Category Archives: Adventure

I Miss You So Much

March is a tough month for me. It’s filled with days that mattered to Richard and me, days that have become sad milestones since…well, since March 16th, 2005. The day he stopped breathing while I was looking at wedding pictures from March 5th. Our eleven days we got to say “husband” and “wife.” Only eleven days of that privilege after Just four short years together. We met on March 6, 2001, or “Alternator Day” as we called it because if it weren’t for the crapped out alternator in my Ford Escort, he never would have stopped to help me on the side of the highway on that blustery March day. March will always be the month when we said hello for the first time and the month when we said goodbye for the last time.

March is spring break, too. These days, spring break is about keeping the kids occupied and edified. When I find myself in the screaming pit of LEGOLand or trying to explain why a tomahawk might not be the best souvenir for a 6 year old, it’s hard not to pine for the days when spring break meant exploring Roman ruins in Germany, or scootering around Bermuda, or searching for Icelandic food in Prague. Comparisons are odious, but chicken nuggets and french fries for every freaking meal are too.

March is when the azaleas bloom. The ones we planted. This year, they bloomed while we were away on spring break, then the late freeze got them all. I missed them.

March is about missing.

Last Friday, my department went on a retreat to an indoor skydiving place in Marietta. Before we talked about goals and expectations and team building, we sat around the conference table for breakfast. Max laughed about his fear of jumping into the wind tunnel. I started to tell the story of that time that Richard and I went skydiving.

When I was done with the part that I do tell, I bit into a catering strawberry and remembered the part I don’t tell. The part where Richard and I went back to my house with all that adrenaline and we sat on the floor in the kitchen and drank a bottle of tepid champagne while I giggled over my first freefall. He had leapt from planes with the Army, but never done freefall from 15,000 feet, so we both did some giggling. We lay in my backyard hammock under the dappled shade of oak trees and when I said I was hungry, he returned from the house with a silver footed bowl filled with strawberries. I laughed at the ridiculous pomp of that bowl and he said he had seen it on top of the refrigerator and thought it suited the day. It’s been years since I’ve thought of those strawberries. That day was in May, strawberry weather. We spent the whole afternoon in that hammock, eating strawberries and being more alive than we had been the day before.

strawberries-1390893_1920

 

Last week, I sat in the conference room and my mind went back through the pictures of that day. As is my habit when I summon up those images, I look for Richard and I think about how much I miss him now that he is gone.

But something shifted that morning. When I summoned up the picture of us standing in the hangar, suiting up, my mind’s eye drifted from him…to me. My bold and smiling self. Me wearing lipstick because I had paid extra for the in-air video. Me walking towards the plane on legs that wobbled with fear. Me checking Dan’s wrist altimeter and the pro skydivers laughing that I thought 1000 feet was high enough.

I saw that woman in my memory, my boldest self, and I blurted to her, “I miss you so much.”

sky diving

I miss her.

I miss being the kind of person who can live out of a backpack for two weeks. I miss eating strawberries out of a silver bowl. I miss riding trains and ferries and buses. I miss eating at restaurants that serve foods I can’t pronounce. I miss cathedrals and kayaks and funiculars and Korean barbecue. I miss lipstick.

Yes, I miss Richard, especially in March. But I have fallen into the habit of looking at my memories of adventure and only seeing him, that part of the picture that can never be again. I miss him, but I miss her, too.

Maybe I miss her even more than I miss him.

She’s still here, still living a life filled with chances to giggle and be astonished, but she’s spending hours sitting on the couch playing Scrabble on a phone. There are Ethiopian restaurants and glamping yurts and jazz combos within 20 miles of my bedroom. There’s a kayak in the basement and a river in the backyard. There’s a university down the street and I can skip out of work an hour early to go hear Nikki Giovanni read poems about falling in love. There is grace and there is love and in a few weeks there will be strawberries.

I miss her so much. Tell her I’ll be there as soon as I get my lipstick on.

I stayed giddy for days!

The Narrowest Strip of Land

I’d have worn a nicer baseball cap if I’d known we were going to be in someone’s engagement pictures. G played in the surf with the kids, right under the tower of pink and coral clouds that held the last light of sunset. Waves crashed all around us and the wind blew so high that puffs of froth flew off the tips of the waves and skittered down the beach.

Bunch of nuts.

