Saturday, May 13, 2023

Sometimes we all need a little mothering. And no one knows that better than a mom.

I got a wonderful surprise recently from one of my mother’s friends: “Your mom is so proud of you, I can feel it. And I hope you do, too,” she wrote in my birthday card this year.

That was cool.

And was exactly the gift I needed, though I didn’t know it until I read those words.

Maybe I had forgotten. Or maybe I figured that since I’m in my 50s now, I really shouldn’t need my mother to be proud of me anymore.

But Cecilia knew. Maybe because she’s a daughter who recently lost her mother. Or because she has two daughters of her own — daughters who are now fully grown and quite accomplished, but whom she knows will always want her to be proud of them, no matter how independent they feel they are.

Or maybe it’s because Cecilia’s been watching over me since my mother died, carefully tracking my successes and struggles since I was 15. And just like my mother would, Cecilia pays more attention to how I sound than to what I say, listening to my voice more than my words to determine if I am OK.

So she knows that no matter how many years pass, I will always be that teenager who needs her mother, and will always want to know what she thinks of who I became. And luckily for both me and my mother, Cecilia can speak for her, saying what I need to hear, just when I need it most.

Because even though she is plenty busy still nurturing her own daughters while preparing to become a grandmother, Cecilia long ago carved room in her heart for the daughter of a friend who died.

And while I love that she loved my mother enough to love me as well, I appreciate even more now that our bond has grown beyond their friendship into one of our own. Because sometimes you don’t need a mother — you just need a friend to hike to a cool waterfall with:


Friday, May 5, 2023

My Grandmother’s Journals: May, 1998

With penpal Sandra and her son Peter at the Getty Museum in Malibu. 1989
In tiny notebooks, my grandmother wrote each day when she woke, where she ate breakfast, any movie she went to see, any mail and calls she received, then what she read and watched on TV before bed.
In 1998, she was 82 and living alone in a mobile home park in Santa Cruz, Calif., but I wouldn't describe her as lonely. She was an extremely independent, frugal and persnickety woman whom I never knew to live with another person or even a pet after she raised my mother as a single mother in Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s. (I wrote more about her life in this post.) 
She lived close to the famous surfing spot Pleasure Point, and nearly every day she walked to those cliffs to watch the ocean and anyone surfing it. 
When she died at 97 in 2013, I took her ashes to those waves with one of her friends, and we each dropped some ashes at the sand. A moment after I dropped mine, a surfer emerged from the water where I stood. 

That was cool. 
 In May of 1998, she flew to London and visited one of her longtime penpals, Sandra, then took the Chunnel to Paris, a city she visited every year, as it was perhaps her favorite place on Earth.

Friday, May 1, 1998
Awake 4 a.m. 7:15 tea, usual.
Paper, then Mervyn's. Returned 10.5 shoes. Same clerk.
Post office, put in vacation mail card.
Packed in a.m., arranging items most of day.
Various chores. Papers, etc.
Saturday, May 2, 1998
Put breakables on floor, cut philodendrons. 
Repacked with Peter's shoes in big case.
To Kmart, breakfast.
To thrift store, gave 3 sweaters, blouse: brown, handmade.
To show, "Blood on the Moon." 1948, with Robert Preston
Home, worked on packing. 
TV: Angels, Insects.
No word from Elliot.

Sunday, May 3, 1998
Awake 6:47. Usual tea.
First to Greyhound, put bag in locker.
Cloudy, could not see Space Shuttle at 8:44 a.m.
Drug Emporium,  got trail mix and candy.
Talked to Myra a bit. Put envelope on Elliot's porch.
Mall for bus times. 
Got donut. Spilt coffee.
Monday, May 4, 1998
Flight to London 5 p.m. Bus leaves mall 8 a.m.
Up 5:30. Tea, etc.
Rained through night. Changed shoes.
Coffee at Rebecca's. Cafe at Metro closed. Bus late.
Check-in early, no protest.
Seat partner older woman, well-versed in arts, stage, etc. Born India.
Took off 5:20 p.m. Captain announced arrive London 10:56 a.m.

