Month: March 2018

Are We There Yet?

My new home sits on a section of historic Route 66, a highway from Chicago to Los Angeles built in the 1920’s. As one of the first cross-country highways, it inspired generations of pop-culture, including the 1946 Bobby Troup song (updated and re-recorded by the Rolling Stones).

I took a weekend road trip across sections of the Route 66 in New Mexico and Arizona and tried to imagine driving there in 1930. Only sturdy travelers would have enjoyed the trip.

 

In the early days, the route cut through every small town, passing rubber tomahawk shops, motor lodges, and gas stations with glass bowls on the tops of the pumps.

Now every town has a museum and modern hotel in addition to the gift shops. Pictures of town history cover the museum walls and displays might be minimal. Just enough to bring people in.

I’ve never seen so many antique cars in various states of disrepair.

Like the typical tourist. I wanted a picture “standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona”, from the popular Eagles song. Apparently, everyone wants their picture on the corner in Winslow, Arizona. Most were our age or older. My husband suggested sending a picture to the kids and I said they wouldn’t understand. My daughter said, “I don’t think I know that Eagles song.”

The old cars and tourist shops reminded me of all the road trips my family took as I was growing up. . . before air conditioning in every car, seat belt laws, and child car seats. As babies, my mother bundled us up and put us in a box or dresser drawer on the floor of the passeneger seat. She would be right there if we needed anything.

In the late seventies, my parents could fit all four of us kids in the backseat and hatchback of the little Datsun B210. They put a shade on the hatch so that the kid in the back didn’t roast – usually my brother. He was the smallest.

We drove with the windows down and put our hair in ponytails to keep it from blowing into our mouths. No one had better spit their chewing gum out the front window. It would either end up stuck to the back window or in someone’s hair.

We would return home happy and hoarse from shouting over the wind blowing through the car. We didn’t know any different. A road trip is a road trip.


Two Years, Two Weddings, Two Moves, Oh My

. . . because life is an adventure.

We moved to the suburbs last year, after thirteen years in a small Colorado mountain town. I wrote a blog about the plethora of choices in the suburbs.

Now, we are moving again. This time to a small town in rural New Mexico. I welcome the slower pace. But the move and the buying and selling of homes might do me in.

At the same time, both of my kids have found the love of their lives. Can’t complain about that.

I’m becoming an expert in things most people do only a few times in their life.

When my daughter announced her engagement, I suggested we purchase magazines with to-do lists and ideas. Hers was a three month engagement. But, magazines are so 1980’s. There’s an app for that. A cell phone contains everything a modern bride needs for wedding planning.

Couples create their own wedding website, thanks to advertisers who want to market to the happy couple. And with an Amazon gift registry, distant relatives can have gifts sent directly without ever touching a piece of wrapping paper or tape.

I mentioned the wedding website to my future daughter in-law, who opted for a six month engagement. She already knew all about it.

I can recite from memory the prices and current trends for cakes, decorations, dresses, flowers, and photography.

At the same time, I’m gaining expertise with moving compaines. Which one charges by the hour and which one chages by weight and mile? What kind of snacks and drinks the moving guys prefer. The oranage Gatorade remains untouched, in case you were wondering.

The junk hauling service is my new best friend, but don’t tell my husband. I point to an item in the house, no matter how big. Then, a couple of strong young men throw it in a big truck, never to be seen again.

I’m finding that moving requires two steps. First for house staging. Second for the actual move. A potential buyer can’t imagine their new home when it is too full of our junk. House staging has become an art, with my real estate agent scouting model homes for ideas. She says she’ll turn my bedroom into a “romantic retreat.”

And then there is the repair of all of the little things. Each requires a separate contractor. Double pane windows have come unsealed. Electrical outlets need upgrades. Paint that chip in the wall from when we moved in. Fix the front step. All the tasks I’ve put off come back to haunt me.

