Lost

Today I feel caught between worlds. I grew up in a country place that has not changed much, a place with an easy rhythm, lots of land and an uncomplicated approach to life.  

My sister, Kristen, wrote this in her letter today: I decided to find a new home for Mom’s sewing machine. A Mennonite friend picked it up the same day. It will be shipped to Romania where machines will be distributed to women who need them. I love the idea of mom’s machine traveling and being used like that. Funny, you wrote about not having an iphone. I have found that communication with my Mennonite friends is one of my greatest pleasures, because they have not lost their reverence for face-to-face communication. They honor the person they speak with, giving them eye contact, attention and thoughtful responses. Their social skills are a breath of fresh air, a balm to my soul. 

My sister’s village is unadorned and rural, a single flashing light marking the center. Rush hour comes on Sunday mornings when Mennonite horses and buggies make an austere stream of uninterrupted traffic on an otherwise empty road. This environment lives in my childhood soul, informing my frame of reference. Part of me really wants to live on the land, go into town with horse and buggy and stop the pace of modern life. 

This view sits next to the bustle of Los Angeles, where everyone is in a hurry, dressed to impress and focused on serious career paths. I tried to imagine myself as a resident during my visit. It would require a modern hair style, fashionable clothes, a shingle hung in a good neighborhood and tripling my prices. I could brag about movie star clients and eat sushi in the best restaurants, while sucking up car exhaust and sunshine. 

The last time I flew from that tiny village into the heart of Los Angeles, the shock was so great my back collapsed. My son was not successful yet and had an appointment of his own, so I had to drive his car to the chiropractor… all by myself. The car was old and the doors broken, meaning I had to climb through the passenger seat window and crawl to the driver’s seat in order to get anywhere. Then I got lost, and drove in circles. When I pulled to the curb to ask for help, folks either ignored me or ran away, unless they were deranged, then they wanted to crawl in next to me.

After an hour of lurching around the city, I pulled over, crawled out the window yet again…on the passenger side, walked in a shoe store run by an Italian man, sat down on his shoe-trying-on-bench and wept. “I don’t know where I am! I’m supposed to drive toward the ocean, but I can’t find it – or see it – and nobody will tell me where the damn thing is! I can’t do this anymore.” He offered his phone. I called my son’s office and one of his friends answered. “Help,” I said,” I’m lost.” He listened, then asked. “Where are you?” I couldn’t believe it. I was on my last nerve. “If I knew where I was I wouldn’t be lost.” I hung up on him. The Italian man calmed me down, took the address and helped me crawl through the window again. “Its okay lady, you’re almost there.”

I’m stuck today between a flashing red light and the pull of Los Angeles memories.

End of a visit

I have been remiss, I know. I haven’t posted for a long time having taken myself on a much needed vacation, a writer’s vacation, where I’ve done 75 joyous hours of work. Ha! My new memoir is well on its way. My apologies to the two people who actually read this blog. 

I’m still in Los Angeles with my son Clay and his partner, Khrystyne, so my work breaks are filled with sunbathing, and walks down neighborhood streets under shouting sapphire skies.

I go home tonight and will miss them both, but must admit that my favorite part of being here was having my son to myself, as we drove three and a half hours to San Luis Obispo for Britan’s 16th birthday. I can’t remember when we’ve had that kind of time. Brit is my granddaughter, nearly six feet tall and lovely, sometimes called giraffe by unkind friends. But this birthday brought another kind of gift, a boyfriend who is six foot seven. She walks proudly by his side, even shopping for high heeled boots. My son’s card to her touched me:  You have always been more than I could have ever wished for. You are an amazing person and I love you. 

Clay and I sang, laughed and reminisced as we drove up and back. My son and daughter had a hard time of it growing up, resulting in a stagnant pool of parental guilt, but my son had a different take, “Oh no, Mom. It was all valuable life experience. I’m so glad I had it, all of it.” His words gave me a  “Get Out of Jail Free” card. 

Khrystyne is a tiny Vietnamese beauty who missed the party for a job interview. She has three passions: cleaning, cooking and my son. The house sparkles, cooking shows run back to back on a kitchen television and we all waddle from room to room nursing over-fed bellies. We returned from our trip to an excited Khrystyne, who’d discovered a new method for flea removal. The shop vac! Their dog, Cowboy, sat patiently as she ran the vacuum up and down his fur.  You’d think he was paying for a spa treatment, but then who wouldn’t behave if you were being given steak and turkey on the side? 

Yesterday Clay and Khrystyne told me they needed to go off by themselves, said they needed an afternoon alone. My alarm bell went off. “Oh no. I’ve overstayed my welcome. They have to leave their own house to feel comfortable. My visit has been too much.” But today they proudly displayed the birthday gifts they needed to get rid of me to buy. My heart opened in gratitude.  My dear son,  You have always been more than I could have ever wished for. You are an amazing person and I love you.

 

 

Melrose

 

 

It was snowing in Portland with a high of 27 degrees, and more of the same on the way. I printed my boarding pass in Los Angeles ready to get on a 9 p.m. flight, the idea of returning to Oregon as appealing as a root canal. Khrystyne looked at the weather and suggested I stay. My son concurred. I listed all the reasons I could not, but there was that sun shining from a bragging blue sky. I took a leap and said, yes, deciding to stay, not a few more days but through the end of the month.

