I was so happy the other night when our power went out. I’d been waiting years for it to happen. I started getting prepared in 2018 when Hurricane Lane threatened to hit the Big Island of Hawaii where we have a home.
When I’d walked into the house with overflowing Target bags, my husband said, “What did you buy now?”
“Flashlights and lanterns,” I said. “And batteries.”
He shook his head. “You’re nuts. We’re never going to need them.”
And he was right for five years. But last Wednesday when everything literally went black in an instant, I was proved to be the wise one in the family. I jumped up out of my chair and speed walked to the laundry room. Fortunately, I could find my way there with the phone flashlight. I opened the cabinet and started pulling down the lanterns and flashlights.
As I turned on the biggest flashlight, I could hear my husband grumbling from the living room.
“What?” I asked, flashing the light at him.
“I know what you’re going to say,” he said.
I turned the flashlight so he could see my grin. “It’s not my fault that I’m always right. It just is what it is.”
We have quite a flourishing banana grove in our Hawaii garden. We get four or more crops a year. A new flower appeared last week, doing its thing! When its petals drop off, the banana flowerlets are revealed. I read that the purple petals of the large flower are edible. The bananas will develop slowly. It would be great if they were ripe by December when our kids come to visit, but I doubt it.
Remember when we were in grade school and our teachers would start off the year by having us write an essay titled: What I Did On My Summer Vacation? It seemed such a boring topic, but now I get it. The teacher got us writing and also telling about ourselves. He/she could learn a lot about their student from those short essays.
Maybe it seemed boring because in the old days, we didn’t do much. But in the summer of 2022, our vacation wasn’t boring. Like so many, we were making up for lost time. People traveled in droves to the far corners of the world: to Europe, to Iceland, to Africa and Asia. We traveled too, but on the west coast. For us, it was all about getting together with family and friends we hadn’t seen since before the pandemic.
We started our trip in Seattle for our grandson Eli’s graduation from the University of Washington. We hadn’t been on a plane for almost a year. I’d been a seasoned traveler in 2019, but in June 2022, I’d forgotten a lot. Just walking in an airport seemed strange.
Once in Seattle, the weather reminded us why we had moved to California. As Eli drove us into the city from the airport, the down pour was so heavy I could barely see the lights of downtown. The rain continued into the following week, finally becoming a drizzle that frazzled my husband. The golf courses were so soaked that even when the deluge ended, no carts were allowed. No golf for Moe makes for a nerve wracked Cindy! That aside, the graduation was wonderful. And we got to meet Eli’s friends.
Seattle is very different than the city Moe and I grew up in. And Bellevue, the once sleepy suburb, is unrecognizable. On the one sunny day, we went to the University of Washington where we met. Mt. Rainier was out in all its glory. We walked around campus to Frosh Pond where Moe had first told me he was going to marry me. (I was eighteen and a freshman so I murmured something like, “that’s a nice thought,”). After having lunch at University Village, we took the nostalgia drive through the neighborhoods we grew up in. (Interestingly, these areas remain untouched by time.)
But as I said, the main agenda in Seattle was seeing family and friends. Our daughter lives in Bellevue, but she and the kids visit a lot. In contrast, we hadn’t seen Moe’s sister for four years! We spent Father’s Day with Moe’s cousins, their kids and grandkids and I got to spend time with my sister, my niece and her kids. Back in California, we had a family reunion with my side of the family, who we hadn’t seen since before Covid.
One rainy morning in Seattle, I had coffee with ten friends from high school. Half of them had gone to Stevens Elementary with me. I was the first one at Starbucks and started questioning myself about setting this up. What had I been thinking? I hadn’t seen these people for twenty-five years since our last reunion. I’d left Seattle thirty years ago. What would we have in common? What would we have to say to each other?
Three hours later, we were still talking. It was an interesting phenomenon: we were senior citizens now with many life experiences behind us, some of which we shared. But the childhood connection we’d had bonded us forever. Especially with the grade school kids. Part of who I am today is because of Sue Ann Kay, Judy Walseth, Sten Crissey and Sandra James. They sat beside me in class from 9 AM to 3:10 during my formative years. We absorbed the same school experiences, were in Brownies and Girl Scouts together, were student class officers together. Our family backgrounds were diverse, but our world view evolved in those classrooms.
I don’t remember how I used to end my “What I did on my Summer Vacation” essays years ago. This year, I can end by telling you how enriched I feel that I connected again with family and friends. My heart is full of gratitude.