Tuesday, May 5, 1998
Touched down London 11:05 a.m. 9 hr 45 min flight.
Through customs, baggage by 11:30. Bus to King's Cross. 
Tired, no sleep, plane completely full.
Ate chicken sandwich at hotel.
No hot water. Rested.
To coffee shop, had soup, chips, tea. 
Called Sandra.
To hotel, chores. Washed pants, sponged top off. Found make-up.
Got extra blanket.
Read some of paper.

Wednesday, May 6, 1998
Breakfast 8 a.m.
Got Chunnel ticket.
Walked a lot. To Victoria Station, soup. Got new maps.
To musical, "Chicago." Slow, then heats up. Loud, long legs.
Cappuccino, croissant.
Hotel 7 p.m., read part of paper.
Not good sleep.
Left water bottle some place. 
Thursday, May 7, 1998
To Tate Galley, Bonnard exhibit. Turner also.
Bus 77A went past, walked back.
Ate KFC across the street, good. Gave me hot water for tea.
To Waterloo, got timetable.
Back to Selfridges, had "Clearance Sale." No wallets.
Had coffee, dish of fruit. Good. Got mineral water.
Took bus 73 home.
Friday, May 8, 1998
Waterloo, Sandra.
Up 7, breakfast. Got postcard for Mina. 
Mailed letter plus Bonnard items for Stimson.
To Waterloo, Northern terrible. Got Chunnel ticket.
Sandra met train, to Thames Court. They lost our order.
Ate at tea shop.
Back to London, to show.
Hotel 8:30, got candy.

Saturday, May 9, 1998
Tea for breakfast.
What a crowd at King's Cross!
Bus to Oxford Street, walked a lot. Hot weather.
Ate Wendy's. Too much walking!
To Comedy Theatre, "Inspector Hound." Black comedy, funny.
To hotel. Showered, washed hair.  Mistake? Bed with wet hair.
Not good sleep.
12:30 a.m.: Me in loo, woman opens door.
Sunday, May 10, 1998
Awake early. Not rested though!
Talked at breakfast with visitors from Colorado.
To Westminster, got lost. Maps no good.
Selfridges, got hose and hair dryer.
Got soup at coffee shop.
Watched TVB, antiques.
Rinsed, cut hair.

Monday, May 11, 1998
Chunnel to Paris.
Breakfast early. Packed.
Victoria to Waterloo. Early, got coffee.
Necessary to push cart up ramp! Escalator not working.
Paris 3:56 p.m. Took wrong metro! 4 instead of 5.
Wrong way on Rue Street, no taxi would take me!

Tuesday, May 12, 1998
To Monoprix, no shirts/blouses. Got hose.
Foned Sy. Bad! (85).
Got blouse and skirt, then shoes.
Foned Mimi, met 3 p.m.
Home on bus. Talked to nice lady. Her daughter works in NYC. She won't go because of jet lag.
Hotel, ate quiche and custard.
Worked on book til 9:30.
Wednesday, May 13, 1998
No sleep again, or very little. Too hot/noise.
Walked to Grand Augustin Quai. Book shop closed.
Took 70 to Hotel de Ville, then 72 to St. Cloud.
Got food, ate in street.
To hotel, tired. Rested.
To Mimi's til 10:30. She better.
Thursday, May 14, 1998
Frank Sinatra died.
Some sleep. Fire door closed.
Dreaming. War?
Breakfast, back to bookstore. Got clip for glasses.
Stopped at loo, gave too much. Woman gave it back. Honest.
Ate salad, Jello.
To book (exchange), gave book to woman, she gave me two!
Foned Andra, left message on machine.
Got bananas, to hotel.

Friday, May 15, 1998
Andra called, meet for lunch.
Walked to post office, hot.
Met Andra, ate nice lunch. Coffee.
Yvonne 2:30, we talked. She ate, not me. I should have paid.
Rested 1/2 hour. Walked to St. Germain.
Got yogurt.
Neighbors loud, no sleep til 3 a.m. again.