Bunch of nuts.

I waved to G with my cup full of rum drink and pointed down the beach about thirty yards to a young couple locked in a tight hug. They were enclosed by a semicircle of beaming family. Every woman held a cell phone pointed straight at the happy couple…and us.

The young man must have planned it with all of their help. Each person wore beachy dress clothes, like they had just come from dinner and wanted to get some sunset photos on the sand. Only problem was…there wasn’t much sand. Certainly not enough for their family and our family and the magic moment that was supposed to happen in a picture perfect way. The sunset that the young groom-to-be had imagined coincided with a new moon high tide that thundered right up to the trash cans and the boardwalk steps. As we’ve all heard for a thousand years, “Time and tide wait for no man.”

So while their family tried to act casual, the young man led the young woman down onto the narrow strip of sand that hadn’t yet been eaten by the incoming waves. He handed her a letter and she stood there in the whipping wind trying to read it, keep her hair out of her mouth, and focus on this important moment…all with twelve people standing in a grinning circle and two strange children (mine, ahem) who decided to act out a scene from Paw Patrol nearby.

All was joy a few moments later, when she said yes and everyone jumped up and down and then they took photos in the last light of Their Engagement Day.

The narrowest strip of land

The happy couple, their happy family, some trash cans and my son.

I got engaged under a pink sky just like that one once upon a time. And the ground was being eaten beneath our feet on that day, too, but we pressed on towards what would be.

G clapped loudly for the young couple and gave them two thumbs up. He walked over to me and we held hands for a moment before he went back to herding the kids. I had to laugh, even though the sound of it disappeared into the wind and waves. Ten hours earlier, we had stood in the driveway and had a screaming match so loud that Carlos had walked out into the garage and said, “Enough with the arguing!”

For three days, I had been packing and prepping and then G had the gall that morning to roll his eyes and say, “Why are we taking all this shit?” Within 10 minutes, I was moving stuff from his car to my car and he had decided he wasn’t even GOING on vacation….yadda yadda yadda. We apologized to each other, explained to the kids that we were using our words to express our feelings, and that it’s totally normal to have disagreements. We all had a big group hug right there in the driveway then got back to the business of living as a family.

Who could resist that face?

Who could resist that face?

Watching that young couple starting out, with their fancy plans for how this Important Moment was supposed to go–sunset proposal on a pristine beach–I had to laugh at the reality of it. Sunset proposal next to the trash can at high tide with a wind so fierce she can barely hang on to the letter you wrote so carefully, the letter with all your hopes and dreams and love for each other.

What I would tell them is that they had all they needed, even if the details weren’t going as planned. Marriage is the narrowest strip of land. Just enough to stand beside each other while the vast ocean nips at your toes and the wind drowns out all that you would say to each other. Stay strong on the narrowest strip of land. The tide will turn. The moon with ease up. The sun will rise on another day.

Marriage Proposal, St Simon's Island

 

“We’ll Die Walking”: Lessons From Reading In a Hospital

Remember when you could sit down and read a book for a couple of hours? Yeah, me too. That was before kids. I read whenever, wherever, and however I can these days.

Percy Fawcett, explorer

Percy Fawcett, explorer

Yesterday morning, I had a strange experience while reading on my walk into work. I’m halfway through “The Lost City of Z,” which my friend Jill loaned to me last January and I’m finally getting around to. I can’t give you any spoilers because I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s really good (thanks, Jilly!). It’s the story of Percy Fawcett, a British explorer in the Amazon who set off in 1925 to search for a city of gold and ended up vanishing into the jungle without a trace. Or maybe there are traces later, but like I said, not finished yet.

I was engrossed in the story of one of Fawcett’s early expeditions, a trek to find the source of the Verde River between Bolivia and Brasil. The expedition hit snags and Fawcett and his men–after a few bad decisions about how much canned food to carry–ended up starving in the jungle next to a poisoned river with nary a fish. Fawcett refused to turn back, even though most of his men were falling ill from the fevers brought by the relentless mosquitos and vampire bats.

There I was, hurrying to the end of the chapter in hopes that I could find out how the party made it out alive before I had to clock in. My face buried in the book, I trekked up the sidewalk, right at the crepe myrtles, left at the rosemary, then I ducked into the building through the side door under the Rehab pool. A wall of icy air-conditioning hit me but I never looked up from the page. Just like Fawcett in the “green hell,” I was confident that I could find my way.