I’ve met many interesting people. One man came to inspect the water heater and barely spoke. Didn’t even introduce himself at the door, just showed up at the appointed time wearing a shirt with a company logo. A handyman talked so much he barely had time to work. So many looks and personalities, so many characters for my novels.

So many experiences to feed my writer’s brain. A few of which will show up in future blogs and fiction.

Yes. Life’s an adventure.

That’s what I tell myself when it all overwhelms me, and I want to hide in the closet with a novel.


Princess For A Day

I have weddings on the brain. My daughter married in August and my son will marry in May. Two weddings within a year. I only have two kids. Of course, I’ll write a blog about weddings.

Princess for a day. That was me when I married. Like ladies in waiting in a novel, my bridesmaids dressed me and catered to me. Even my mother gave into my whims.

When my soon-to-be daughter-in-law and her mother went to see the wedding dress restoration lady, I invited myself along. The restoration lady commented that wedding dress styles haven’t changed much since the last royal wedding, that of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. She expects styles to change soon, when Prince Harry marries. Perhaps because every bride wants to look like a princess on her wedding day.

That comment took me on a time trip.

I married a month and a half before Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. Everyone said, “You look just like Sarah Ferguson.” Princess for a Day. But I had imagined more of a Disney princess than a modern-day princess.

My son is getting married a few days after another royal couple. His fiancé is lucky that wedding dress trends won’t have time to change before her wedding.

Most grooms aren’t as interested in being a prince for a day. I took my husband to be measured for his father-of-the-groom suit. Most of the customers at the tux shop wore jeans and T-shirts. Some wore camo and baseball caps. I doubt wearing a tux is a dream come true.

The tux shop had a color matching chart that looked surprisingly like the paint department at the hardware store. Apparently, they understand their customers.

Cake tasting has to be one of the groom’s favorite activities. My son loves cake. No one cared about the taste of the cake when I married. It was all about the carefully crafted frosting roses and the fountain with colored water underneath.

Now it is all about the taste. Naked cakes with real flowers are all the rage. I asked the baker if it was sanitary to put real flowers on the cake. Eeeew.

No bugs on my daughter’s cake. It was lovely. I’m sure my son’s cake will be lovely and bug-free as well.

Do real princess brides create the cake trends too?

I Googled Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s wedding cake. No live flowers there. The description says “elaborate gum paste flowers”, whatever those are. No naked cake either. Fondant. Looks pretty, but tastes terrible.

And the royal cake was fruitcake. Fruitcake!

An eighty-thousand-dollar fruitcake. No wonder they were auctioning off pieces.

Apparently, Pintrest reigns when it comes to wedding cakes.

My daughter loved cake tasting. She wants to take her husband to a bakery and claim to be engaged so she can do cake tasting again. I told her to just buy a fancy cupcake, but what’s the fun in that?

Cake tasting is part of being princess for a day. And doesn’t every bride want to be a princess? Without the fruitcake, of course.


My Life in a Stranger’s Hands

I watched the hot wax come near my eye. What had I agreed to? The warmth touched my skin, so close to the lid. I stared into a stranger’s face. She’d said her name was Ramona. She’d said I would look so good. She’d been horrified by the unkempt state of my eyebrows.

Then, ripppppppp. She peeled off the wax.

How had I ended up with a perfect stranger putting hot wax near my eye? Not a doctor with a pile of degrees. Someone who admitted she had trouble getting to work on time. Yes, she has a certificate, and that should give me some comfort.

Since I moved to the suburbs, I’ve been getting my hair colored at one of those walk-in, no-appointment salons. (I went grey for a while, but my grey is more of a freakish glowing white. A story for another time.) The salon does an adequate job and the price is right.

On a snowy morning I took my fru-fru coffee into the warm shop and asked for a color. Ramona, a little older than me, was new at the salon.

“You have selected such a beautiful color, perfect for your skin.”

“You look so pretty.”

I wanted to look pretty.

“This color would look even better with some highlights. We’re having a sale on highlights.”

I’d never done the aluminum foil highlights thing before. Why not? I could sip warm mocha, as I watched the snow come down and have someone tell me how good I looked.