Saturday, May 16, 1998
Up 7:30 again. Hot.
Called Claudine. Got address, but not name!
Met Andra and Lutz, took gift and ticket.
Walked to hotel. Fight, four men or more.
Found glasses.
Slept finally.
Singing at 2 a.m.!
Sunday, May 17, 1998
Breakfast 8:30. American from Colorado. Denver.
Post office. Mailed card to Carla, Dodgers button to Claudine.
Marks and Spencer closed.
To hotel, rested. 
Back to post office with package.
Hotel 7:30. Got ice cream and cookies. 

Monday, May 18, 1998
Check flight. OK.
To post office, second package off.
Then opera. Got cafe/croissant.
Walked a lot. To Man Ray exhibit. Born in Phila, Penn, 1890. Died Paris, 1976.
Hotel, card from Mimi.
Washed clothes. Read, radio, etc.
Walked in evening.

Tuesday, May 19, 1998
Buy Pain Raisin, banana. Pack.
Young people trashed the place, broke mirror.
Yvonne called. To meet, but decided no.
To Grand Supermarket, got bananas and tea.
Lunch at McDonald's. Very clean.
To Maria Callas exhibit. Had excellent copies of her arias.
To Marks & Spencer, got mueslix, peanuts and cappuccino.
Hotel, called Yvonne, Sy did not answer.
Mailed 2 cards, Sy and Mimi.

Wednesday, May 20, 1998
Return: Flight from paris 11:45 a.m.
Up 5:45. Not much rest. Packed.
Taxi 49F; 43 plus 6 for bag!
Made 7:15 bus, 45F.
Airport 8:10, through security 9 a.m. Got coffee.
Police exploded "left package."
Seatmate women, had bad cold. Also man across aisle. 
11 hour flight. Took Airporter.
To market, got milk. Ate cereal.

Thursday, May 21, 1998
Slept 9 -3 a.m. Tea, toast. Shower, hair. 
To post office. No packages.
To Kmart for breakfast.
Bank, put money in Justine's account. Mailed to H.
Chores in yard, cats upset.
VCR does not turn on! 
TV: News, fell asleep turning Frasier.
Friday, May 22, 1998
Up 4 a.m. 
Wrote checks: Mastercard, Sears. Rec'd 2.15 credit from Penney's.
Yard work.
To Longs, got two boxes Corn Flakes.
To KFC. Sandwich, slaw, chocolate.
Fone message from Justine. Karen coming up to visit.
Home. Ellie sprayed yard against cats.
Bed 7:30. Up 9-11-2.
Saturday, May 23, 1998
Up 5:30. Tea, cereal, balanced books.
Post office, card to Sandra.
Toyota odometer changed to 105,000 at stoplight ramp to freeway.  Had timing belt changed. $131.84
Rested a bit. To show, "Bulworth." Warren Beatty.
Home, news at 5 p.m.
Mina called 6 p.m. Talked til 6:40.

Sunday, May 24, 1998
Up 5:30. Tea, etc. Watered lawn.
To Kmart, looked for plate holder. Got card for Peter, candy.
To town, got coffee.
To show, "Wilde." Young man spoke, hitched in Europe, Tibet? Show dark, got ticket to replace. 
Library, got book of plays.
Home. Ate, chores, etc.

Monday, May 25, 1998
Memorial Day.  Awake 5. Tea, etc.
Yard work. Weeds, etc.
Checked oil in car and radiator.
To drug store, nothing.
To Pet Emporium, got anti-pet spray.
Home, some TV. Crosswords from Wed - Sat.