I haven’t been able to write in my blog for months. If I wrote the word VERY, there wouldn’t be a Y. I was trying to write about how beauty was not lasting and it would come out BEAUT. And if I wrote an X, it would be a ” so I couldn’t write things like exit, excite, exact on my blog. If I wrote the blog on Microsoft, the Y and X were there. But when I pasted into the WordPress blog, they were gone.
Yesterday, I had a computer specialist come to the house. First we updated Firefox. No go. We tried Chrome. No good. Finally, Safari WORKED. I’m full of eXcitement! It’s so verY nice!!!
Masks! Eighteen months ago, they were the great unknown. I remember late in February 2020, a man driving in the car next to me had a mask on. I thought it was so hilarious, I tried to take a picture of him while I was driving. Less than a month later, masks were a number one priority. How were we going to get them? They were in as short supply as toilet paper. We were in Hawaii and most supply chains had shut down. Almost no airplanes or cargo ships.
I found out that Katia was making masks and contacted her. Soon I had masks made from colorful Hawaiian prints. I bought enough for us, our grandkids who were living with us, and even for our neighbors. (I set the two I’d bought for Kathy and Mark on the bench by our front door. Kathy left us a can of Lysol in exchange. Lysol!! I was so grateful I had tears in my eyes.)
Although we loved how beautiful Katia’s masks were, I knew we’d need more. I began searching the Internet for masks like I was a crazy person. When the ships started running again, I found I’d bought enough to open an emporium.
I’ve found masks helpful in many ways other than protecting me from Covid and/or colds and flu. I had no idea how much I touched my face before the pandemic began. Wearing a mask keeps my hands off my face while hiding the wrinkles on that same face. I found another use also—I use the mask as an extra sunscreen shield when I walk.
We’re going to be on a plane in about ten days. Fortunately, we’re vaccinated. Which means the shields I bought will probably go unused.
My generation has seen many terrible things. I think we lived in “Happy Days” until the assassinations started. Many say the day that President Kennedy was shot was the end not only of Camelot, but many of our hopes. It was a horrific day. So was the day Dr. Martin Luther King was shot.
We’ve lived through many other horrible days. 9/11 was one of the worst. January 6th also was one of the worst, but in a different way. There was no common enemy for us to unite against, except for other Americans. (I was horrified when Ivanka Trump called them patriots.) My generation is disturbed on a deep level.
I find my friends, family and I can’t sleep. We’re up at night reading, watching, trying to figure this out. How could this happen? Who are these people who were so viciously violent and knew how to surge and infiltrate? What are they going to do next? Why wasn’t the police force more prepared?
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to tour the Capitol Building twice. In 2015, I was with my grandson who was an intern for Congresswoman Brownley in Washington D.C. One of his jobs was to take constituents on a tour of the Capitol Building. Before I could go, I had to have a thorough background check. The second time I toured was with my daughter and her two children in 2016. We all had to have background checks, even the three-year-old. We all waited in orderly lines to be admitted.
I love the Rotunda. It’s a beautiful structure and the statues are so inspiring. I thought about being there with my family as the domestic terrorists crashed through bent on destruction, vandalism and defacing our house, the people’s house. Their viciousness and their disregard for law and order made me sick, but I couldn’t stop watching the videos again and again. (I kept watching the videos of them surging forward, trampling some and ignoring the police officer who was being crushed.) It was not only an attack on America, but an atrocity against our way in life.
I haven’t been able to sleep or do much of anything. One night I went on Facebook when I’d given up on sleep. A lot of other people were up too, and we connected. A friend having cancer treatment at City of Hope hospital emailed me: It truly gave me so much to watch, like watching a Marvel comic movie, the good guys v. The bad guys! Another friend texted me at 1:00 AM, trying to go to sleep.
Yesterday I finally started answering phone calls from my friends. They felt the same way I did. The calls weren’t short or about our children and grandchildren. They were about what happened on Wednesday. We googled videos and watch them together. We talked about how this could happen. Where had the FBI been? Were the police complicit? Why did the people who railed against looters during the Black Lives Matter protests have nothing to say about the looters in our Capitol Building? We talked about the Camp Auschwitz T-shirt, and we looked it up online. (You can still buy one, but Amazon took down the Auschwitz Christmas tree ornaments last year.)
I talked to my brother. “My friends and I keep asking how this could happen?” I said.
“Are you serious? The racism, anti-Semitism, the frustration has been building for years,” he said.
I talked to my sister and we commiserated as if a loved one had died.