I took a walk on Melrose at dusk to clear my head and integrate my decision.  A well-dressed young woman in black approached needing bus fare. I reached in my wallet and gave what I had. Browsing, I stepped into a Sugar Free Bakery and discovered it was the name of a Hello Kitty Outlet, with no food in sight. Outside,  I watched a man cross four lanes of traffic from a side street by willfully inserting his car, then honking an entitled blare until he was allowed passage. Very, not Oregon. I walked on. Shop windows displayed clothing I couldn’t imagine a real person wearing, on mannequins with hair the color of food dyes.

The scent of flowers pulled me into a vast open-air market where rows of elegant white orchids reined on high rise shelves. I was awash in nature and just as quickly back on the sidewalk.  A young man approached, handsome, fit and Latin. We smiled. He stopped, taking his guitar from his back. “I want to sing for you. Would you allow that?”   I was taken in by his dark eyes and movie star looks, wondering if he had an available Grandpa tucked away in his life. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I just gave my cash to a young woman needing bus fare. I have nothing to give you.” He stepped back.  “I am not after money. I just want you to listen. I want to make you happy with my music.” Traffic roared by as evening blanketed our meeting. He gestured toward a dim horizon as night fell over the street. “I want to coax the sun from the sky for you, because your spirit is as pure as the sun.”

He played and sang for a long time, light, grace and sound flowing between us on an otherwise empty sidewalk.  He seemed a celestial guest sent to reward my decision to stay. When he finished, he pulled a C.D. from his pocket.”For you!”  I thanked him and walked away.

I was excited to share his music with Clay and Khrystyne when I returned home, but without the man and the night, the magic and the moment, it sounded a little empty.

Clayton

air-coffeeMy son left today and I am not going to cry.

I am not going to envision the kind of connection we could have if he lived in Portland and not in Los Angeles.

I’m not going to replay all the ways I failed him as a child.

I am not going to dwell on the hurt I know he carries deep in the fabric of his childhood heart.

I am not going to miss his smile for days after he has gone.

I am not going to wish I saw him once a week instead of once a year.

I am not going to wish I could do his childhood over so I could be a better, normal, stable, not so weird mom.

I am not going to take it personally when he’d rather fill his visit here with friends and sports than hang out with his white haired mother.

I’m not going to think about how much I love him as I wash each dish in the sink.

I’m not going to dwell on what a strong man he turned out to be, what a fine husband and father.

I’m not going to yearn for the blonde curly haired toddler I cuddled and played with for so many years, the one who got older and went to live with his dad because I was melting down.

I’m not going to think about how open and loving he is with each child he meets.

I’m not going to think about how much his humor delights me, and how I could not imagine a more perfect son.

I’m not going to miss him with every cell in my mama body.

Well, maybe I will, maybe a little.

Sun

 

lion-in-snow1

I miss my little boy. He was a ray of light straight from the sun. His hair was blonde and tight with ringed curls, his eyes searching and open. I used to love to snap his blue jeans closed under that two year old belly that ballooned out inviting kisses, inviting me to blow that kind of mouth noise that made him scream and giggle with delight. His cheeks were full and round, the kind to grab and squeeze. I’d take one of those little hands as we walked and swing him skyward until he saddled snug against my shoulders. We’d travel for blocks that way, him being a giant and me with my ray of sunshine and love proudly displayed for the world to see.

Those years went so fast. When I look at him now, I wonder how it happened. How did my little blonde boy grow into such a man’s man. How did he get to be so darned big and grown up? I know there are logical answers, but they don’t satisfy the mama in me who often longs for her green eyed toddler with the rounded belly. I loved him and miss our times together. I love the man too, but he is a different kind of giant, one who no longer needs my shoulders to make him seen and tall. I marvel at the man before me. How did this happen? Life is confusing that way.

Post Holiday Blues

sunset-rideIt’s not like I want to live in Los Angeles. I never could, but there was something wonderful about being there for Thanksgiving. Sunshine and warmth for starters. I was with my son, Clayton and his wife, Khrystyne. He is six foot three and wears extra large shirts, she is a tiny Vietnamese beauty who perches on his lap like the little bird she is. Clay took me along Mulholland Drive to the base of the Hollywood sign on his bright red motorcycle. I loved every minute. Riding with him is one of my favorite treats. He has been racing and riding motorcycles for as many years as I can remember. I place myself in his hands with complete confidence, but when he rides with no hands or on one wheel, it’s Khrystyne who’s on the back and not me. 

His other love is skateboarding. Clay has built a half pipe in his backyard. Friends roll back and forth becoming airborne under propane lights with mariachi or soul music pouring from neighboring yards. Clay lives in The Hood where folks are awake and active without apology. 

Thanksgiving at my growing up house was elegant and formal, fine dining at its best with imported wines, fine china, crystal glasses and cuisine that still lingers in memory. Chateau brignon, prime rib, lobster and scalloped potatoes were artistically arranged with fresh flowers, fruits and good silver. That was the gift of owning a restaurant and having a mother who appreciated fine things.

It was different at my son’s house. The only table sat near the wall, covered with computers, monitors and work orders. We cleared that off, sliding the table to the center. Then we washed off lawn chairs to make enough seating. There was no tablecloth. I drew the line at paper plates. I asked for music to dine by. Clay put on a collection of old Beatles songs, followed by Snoop Dogg.  I could not help but contrast our meal with the way I grew up. 

I’m proud of my son. He dropped out of high school and lived lost for a long time. After his daughter was born, he stabilized and followed his love of graphic design. He is thirtyeight years old now, and sought out by CNN, People Magazine, Sports Illustrated, the Oscars and others. His visions are unique and bold. He has not forgotten how to play and still loves his mama. No candles and linen tablecloth could ever replace that happy ending. I could not ask for more, well, maybe more sunshine in rainy old Oregon.