Tuesday, May 26, 1998
Awake 4:30, up 5:30.
Tea, cereal. Chores.
Post office: Card to Peter, package to Mina.
Sorted vitamins in bags for 10 days. Read papers.
Tennis: Agassi lost, Serena Williams won. First time I saw her; bigger hips than Venus.
Some TV, news. Bed early.
Finished "(Importance of Being) Earnest by Wilde.
Wednesday, May 27, 1998
Up 6. Tea,etc.  To laundromat 7:15.
9, paper.
Home, ironed. Tennis.
Wrote three letters: Mina, Yvonne, Andra.
To Y: Tea, wine enzymes. To A: news articles, Viagra, Sinatra.
Got a lot done!
Bed about 10. Watched ballet on Ch. 9. [KQED}

Thursday, May 28, 1998
Left 9 a.m. to Staples.
To Radio Shack, checked their repair services for VCRs
Rained all the time.
Tennis: Sampras out, Pierce out.
Called Justine at 11:15. She may meet us Sunday.
Mail: Bank statement, letter from Mina. 
Friday, May 29, 1998
To Carla’s. Take African statues! 
Up 5:30, ready by 8:30. 
To Half Moon Bay by 9:50, got muffin.
To bridge by 10:45, not much traffic. 
Called from Rio Nido at 12:15, 154 miles.
Carla met me at Guerneville grocery. Talked, etc.
Bed early.
Saturday, May 30,1998
Up early. Chores, etc.
Visited numerious studios. Got vases (2), also another cat.
Also, “Friend of the potted plants.”
Talked to lots of people, very interesting.
Much riding, did not always buy things.
Met Donna, nurse who was in Belize. Next Portugal. 
Bed early.

Sunday, May 31, 1998
Up early again. Left about 9.
Got gas at Guerneville.
To bookstore, met Justine. 
To art center, got mirror for J, vase for me.
To John Chambers, got tea pot. J got bowl for $5.
Back to Silvermine, got vase “with attitude” for J.
Left Justine at 4:30, back to Carla’s.

I still have the “vase with attitude,” and the $5 bowl.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Still the best fish I ever ate: Fresh-caught trout cooked on a campfire

Cooking up that first fresh trout.
I didn’t like fish until I ate it fresh. And by fresh, I mean fish that was cooked and eaten right after it was pulled out of the water.
That was cool.
I had that very fresh fish on a camping trip with my best friend the summer we graduated high school. After setting up our tents in the forest, we headed to the water to catch dinner. 
My friend snagged some trout, then her mother’s boyfriend cleaned the fish, coated the fillets in cornmeal and fried them up in a cast iron pan he heated on the fire.

I can still smell the cornmeal, hear it popping in the oil, and can still taste that moist, flaky trout that was unlike any “fishy” fish I’d eaten before. Until that trout, I never imagined that fish could be good, let alone delicious!

Because I had never eaten truly fresh fish before. And though I’d spent much of my childhood fishing with my sister, I’d never seen much point to it until that camping trip — I don’t remember my sister ever catching much, and I definitely don’t remember us cooking up anything delicious afterward.

And while I’ve eaten plenty of great fish since that trout, I can’t remember any of it tasting as good as that meal caught and cooked for me right by the water.

Heading out to get dinner.


Sunday, April 2, 2023

My Grandmother's Journals: April, 1998

In 1969 with her first grandchild, far left.
In tiny notebooks, my grandmother wrote each day when she woke, where she ate breakfast, any movie she went to see, any mail and calls she received, then what she read and watched on TV before bed.
In 1998, she was 82 and living alone in a mobile home park in Santa Cruz, Calif., but I wouldn't describe her as lonely. She was an extremely independent, frugal and persnickety woman whom I never knew to live with another person or even a pet after she raised my mother as a single mother in Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s. (I wrote more about her life in this post.) 
She lived close to the famous surfing spot Pleasure Point, and nearly every day she walked to those cliffs to watch the ocean and anyone surfing it. 
When she died at 97 in 2013, I took her ashes to those waves with one of her friends, and we each dropped some ashes at the sand. A moment after I dropped mine, a surfer emerged from the water where I stood.    
That was cool. 
 In April of 1998, she watched a lot of ice skating and pulled a lot of weeds in her yard while keeping up with all her pen pals, one of whom in London she made sure to buy Levi's jeans and Nike shoes for when they went on sale!