PET scan of the brain

PET scan of the brain

No one is ever in that hallway. The only thing back there is a storage closet and the back entrance to the P.E.T. scan area. What’s a PET scan, you might ask? That’s a kind of radiology test where some highly skilled people put a radioactive tracer in you then take a picture or Positron Emission Tomograph to map out disease activity in your body. It’s the test that shows you if cancer has spread. When cancer survivors say they have to go in for a scan, it’s probably a PET scan to monitor the progress or remission of their disease. A PET scan explores the previously invisible life of our organs. In a way, it’s like Fawcett heading off into the jungle hoping to find treasures and fearing what may be revealed.

Like I said, that hallway is safe for reading because no one is ever back there. But that morning, I had to pull up short before tripping right over a group of three people. They walked out of the PET scan doors in a cluster–the radiology tech in his sage green scrubs, a young woman carrying two purses and a sheaf of papers, and one women of about sixty, who looked to be carrying the world on her shoulders. They didn’t pay me any attention, there behind my book.

“We’ll get these read this afternoon, and your doctor will call you with the results,” he said, looking the older woman right in the eye and nodding gently. Neither woman spoke but they both nodded in return. He smacked the button on the wall that opens the doors to the Radiation Oncology department. They hesitated a second while the doors swung open then he led them through in silence. I waited in the hall for the doors to close behind them.

Walking through that spot, the spot where that woman had stood a second before, I felt like I was walking through a cloud of her fear. It was tangible, buzzing, a gray heaviness like a swarm of jungle mosquitos carrying yellow fever. That fear that a cancer patient feels, coming to the hospital for the scan that will bring good news or the worst news. The scan that reveals the next part of her life and how it will go. That ordinary woman seemed like Fawcett chopping his way into the jungle, one foot at a time, never knowing if the next moment would bring a viper or a city of gold.

I thought about that woman and her daughter, how their afternoon would stretch out before them until the jangle of the phone would send their hearts to the ground. I hoped the news would be good. Please, please, please let that scan be clear. Let her laugh with relief and let the tears that they cry today be tears of joy. I took a couple of breaths, thought about all the times Richard and I had waited for one test or another. Thumbs up, thumbs down–will our life go on?

I pressed the button for the elevator. As I waited, I was struck by this passage in the tale of the Verde River party:

The starving expedition. Fawcett far right.

The starving expedition had a camera but no food. Fawcett front right.

“Fawcett soon noticed that one of the men had vanished. He eventually came upon him sitting collapsed against a tree. Fawcett ordered the man to get up, but he begged Fawcett to let him die there. He refused to move, and Fawcett took out his knife. The blade gleamed before the man’s eyes; Fawcett ached with hunger. Waving the knife, Fawcett forced him to his feet. If we die, Fawcett said, we’ll die walking.”

– David Grann, The Lost City of Z

I thought of that woman and how her shoulders stooped. I had assumed she was carrying her fear of dying. But really, she wasn’t like the starving man who wanted to surrender to death. She wasn’t rolling over and giving up–she was still walking, still consulting with her doctors, still LIVING. Regardless of the results of her scan.

I don’t remember if Richard ever had a PET scan. With blood cancers, your cancer is everywhere from the get go, metastatic from square one.

I do know that he never gave up. The man looked at me not twelve hours before he died and mumbled through cracked and bloody lips: “I’m just going through a rough patch.” He insisted on living, right up until the moment he died. He never quit walking, and I followed him right through that jungle, right up to the gate of the golden city.

“If we die, we’ll die walking.”


Want to read it for yourself? Here’s a link!