My hair looked great. Everyone in the salon confirmed it. Beautiful.

“We must do something about those eyebrows. Doesn’t cost much.”

And, that’s how I found myself looking past the hot wax applicator at Ramona. My life in her hands. Or maybe just my eyesight.

No tragedy befell me that day, but it brought to mind all of the times I’ve dropped my life into the hands of a stranger. It’s particularly true in a new town or city. . . or the suburbs. How do I even choose a hairdresser or auto mechanic? (See my blog post about the overwhelming choices in the suburbs.)

I love massages, although I don’t get them often. I lay on the massage therapist’s table, in a most relaxed and barely dressed state. Not much danger in working the arms and legs and back. But then comes the neck, where I hold my tension. She moves my neck from side to side and stretches and turns it.

And I realize, this is the stuff action movies are made of.

She could snap my neck. I had given the therapist the power to paralyze me. How well do I know her? How much do I trust her?

Perhaps it’s the novelist in me that creates these “what if” scenarios.

I can make a similar case for restaurant food, the brakes in my car, and especially big city taxi rides. This is why I write novels. An active imagination.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my service providers. Maybe I don’t appreciate them enough when I consider that my life is in their hands. Thankfully, we live in a society where the risk in hiring professionals if relatively low.

Will I go back to the walk-in no-appointment salon? Of course. Will I let a stranger wax my eyebrows again? Probably. Especially if everyone in the salon tells me I’m beautiful.


Put Those Pajamas in a Museum

President Harding’s pajamas and slippers stand in a glass case in  the Smithsonian. Did he imagine his pajamas in a museum?  Not just any museum, the granddaddy of all museums.

As president, he may have suspected.  But, how do we know when we’re making history? I saw a Six Million Dollar Man lunchbox in an antique store.  Just like the one I carried to elementary school every day.  Or was that my sister?  My memory grows fuzzy.

I’m researching the historic Seneca Falls womens rights convention for a writing project. I’d never heard of Seneca Falls, although it’s now a big deal in American history.  The two day event is considered the beginning of the women’s rights movement in the United States.

My daughter could tell me all about it. A National Park at the site draws people from all over the country. But, this national park wasn’t established until 1980. So, it’s not my fault I never heard of the convention.  Apparently, I’m older than history.

As I research for a story, I try to imagine myself in a fixed place and time.  History books blur decades and even centuries together, as if all the events happened at once and everyone understood the historical significance.

The Seneca Falls Convention was somewhat unremarkable in it’s time.  The area was a hotbed of social reform activism.  Residents frequently attended rallies and meetings about abolition of slavery, temperance, and women’s rights. The convention was held at the Weslean Chapel, known for holding such meetings.

Local women organized the event at someone’s home and put an advertisement in the paper.  Most of the attendees were local. The idea of women’s rights wasn’t particularly popular at the time. The historical significance wasn’t recognized until much later.

No one said, “Stop.  We must preserve this building.  Something historical just happened.” The Wesleyan Chapel was used as an  opera house, movie theater, grocery store, furniture store, telephone office, roller-skating rink, car dealership, laundromat, and an apartment building before the national park service restored it. Each owner ripped out walls and remodeled with no concern for history.

Now, at the national park, you can see the actual table where the Declaration of Sentements was drafted.  An ordinary table that people used for meals, school projects, and who knows what else.

Could I do something so significant that my hairbrush and desk organizer will sit under glass in a museum with an engraved plaque?

I once visited a small town museum with my grandmother.  She pointed to a picture in a room dedicated to 1930’s wedding clothing.  “That girl was my roommate.  I didn’t like the fella she married.”

Wowza.

We passed the telephone office display with headsets and plugs.  “I worked as a telephone operator.”

“I had a washing machine just like that one.”

“There is our cattle brand.”

Her ordinary life had become a museum.

Perhaps I should listen to my husband when he wants to save all the future museum pieces in our basement

. . . Or not.