Wednesday, April 1, 1998
Up 8:45. Usual tea, chores.
Some work on cuttings.
Drug Emporium, paper.
McDonald’s, coffee.
Kmart, exchanged TV Guide.
Mail: Letter from Stimson with pics of his cat.
TV: Some Geraldo, Frasier, Yo-Yo Ma.
Bought Lotto.
Thursday, April 2, 1998
Awake 7:30. Tea. etc. Ready 10.
Walked cliff, cold.
Drug Emporium, got make-up.
TV: Mystery, Morse. First name is ”Endeavour.” Takes woman to all-nite hotel.
Got saw from Larry. 

Saturday, April 4, 1998
Awake 6:30, up 8.
Tea, etc. To Drug Emporium.
Post office, letter to Prudy with clippings.
To show, “Mercury Rising.” Bruce Willis, autistic boy.
To Burger King, fish.
Groceries at Albertsons, Xerox at Longs.
Home, cut wood with hacksaw.
TV: Ice skating, Kwan barely won. Fell on axel.

Sunday, April 5, 1998
Not good sleep, felt half awake.
Breakfast at Kmart.
Looked at Sears, Gottschalk’s for pants, decided to use what I have, just lose weight.
TV: Part of 60 Minutes, Siskel and Ebert: Spanish Prison, good; Mercury Rising, not good.
Bed, tried to listen to French. Wrote Mimi.
Monday, April 6, 1998
Slept late!
Drug Emporium, got toenail clippers.
Library, read some of The New Yorker.
To show, “Men with Guns.” Good.
Home, food. Read papers.
Bed, got two Pollifax books at library. 

Tuesday, April 7, 1998
Up 7 a.m. Tea, etc.
Laundromat. Man gave me Wisk soap. Ladies from Chicago gave me fabric softener.
Donut/coffee, home.
Chores, talked to Lois/Oscar.
To Kmart: Cheese sandwich, carrot cake, ice cream!
Home, finished Mrs. Pollifax, Innocent Tourist.
Pulled weeds.
TV: Frasier, old X-Files, Law & Order.
Wednesday, April 8, 1998
Some chores, washed brown sweater.
Walked cliff.
Drug Emporium, got TV Guide.
To mall: Coffee, Sears for bra.
Wrote Stimson, to post office. Got three 60-cent stamps.
Not much sleep. Fone calls, I presumed.
TV: Frasier, news.
Worked on letter to London.
Up 3 a.m., soup.
Slept maybe 4 hours.

Thursday, April 9, 1998
Up 8 a.m. Cold. Chores.
Wrote letter to Geneaology Society.
Mailed it in Scotts Valley,  ate chicken at BK.
To show, “Primary Colors.” Enjoyed. Only 5 there.
Home via Lucky.
Mail: Charles Schwab, check from NY Bank.
TV: Mystery
Bed, slept good.

Friday, April 10, 1998
Up 8. Tea, etc.
Worked in yard, pulled weeds.
Fixed tuna, ate here.
To Drug Emporium, Kinko’s, post office.
Letter to Pearl re: Tortoise, to Rudy re Glendale therapist.
To Kmart, got carrot cake with ice cream!!
Home 4 p.m. news, chores.
Walked on cliff. 
TV: Frasier, X-Files. Part of Albert Finney, “A Man of No Importance.”
Saturday, April 11, 1998
Rained in nite. Slept good. 1-2, 5-9.
Read “Mrs Pollifax Pursued,” third time.
To town 4:25 p.m. Library closes at 5 p.m. Returned Pursued, got fone of Greyhound in SF.
Walked a bit, nice day.
To post office, mailed IRS payment.
Home after stop at Trader Joe's.
TV: Travel, Oslo, Bergen.