Going Places

I’ve been in Springfield, Missouri for the last 30 hours and WHAT FUN! I love going places. If you haven’t been in Springfield, MO for the last 30 hours, here’s just a taste of what you have missed:

  1.  Folks in Missouri are friendly, but you can keep your yoga pants in your own damn parking lot. We don’t want your patchouli smellin’ stretchy pants up in here, thank you very much.11080409_10205180175817015_1207847801974418780_o
  2. My hotel is hosting the Professional Outdoor Media Association conference and film festival (most of the short films that were showing in the lobby tonight have scores by Bob Seger or AC/DC). During breakfast, I sat next to four guys who talked about chiggers and deer ticks for 25 minutes straight. It was me, the outdoor media dudes, and the North Dakota State basketball team fighting it out for the breakfast buffet. Those suckers never saw me coming and I left with ALL the honeydew. 11070108_10205180176177024_577964643176630744_o
  3. This is my friend from all the way back in college, Dr. Pamela Sailors. She is a philosopher who specializes in the field of sports ethics (which means that our lunch conversation included topics like whether/when you are obligated to rescue a fellow climber on Mount Everest). She is my favorite kind of person: smart, funny, genuine, and interested in the world.11080308_10205180176537033_6232986941661935303_o
  4. We had lunch at Cafe Cuzco in the revitalized downtown district. This restaurant is the creation of a chef who liked the food in Peru so much that he decided to bring it to this neck of the woods. Along the way, they restored a defunct pharmacy building. It has a pressed tin ceiling and wooden booths imported from Peru, so it’s beautiful AND you get food that is healthy, fresh and delicious. I had the yerba mate (green tea) and a chicken aji verde that was sublime. 
    11073062_10205180177297052_1978990583372090827_o
  5. While we were eating this sublime food, the sounds of classical guitar swirled around us. I didn’t even realize the music was live until we got up to leave. I thanked this man for sharing his gift. What a beautiful sound on a gloomy gray day! 11079996_10205180177537058_2513801032847963695_o
  6. When Pam listed some local tourist attractions, she mentioned the Bass Pro Shop. I assured her, “Oh, we have one of those in Georgia.” Ha. This is THE Bass Pro Shop, the one that started them all. It was so much fun! I almost bought me some jelly worms. I got G a little can of shredded up beef jerkey that looks like a can of Copenhagen. How perfect is THAT?  10379473_10205180177817065_3496000441032756092_o
  7. This is a bronze statue of a whitetail buck, 15x life size. Look how shiny it is! 10603971_10205180178217075_6237605206013174341_o
  8. This grizzly reminded me of the time that Daddy borrowed a lake house from a client of his who was a big trophy hunter (gross). Right in the entryway of the house was a 10 foot stuffed grizzly, just like this one. We told the nephews, who were little boys at the time, that they weren’t allowed to touch these taxidermy pieces that were scattered throughout the house. The next morning, I found them all clustered behind the grizzly bear. I asked what they were doing and Jackson said, “Trying to find his butthole.” 11060022_10205180178537083_601292825915523298_o
  9. I got to give a talk for Women In History Month. I put a lot of work into it and the work paid off. I told stories, asked people to think, tied ideas together, and got a few laughs. It meant a lot to me, because as much as I’ve been in front of audiences, I felt like this was the first time I was there as a Writer. 11034350_10205180178977094_7757958567080325868_o
  10. And then there was beer, and it was good. 1900661_10205180179817115_7530389651993740343_o
  11. “You go through St. Louie, Joplin Missouri, Oklahoma City looks might pretty…” We cruised down Route 66! (Even if it was only for a mile or so). I’ve always wanted to see Route 66 and now I have! What a surprise. 10999865_10205180180337128_6352332042109551612_o
  12. This is a hotel where Elvis stayed in 1956. Their digital sign says, “Elvis Slept Here….Pets Welcome!…Free Wifi.” 475516_10205180180617135_2145954506772130903_o
  13.  Once I’ve rested a bit, I’ll post parts of the talk. I learned some cool stuff while putting it together. It felt so good to feel people listening, to see people nodding their heads at the interesting parts and laughing at the funny parts. 10869748_10205180175657011_3354801227045631841_o

 

 

So, to sum up my first trip to Missouri: no yoga parking, chiggers, yerba mate, dear friends, guitar, jelly worms, grizzly butthole, writer, get your kicks, beer, Elvis Slept Here, nodding and listening.

And that’s the day that makes me grateful to be going places.

Whatever You Polish Will Shine

I’m working on a new opportunity that is exhilarating and terrifying.

I’m going to talk to a group of people.

Live. In person.

So you might be thinking…”Girl, whut? You talk to people all the damn time. What’s the big deal?”

I do. I talk to big groups about Wesleyan. I talk for a living. I tell stories on the internet. I read a story in front of all those people at BlogHer last year. I love the feel of a podium and a mic.

