a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, 1 thermometer, and 1 reflex hammer.

The security guard barks, “Keep it moving!” as I frantically throw the items, now spread out on the airport floor like ants on a picnic table, into the red case.

“Hurry, Madre,” my granddaughter exclaims, probably hearing the exasperated sighs behind us.

Miraculously, I jam it all in and snap the case (sort of) shut, leaving out not even one little pony.

We make it to our airplane seats unimpeded, although I admit my grateful sigh is loud enough to induce some chuckles in the rows in front and behind us. I pray that the little one is as tired as I am after our early morning trials, but she proceeds to talk, and talk, and talk the entire 5 ½-hour-trip! Not that her conversation isn’t fascinating, but halfway through I suggest it’s time for us to take a nap.

I could have suggested we take a flying leap out of the airplane at 3,000 feet in the air.

“Madre! Did you forget I don’t nap anymore???!”

Two hours later I suggest we close our eyes, just to give them a rest.

“I’m not tired, Madre, but you can close your eyes.” She proceeds to examine me with her medical kit, stethoscope on my chest and thermometer on my lips, to see if there is a medical reason for my fatigue.airplane, pilots, flying with child, female pilots

And then, she asks to go to the bathroom, noting that the “pilots” seem to walk to the rear of the plane often (she doesn’t understand the difference between air flight attendants and pilots, and I’m so impressed that she thinks it’s normal to have three female pilots for one plane, I don’t try to explain).

But when we make it to the back, my granddaughter is shocked and dismayed at the “pilots” sitting in their seats, facing the wrong way.

“HOW CAN THEY STEER FROM HERE???” she screams in concern.

Philosophically, I think sometimes that’s exactly how it feels in life – we steer from the wrong end of the plane.

But I ditch my ruminations, buy her a ginger ale and a box of raisins, and we read “The Night Before Kindergarten” until the plane gently lands.

Facing the right way.

granddaughter, flying, airplane, grandmothering, traveling, adventures in babysitting

Whistle While You Work

work, whistle, joy, movingI can’t whistle.

I used to try, when I was a young girl, attempting to imitate my dad. His light-hearted whistle always made my heart jump. I felt happy, joyful, like everything was right in our world.

But I finally gave up about the time I began wearing ‘training’ bras. Whistling was a part of childhood to discard, like my favorite stuffed dog and a 7 p.m. bedtime.

Then, as a mom, I tried to teach my progeny, pursing my lips together, blowing out spittle, never succeeding. My children were just as genetically disabled, so the entire family gave up whistling years ago.

Until the joy of whistling returned to me one early morning this summer, when the boxes had been packed and the furniture readied.  The clock struck eight times, and a large moving van arrived with four men to load and drive our possessions to a new place, two minutes away.movers, move, whistle

I liked the condo my man and I had lived in for two years (lease ended, owner putting it on market), so all the time and effort necessary to start anew at another place was disheartening.

Until the movers arrived.

Except for one wiry man in his 40s, the other well-muscled fellows were 25 and younger. They arrived fresh-faced and attentive, despite the morning hour and the heavy load ahead of them. They talked little, nary a grunt between them all, and worked in a synchronicity that looked balletic.

And then.

A whistle

The dark-haired kid with one earring, a small goatee, and legs thicker than tree trunks began to whistle. You know, like a dwarf in Snow White, whistling while he worked.




My spirit soared. This move would be just fine. We’d love our new place, my man and I, and we’d have fun unpacking everything and finding new ways to arrange the sofa and the tea kettle, the family photos and the hummingbird feeder, the computer table and the reading chair.

I smiled, pursed my lips, and ….. couldn’t conjure even the hint of a sound.

But that was okay. Jason the mover brought a whistle into my head, and that’s all I needed to sing happily all move long.

What about you? Do you whistle while you work, even if it’s soundlessly?

whistle, work


What I Didn’t Do on My Summer Vacation

What did you NOT do this year on your summer vacation?

Mid-August this year, I reflected on last year at the same time. Even more, I focused on what I wasn’t doing this year.  I did not drive cross country, steering away from a settled 10-year-home in Boston to a bayside town on the other side of the country. No desperate packing of ‘must haves’ after the even more difficult job of getting rid of so many items – furniture, rugs, books, antiques, hard-object memories that I simply didn’t have room to keep in our downsized near future.

Not wanting to release negative energy, I learned a year ago how to say goodbye with a smile: goodbye to the stiff old chair my father’s sister bought in the1950s; goodbye to the piles of notebooks that journaled my life for the past 15 years; goodbye to the rug that son Sean stained when he dropped the bowl of blueberry buckle; goodbye to the crib that Sophie, our first granddaughter, climbed out of when she was 10 months old; goodbye to the double bed with cherry headboard that once gave sleepy shelter to my 80-year-old mother and 16-year-old niece, together, during a stormy Thanksgiving night. Mom claimed that Stephanie kicked her for 8 long hours; Stephanie moaned that her Nanny snored louder than the wind.

But memories stay with us, even if the objects don’t. So what I didn’t do on August 8 this year, was push the essentials into our 1 car – essentials like 2 suitcases, 1 work computer, and 1 large golden retriever with water bowl and blankie, and drive with my 1 essential husband out of the town we’d called home for 10 incredible years.

The town didn’t want to give us up. We’d understood that scary fact last August as roadblock after roadblock – literal and figurative – appeared. Organizations that promised to collect our valued goods – mattresses, headboards, tables and chairs – would call 15 minutes before pick up and say, ‘never mind.’ Friends who promised to take care of cherished plants changed their minds minutes before taking them home, crying “but what if Benji dies in my care – you’ll never forgive me.” Our one essential car broke down a week before takeoff, some rare car part gave out that perhaps my husband understood but I never did.

And then, on the day we were to depart, the car wouldn’t start. At all. New battery dead. In the driveway at 7:15 on a hot humid summer morning, where all was packed, dog settled in back seat, exhales allowed, the car said NO.

We did, somehow, coax it to begin again, but then, driving down Monument Street, the curving road lined with oaks and pine and cherry, stone walls and big solid brick houses, a behemoth streaked across the road, huge and feathered, looking
like a monster from another world. Husband hit the brake hard, and our getaway car shuttered to a stop. The monster stopped too and turned to stare us down. A wild turkey, with dark bottomless eyes that seemed to say, “I dare you leave
this place.”

Husband, never one for hyperbole or mysticism, whispered, “do you think it’s going to let us go?”

“The turkey?” I whispered back.

 “No, the town,” he said louder as he tapped the accelerator. The car lurched forward, our released sighs helping it along, and we finally, finally, drove on toward our future to the other side.