Sunday, April 12, 1998
Awake 6, cold. Slept til 10.
Changed dust bag on vacuum.
Tennis 11 a.m. Pierce vs. Martinez. First set to tie break. Mary at net, good plays.
Golf: Mark O’Mera won Masters. Couples led most of time.
Finished Mrs. Pollifax Lion Killer.
Called Mina, not home, left message. She called back. Had good Easter with family.
Monday, April 13, 1998
Slept good. Awake 8:30, Tea, etc.
To Longs for paper, Xerox. BP high?
To post office, mailed two books to Mina.
To donut shop on Ocean Avenue.
To library. Returned book, got Greyhound times.
Mail: Letter from Mina with pix of cats.
To bank, got $200.
Home, some French tapes.
TV: News, Frasier. 
More French.

Tuesday, April 14, 1998
Mailed letter to London.
Cold in night.
Awake 6, up 7 for tea, etc. Back to bed, too cold!
Ready 10 a.m. Drug Emporium TV Guide and BP.
To bank, out wrong way. Police in same exit! No ticket.
To BK, chicken sandwich.
Home, rested. Lawn mower! Swept.
Ran tape of Charles Bubbles.

Wednesday, April 15, 1998
Awake 5, up 8.
Swept Larry’s carport.
To Kmart for breakfast. Got two sweatshirts; 1 grey, 1 black. Also bag of redwood.
Home, tried on shirts. OK, men’s.
Library, looked for Aimee Semple McPherson, mutual funds, car racing.
Home, ate. Usual TV.
Bed early.
Thursday, April 16, 1998
Awake 6:45. Cold.
Heat, tea, etc.
Dug up roots of jasmine, but one big one.
10:30. Tea, toast.
Drug Emporium, BP. 115/88.
TJ’s, no chocolate.
To show, “City of Angels.” N. Cage, Meg Ryan.
Home, ate corn. Not real good.
Wrote Mimi. Sent newspaper clipping of out-of-wedlock daughter of Pres. Mitterrand.
TV: News, Frasier, Israel Philharmonic, Mystery.

Friday, April 17, 1998
Up 8, tea. Cold in a.m.
Worked in yard. Got root out. Planted periwinkle.
Ate here.
Bank, put money in Justine’s account.
To Kmart, ate carrot cake! & ice cream.
Got another bag of redwood mini chips.
Mail: Medicare, Fone co.
Called doctors in Scotts Valley, had argument.
TV: News, Frasier. Nothing unusual.

Saturday, April 18, 1998
Awake 7. Tea, etc.
To San Jose via Soquel, Summit Road.
Came back same way. Traffic light.
Lunch at Wendy’s.
To show, “Mrs. Dalloway.” Good actors. Hardy. Vanessa Redgrave.
Mail: Letter from Prudy. 
Some French, papers.
Sunday, April 19, 1998
Up 7:30. Tea.
Worked in yard. Put out redwood chips.
Talked to Mina re Mitterrand.
Ate KFC. Longs, BP.
Drug Emporium, got vitamins.
Called Justine.
TV: Ice skating, news, Siskel & Ebert, part of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, w/ Sean Connery.
Ate soup, packed vitamins.
Monday, April 20, 1998
Awake 7:30, Tea, etc. Cold, heater.
Yard work again, used all redwood chips. 
Lady here weeding, spoke to her about the bush at No. 27.
Wrote Mina. To post office, mailed letter to Paris.
Kmart, lunch.
Thrifty, got batteries for little magnifying glass.
Nothing good on TV.

Tuesday, April 21, 1998
Awake 3, up 7. Usual.
Drug Emporium, BP.
Goodwill, looked for pants, warm sweater.
To Ross, Gottschalk’s, Penney’s, Mervyn’s, nothing.
No mail.
Hot today.
Man shot on Highway 17. Hit and run, then threatened cops.
TV: Frasier, Law & Order.
Tried on clothes. Bed after news.