This talk feels different. I’ve been invited to Missouri State University as part of their Women in History Month programs. This year’s theme is “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.” I get to talk to some college students about the vital role of telling your own story.

SQUEEEEEE.

And YIKES!

I’ve been working on my ideas for weeks and weeks, but I ran into a big wall of fear every time I tried to get them down into images to go along with my talking points. Petrified. And guess who comes to live in my head when I say YES to some new challenge: my inner critic. That voice that croaks, “See? I told you you couldn’t do this. Your ideas are stupid. No one is going to listen to you. Why would they? What’s special about you? I’ve never heard such arrogance.”

Jasmine of Just Jasmine gave me some great words of encouragement yesterday when I confessed to the same old struggle with the same old shit:

That critic voice is a protective mechanism we develop to keep us from starting so we never fail and never have to face whatever is on the other side. Often, as I am sure you know, when we push pass that voice we find we are far more capable than we’ve ever imagined.

Ain’t that the truth? This fear, this critical dance is a habit. I sat my ass down in the chair tonight and pushed my way past the critic and roughed out my talk.

And I loved it. I got excited about it. I found just the right way of expressing my thoughts. I am looking forward to the interchange with new people in a new place. One big ball of YES, rolling on its own once I got it moving.

While I was searching for some free license images for the talk, I came upon this haunting picture of a Chopin statue:

Chopin

Chopin

While looking at Chopin’s nose, I thought, “Whatever we polish will shine.” Normally, a bronze statue left out in the weather will take on that beautifully thick green patina that we see on the rest of this statue. But so many hands have reached up to pat, caress or tweak Monsieur Chopin’s nose that the constant polishing keeps it shiny. After a while, the nose leaps out and becomes what we notice about the entire statue. Whatever we polish shines.

Whatever we keep touching on, that’s what stays in the forefront. I polish the fear when I let that critic voice run rampant. If my heart travels back to fear over and over again, that’s what shines. If I point it towards courage and YES, that’s what shines.

Here are two other memories of shiny statues that I encountered in adventures and both of them made me smile.

This little dog sits at his master’s knee in a bas relief bronze plaque on the Karluv Most (Charles’ Bridge) in Prague. For hundreds of years, passersby have been unable to resist giving the dog a little pat:

karluv most dog

See how he shines from all that attention!

Here’s a funny one from Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Journalist Victor Noir was killed as a  second in a duel by the great-nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. Noir is memorialized in bronze, in such a realistic style that he seems to have fallen down (his toppled top hat often fills with flowers brought by tourists). Well, as you can see from the photo, certain…contours within the statue are remarkable. Over the decades, Noir’s crotch has risen in myth to a fertility symbol, so visitors to the cemetery give it a little polish for some extra luck in the baby-making department:

victor noir

(I gave it a polish myself…et voila, deux bebes! Tres simple!)

Jeez…How did this talk wander off into rubbing a French reporter’s crotch in a graveyard? I hope this doesn’t happen at Missouri State. Rein it in, rein it in….

So polishing. The power of polishing doesn’t come from force–it’s in repetition. It’s a gentle, consistent alchemy.  I’ve spent years inadvertently polishing the voice of the inner critic. Now I’m keeping my hands off of it and using them to gently pat the head of courage, who sits at my knee and looks lovingly at me, to remind me to give Yes a try.

 

The Memory Keeper

It’s pouring tonight and I can’t sleep, so I took my magical notebook and sat by the tree to listen to the rain.

Fred and Ginger, Innsbruck Austria

Fred and Ginger, Innsbruck Austria

This adorable pair smiled down from the top of the tree. Their names are Fred and Ginger (because they make such an elegant pair) and I bought them many years ago on a rainy night like tonight in Innsbruck, Austria. I chose them for their clumping big feet and his crooked smile. They are the hopelessly dorky and clumsy embodiment of how I felt when I went skiing in Austria. We were really there for Richard, who was a double black diamond, ski backwards down the mountain with no poles kind of athlete. I have been skiing exactly twice in my life: for the first time on a fraternity trip to Boone, NC and for the second time on the Stubaier Glacier 11,000 feet above Innsbruck….where they had the Olympics. Let’s just say it was inelegant. I prefer sports that include oxygen.

