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California, New Zealand. Two passports, two homelands. And detours.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Summer promise

Walking through a heavily air-conditioned Walmart last week with my mom, looking for a plastic 6-dish rack that could be extended to a  12-dish rack,  stopping at one point to examine the back of a bottle of Coke Zero and ponder together for about four minutes, why Coke Zero was different from Diet Coke, was probably the equivalent of someone else’s ten-hour drive to see the sun setting over the Grand Canyon.

It was on aisle six, about five minutes before, looking at the swivel desk chair selection and pausing to inhale the scents of candles with names like Let Freedom Ring and Cosy Sweater, that I realised where I was, right there, near my mom, wandering aimlessly around Walmart, picking things up and then putting them back again, with afternoon plans to head to the state fair to look at goats and share a corn dog, beat out just about any other holiday spot in the world at that moment.

It's funny what you crave and where your mind finds rest when it leaves its routine - kind of like a dog let off its leash. My dad  wanted to know why my bedside light had been on until about 1am the last few nights.  I explained the light was on because I could not for the life of me remember if Christie from Wisconsin ended up with Todd the OC surfer or Escondido quarterback Brad (Thad? Chad?)  in Summer Promise, which still features in my childhood bookcase. But it turns out turns out the quarterback doesn't even come into the first book in the Christie series - and so it took several late nights of reading with the fan on, eating Trader Joe crackers, and speed-reading through heavy-handed life lessons (note the publisher) to a frustratingly ambiguous ending (‘’Never had one season held so much hope...or so much heartache!’’). The conclusion was that the only way I was going to get to the bottom of the Todd vs Brad/Chad/Thad question was to loiter around the church library on Sunday and check out the whole series, and in doing so, reacquaint myself with the author's footnotes to the extraordinary high school experiences my 12-year-old self had studied rigorously, and was heroically prepared to experience herself, just like Christie  had (my high school experience did not resemble in any way, the above cover of Summer Promise).

And that pretty much wraps up the last three weeks. In the final months before I left work - and especially on the really trying weather days; sleet but no snow, rain that came at you sideways, darkness at 5pm; all backdrop outside the window for the polite arguing and mad scribbling inside, followed by phone slamming and expletives, brimming tears, angry typing, and then somewhere in there, a story - I loved performing lengthy monologues for my colleagues on either side of me, about what I was looking forward to when I came back to my hometown, all based on previous holidays in Los Olivos that I have grown to love, as if we were hunkered down in trenches, under fire, clutching helmets and weapons, our backs to a muddy wall: I talked about waking up on July 4th morning and hearing my dad tinkering with his mini cooper, getting it ready for the parade; the sound and smell of the alfalfa being cut and baled across the street, lemon meringue pie after church, and watching old movies with my mom on the couch; sitting in the hot tub in the backyard and looking up at the walnut trees and the stars; eating chips and cowboy caviar, barefoot, in big Adirondack chairs with friends; going to the outdoor theatre with my mom for Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals; the smell of eucaplyptus trees in 90 degree heat as you walked past mansions that you will (likely) never have to pay a mortgage on, and down the steps to Butterfly Beach with a book and a towel.

I have an exceptionally sweet hometown and region that has been kind to me when I have needed to just come home and just be for a little while, just until the fog lifts.  

And I am doing that (and it is wonderful).

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