Wednesday, April 22, 1998
Awake 6:45. Usual.
To Kmart, got another (3rd) sack of redwood chips.
Sears, paid bill. $53.66 Then bought pair of brown pants.
Coffee, talked to friends of Lily. They saw her Sunday.
Lost part of paper. To library, no luck.
Thursday, April 23, 1998
Up 7:30. Cold. No heat.
Wrote Mina.
Called contractor, $25 to fix. He can do it when I’m not here.
To post office, then library. Read yesterday’s paper re shooting on 17.
Home, read more.
TV: Mystery, “Unsuitable Job for a Woman.”

Friday, April 24, 1998
Up 8. Usual tea.
No heat, some warm water. Most places in mall no gas.
Got coffee, read paper.
Home, sewed fur collar.
PG&E came about 3:30, turned pilot off.
Ate here, tired.
TV: Frasier, news.
Bed, some papers. Slept good.

Saturday, April 25, 1998
Awake 5, up 8. Tea, etc.
Worked in yard 9:30 to 10:30.
Kmart, BP. Got snail bait, TV Guide.
To show, “The Locket.” Old, 1946. Robert Mitchum.
Mail: Notice from Treasury. Called to renew.
Mina called. Talked long, Beanie babies.
Some TV. Crossword.
Sunday, April 26, 1998
Awake 5, up 6:30. Tea.
Worked in yard 8-9.
Kmart, gas. To 41st donut shop.
To show, “Spanish Prisoner.” Good.
Library, found info for Mina.
Lunch BK.
Home, foned Mina, left word.
TV: “Merlin.” Magic.
Read Mrs. Pollifax until 2 a.m.
Electric blanket doesn’t work.
(Mina called Sunday 5/3. Had not received letter.)

Monday, April 27, 1998
Up 7:30. Usual. 
Washed beige sweater.
Tried to find problem with electric blanket.
Drug Emporium, got isopropyl alcohol, tuna.
Mall, got clips for hangers.
To Kmart for lunch, checked for electric blanket. Have a 5-year warranty.
Worked in yard, Grass cut, I did some edging.
Some French after Frasier.

Tuesday, April 28, 1998
Get travelers checks. 
Get bday card for Yvonne.
Up 7:30. Watered lawns. Ready 9:15.
Mailed Mina's books, 2 Pollifax.
Longs, BP, tuna.
Mervyn’s, got credit for blanket. Bought new one, not electric.
Home. News, ironed.
Kmart. No TV Guides.
TV: “The Painted Lady” w/Helen Mirren. 

Wednesday, April 29, 1998
Get maps out.
Awake 6 a.m., yard work til 9:30.
Contractor (Scandinavian) worked on plug. Finished 11 a.m.
Got donut/coffee.
Mervyn’s saw sale on Levi’s. Called Sandra 1 p.m. Not there.
2:30, Sandra again. She said get Nike 10.5, pants 34 by 34. 
To dinner, English woman sat by me.
Back to Mervyn’s. Home 5:40 p.m.
TV: News, Geraldo, Frasier.
Bed early. Slept good.

Thursday, April 30, 1998
Up, ready, to Laundromat.
Home. Shower/hair. Wrote Sandra.
Noticed UK shoe sizes smaller, back to Mervyn’s. Got bigger size, 11.5.
Paid rent, to post office.
TV: Frasier, Mystery.
Windy, cloudy. Rain late in a.m.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Driving with Nancy: How a raccoon helped me through an avalanche of anxiety

Nancy the raccoon soothing our new kitten.
I used to drive with a raccoon belted into the middle of my pick-up truck seat. One day when a co-worker jumped in to cover a breaking news assignment, I waited with embarrassment as he took in the odd seatmate I forgot to move. But he just smiled like it was perfectly normal to have a plush toy next to him and said, “Oh, good. Mr. Racoon has his seatbelt on.”

That was cool.

Twenty years later, his response still makes me smile. And I was thinking of that raccoon this winter because the pummeling storms we’re getting in California reminded me of Rocky, the first car raccoon in my family.

My mother started the raccoon tradition in 1983 when she bought a used Honda station wagon, which she was only able to afford because it had been salvaged from a mudslide in Santa Cruz County earlier that year. Mostly the car still ran OK, except for an electrical short that could suddenly kill the engine and strand us anywhere, at any time. But about 15 minutes after dying on the freeway, it would start up again like nothing happened.