10497831_10204485078880026_3682962788673842328_o

Jumping Johannes, Salzburg Austria

This is Johannes, also from Austria. One year, I got a stomach bug on our Christmas trip. I was sick as a dog from Griffin to Gay to Atlanta to DC to Berlin to Salzburg. I crashed into the clean white sheets of a hotel room. The white plaster walls glowed with Teutonic cleanliness and order. I slept for a few hours and when I woke, Richard had returned from his explorations with a dinner from a schnitzel cart owned by a Bosnian family. He brought me soft cheese, flatbread still warm from the oven and an ice cold Diet Coke. I ate a bite and came alive again. The next morning, we wandered into a church square just in time to hear the carillon play “Silent Night.” The whole square stopped and listened as the notes rang out across the cold, clear air. That carol was written in Salzburg. The joy that I felt in that moment, feeling alive again after all that sickness, comes back to me when I see Johannes. I bought him in that square.

 

A pilot from Munich, a bell from Salzburg, Pere Noel from Paris

A pilot from Munich, a bell from Salzburg, Pere Noel from Paris

On that same day in Salzburg, we were exploring a part of the city wall next to the cemetary where Mozart’s wife is buried. We rested in little turret and discovered a bell hanging there. I asked Richard to take my picture pretending to ring the bell. And you can guess what happened next. I tugged just a little too hard and the damn thing went CLANGALANGALANG across the city. Oops. So I bought that little beaded silver bell to remember that moment.

And yes, there’s a black velvet Elvis painting on the tree, too. I found him in Maine, on our last trip together. My family has a black velvet Elvis that makes the rounds every few years at Christmas. G got him last year!

The Queen of the Ball, Munich Germany. The Frog Prince, New Orleans. The Cat King, Luxembourg.

The Queen of the Ball, Munich Germany. The Frog Prince, New Orleans. The Cat King, Luxembourg.

This elephant? She’s my favorite on the whole tree, of the hundreds of stories I remember every year. I found her in a shop in Munich and it was love at first sight. She was part of a pair, with a bull elephant in white tie and tails. I couldn’t afford both–she was almost $50. Richard used to tease me about my ornament mania as I collected them on trips. I knew he would give me hell if he saw how much this one cost. I gave him hell about smoking–but on this cold night, I said, “Why don’t you go outside and have a cigarette while I finish up here?” The owner of the shop spoke beautiful English. As soon as he was out the door, we shared a good laugh at men and the excuses she had heard to get them outside. I treasure this belle of the ball because she is so happy to be herself, so sure of her beauty, not in spite of but BECAUSE she is an elephant.

Putting her with the Frog Prince and the Cat King is new this year. I like it. With my old fake tree, I bent limbs and made her a little stage of her own. With a real tree, I had to find a sturdy limb to hold her, up high and off to the side in case Carlos or the cats brought the tree crashing down.

Grandmama Eunice's bell. Pink sand from Bermuda. A Star of David from Prague.

Grandmama Eunice’s bell. Pink sand from Bermuda. A Star of David from Prague. Scots Presbyterian from Charleston SC.

That blue glass bell? Daddy was warned not to touch it when he was a boy because it was old then. The ceramic Santa is from Paris. He always hangs sideways and seems a little judgy. I bought the Star of David in Prague to remember how I was moved to tears in the empty synagogues of the Jewish Quarter. Not every memory on the tree is a happy time. I have an angel that I bought in the gift shop of Johns Hopkins, and a little nest of robin eggs that reminds me of a quilt that hung on the wall in the chemo room there. It had the line from Dickinson:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

 

That tiny white church near the top? It’s another memory that needed to be remembered, not for joy, but for solemnity. It’s one of the first ornaments I collected–when Fartbuster and I went to Charleston, South Carolina for our honeymoon. The church is Scots Presbyterian. During the Civil War, the church donated its bells to be melted down and turned into ammunition. After the devastation of the war, they decided to leave the bell towers empty as a silent reminder of all that had been lost. A quiet memory.

Well. I could go on. But it’s after 1 a.m. and tomorrow is a busy day.

May the memories that visit you at this time be quiet ones, filled with reminders about how wide the world is, and how welcome you are to explore it.

She Pushed Me

10712475_10204160137356691_7861090945178605088_o“Hey, she pushed me!”

“Ashley’s using my hairbrush!”

“STOP IT!”

“Get OFF of me!”

That’s how my sister and I talked to each other when we were growing up–the way sisters do. Now that I’m back home from a fantastic Adventure Girls trip to San Francisco, I’d like to report that my sister pushed me. AGAIN. A couple of times.

1782499_10204160137556696_6295599819005434958_oMonday night, she pushed me out of a cable car. It was her idea to take a nighttime cable car trip to see the city lights in the first place. We got on the Powell Mason (or Powell Hyde? I dunno, she’s the one with the sense of direction) and rode up and over the hills of San Francisco. From one end of the line to the other. When the car was crowded, we stood inside the glassed compartment. But at the first chance, we got some seats out in the open air. Vivi kicked her feet against the side of the seat and stuck her boots out into the wind. I sat there next to her, ready to grab her by the collar in case of sudden stops, untoward jostling or…earthquake.

Gay said, “Come stand on the running board and hang on.”

Me? With my sensible purse and imperious shelf of matronly bosom? Why, I don’t even color my hair anymore and I am wearing Dr. Scholl’s shoes for goodness sake.

But she pushed me.

I hung my ass out in the wind and it was GREAT. I couldn’t stop grinning as we sailed up and over, down and around all those wonderful hills. When I looked out over the Transamerica Pyramid all lit up in orange for the Giants’ World Series win, I got that deep seated feeling of joy in my heart–that place where my sense of adventure lives. All because my sister gave me a little push.

And Vivi? Vivi got to see her mama being bold. She got to see two women having fun in the wide world.

My big sister isn’t one for limits. I had decided to change my grand plan of renting a car and taking Vivi to see the redwoods on our last day. It was just too much hassle. Instead, we rented a tandem bike and set off around the marina. Gay went off to her surgical conference to earn some CME hours.

Then right when Vivi and I were getting saddle sore, I get a text: “Want to rent a car?”  By the time we got back to the house, Gay had us a car and a Plan. We took off over the Golden Gate (and Lynrd Skynrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” happened to be playing on the radio) and up into the woods. Muir Woods, to be exact.

10712561_10204160136796677_596909291184890860_oI would have been happy to walk along the wooden boardwalk under the giant sequoias, but Gay decided–in her flipflops–that we should go for a little hike. We went up to the top of the valley on the Canopy trail so we could look down from the tops of the giants. I never thought I would be teetering on the edge of a gorge filled with ancient redwoods, but my sister pushed me and there I was.

We wanted to go to the beach–she found Muir Beach. Vivi played in the cold water of the Pacific for the first time. I picked up striated rocks I had never seen before and old shells tumbled by the sandy waves. 10623298_10204160136516670_2485446281195265282_oWe had to leave before sunset to get the car back, but Gay was already ruminating. “Next time, we come PREPARED to hike! We’ll stay until sunset! We’ll…”

She busted it back to San Francisco through evening traffic. Didn’t even need the GPS for directions. I was ready to get Vivi back to the apartment. Gay assured me there was time for one detour.

Our route was so circuitous that I was sure she had gotten lost. Then she turns up a hill so high that it looked like a wall in front of us. She starts giggling. “Ready?”

Ummm…for WHAT?

fixed gay darkI couldn’t even BREATHE. She floored that little Kia and we shot straight up into the air. Both of us leaned forward instinctively, as if we could urge the car up that precarious angle. Gay had her face pressed so close to the windshield, I snorted, “You look like Aunt Eula!” That got us tickled.

When we made it to the top, she slowed to a crawl so I could look out across the vista of lights and down into the bay. The three of us paused there in that moment, the whole world spread out below us. Vivi squealed from the back seat, “Whoa!” when she had been getting whiny about dinner just seconds earlier. Aunt Gay said, “See, Vivi? You gotta trust me!”

She hit the gas and pushed us over the edge of the hill. It was so steep and dark, it actually looked like the road had disappeared beneath us and we might sail out straight to Alcatraz. We hurtled down Taylor Street as the lights of the city whizzed by our windows. I laughed and laughed and laughed. I couldn’t quit clapping like the Mama in “Nutty Professor”–Herc-a-LES, Hercales!

Gay popped me on the leg with the back of the hand and asked, “When are YOU going to learn to trust me?”

I trust her. My sister pushes me, and I let her, because I know she’s also the one who would never let me fall.

Thanks, Gay. I love you.

10628772_10204160137036683_6178326615994551783_o