Soon after my mother got the car, she found a large toy raccoon stuck in the mud while out birding. She took it home for a good scrubbing, named it Rocky after the main character in a Beatles song, then put him back in her car so the two flood survivors could keep each other company.
And yes, that was cool, too. Even teen me thought so.

I got my own car raccoon many years later from a friend who bought the super soft toy
 in a surge of pregnancy hormones. Since it reminded me of my mother’s raccoon, I named it Nancy, the girl Rocky fancied in the song, but wasn’t quite sure what to do with her.
Until I moved to Washington State, where I found myself battling a new and near-crippling anxiety on my commute. Driving has always stirred deep dread for me, but my years in Seattle created an avalanche of fears — 9/11, the return of my husband and roads covered in snow — that nearly buried me.
It’s crazy I tried driving at all, really, given that my mother was killed in a car crash right before I started Driver’s Ed in high school. I nearly passed out in class after the first “Hamburger Highway” film, which was full of real and faked crash footage meant to show teens how dangerous driving can be. When I finally worked up the courage to tell my teacher how vividly I had already learned that lesson, the gruff coach softened and let me sit in the library for the rest of the graphic films.
And while I was very nervous behind the wheel at first, like most teens I soon fell in love with the freedom and control driving gave me. And for nearly 20 years, my mother’s crash seemed to only make me a far more cautious driver than nearly everyone I knew. 
Until Sept. 11, 2001. Before that day, I was voraciously exploring my new city, even happily driving hours with friends to the coast to go clamming or into the mountains to go skiing. But after 9/11, I not only didn't want to drive, I didn't want to leave my house for anything but work and food.

I remember watching a plane fly into a New York City skyscraper from my futon couch 3,000 miles away and feeling all the scaffolding I built after my mother’s crash tumble down with the buildings on the screen, which reminded me that my life could shatter again at any moment.

And the anxiety only intensified when my husband joined me in Seattle soon after, because then I had two people to worry about never coming home again whenever they drove away.
Then the anxiety became an avalanche when I got a new job with a very long and complicated commute: 90 minutes, with half of that on water. It seems crazy that I even considered trying that commute, but the job was finally a full-time reporter position at a newspaper, so I never considered not trying it.
I loved the work immediately, and though I was losing money every month paying the ferry fares at first, I even came to love that commute. After braving city traffic to reach the dock, I was free to read the paper, drink coffee and eat breakfast, or just watch the water and the mountains gliding past. I still smile thinking of those relaxing journeys, especially the cat naps I took on the commute home, which were crazy cool.
Then came the snow. After one morning when I couldn’t reach the ferry dock because the roads were ice rinks, I obsessively read the weather forecast before my drives for any sign of white precipitation, carefully noting when the temperature would drop below freezing.

But no forecast is perfect, as we all learned one Monday night: My husband was watching the football game held in Seattle, realizing as the announcers remarked on the “unexpected snowstorm” turning the city white that, “Oh, crap — Justine is driving home in this!”

Well, almost home. I white-knuckled the drive through downtown and into our neighborhood, but only managed to fish-tail about halfway up the last hill before pulling over in a panic and walking to ask my husband to finish the drive.

After that night, we put concrete blocks into the back of the truck for stability, and I put Nancy in the cab next to me for support, since she reminded me of Rocky, and Rocky reminded me of my mother.

And Nancy was a great help. Not just with the snow, but for the times I worked too late to take the ferry home and had to drive around the water at night, crossing a busy bridge and braving hectic Tacoma traffic on the mammoth I-5, which was the exact opposite of taking a peaceful nap on the placid waters of the Puget Sound.

But whenever I got anxious, I’d give Nancy a pat, and feel my mother patting my leg, the soothing touch she’d give me whenever I sucked in my breath while she was driving. And Nancy and I, we always made it home safe.