How do we pick up the pieces? On Wednesday morning, I had told our nine-year-old granddaughter that she could feel safe to sleep in her own bed now. “Things are going to be safe now with President Biden. We’ll have rule of law,” I said. Well, I was sure wrong.
Last night we didn’t even make a pretext of going to bed–we were both still charged with anxiety about the events. We were lucky to have a thunder and lightning storm. No way could we have slept through the flashes of lightning and the long, ominous rolls of thunder. I understood why the ancients believed that powerful gods lived in the skies. It was tempting to believe, even today, that they were angry with what has happened.
In any case, we welcomed the storm. It suited our state of mind.
I have a long history of having birthday parties in December. Very long. This year will be my 75th time. (I remember when I used to think 75 was old. But I thought 40 was old, then 50, etc. until I realized that at those ages, I was young-to-youngish. I do think that I was at the height of my powers in my 50’s. Now at 75, I won’t say I’m elderly, but I’m definitely older—See, I digress as older people are wont to do.)
My birthday is December 28. I was born at 11:59PM—on my first birth record, the nurse had written in December 29. Which we didn’t know until I was sixteen and was getting my driver’s license. It really doesn’t matter that much unless you are getting your astrological chart done—but really, who gets born a minute before midnight? No wonder I’m always late.
You might think having a birthday between Christmas and New Year’s Eve would be festive and fun. It’s not. First off, no one is really in the mood—they’re full of sugar plums and are saving up for New Year’s Eve’s champagne. So, my birthday is an imposition. I started feeling this way at any early age. I was about seven when I heard my mother in the kitchen. She was making tuna sandwiches for my party.
“We’re in retail,” she said to no one. “I don’t have time for this.” It was a refrain I was to hear year after year.
Often the weather is not good on my birthday. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been rained or snowed out. It happened in Seattle all the time, but I thought I’d be safe in California. Nope. One year, we had a wonderful party planned at an Italian restaurant. The only problem was that the 101 and the entrance to the restaurant were both flooded. Friends from Santa Barbara had to turn around, and you needed waders to get into Padri. Once in, it was a wonderful evening, despite the smell of wet wool.
Three years ago, the family went to Hawaii in December. Everyone likes to adventure so I planned a birthday trip to the top of Mauna Kea. I’d arranged for a guide and picnic lunches. My granddaughter and I even went to Target to buy jackets and gloves. We were set to go. I didn’t even think about the weather—it was Hawaii for goodness sake. Then the guide called me.
“What kind of sandwich would you like tomorrow?” I asked him.
“Sorry, but I’m calling with bad news,” he said. “They’ve had so much snow at the top, the road is closed.” At first I thought he was joking, but the joke again was on me.
We did go to a lovely restaurant that night, right on the beach. It was so cold that we had to wear coats, and the wind knocked down our water glasses across the table in a domino effect. We took the birthday cake to-go.
My 70th birthday was not entirely rained out. It was cold and drizzly in Montecito, but all 19 of us were staying at the Biltmore, which was cozy and warm. Our family is intrepid, and from Seattle, so we didn’t let the weather stop us. We even took our family walk and managed to have photographs taken outside.
My husband used to make fun of me because I was so sensitive about my birthday—I didn’t want a Christmas wrap or even red and green ribbon on my package.
“You’re the only one who thinks like that,” he’d say.
But one day, after standing in a long line waiting to renew my driver’s license, I found out I was not alone. I happened to be standing between two truckers, who knew each other. (I knew they were truckers because their big rigs were parked in the lot.)
“Hey, your birthday’s this time of year?” the really tall one asked the other.
“Yeah, mine’s on Christmas Eve. Nobody wants to do anything, but maybe go to church,” the other guy said. He looked like a short Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“Mine’s on Christmas. I get one crummy gift that says, “Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas” on it,” the tall one said.
“Me too!” the muscle builder said. “And it’s wrapped in paper with Santa Claus all over it.”
“Me, too,” I put in. They looked down at me as if I were a pesky fly looking for Pence’s white hair, but I wasn’t deterred. “One year when I was ten, my three aunts gave me a half-slip for Christmas and my birthday. I had to write a separate thank you note to each aunt!” I said.
“That’s awful,” Schwarzenegger Wanna-Be said. “What’s a half-slip?”
I explained this antique piece of clothing apparel, and we continued to commiserate with each other until we were called. I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my husband.
Some gifts you never forget. On my 20th birthday, my husband gave me an engagement ring. On my 30th, he gave me in an instant hot. We’d been married ten years by then so you can see how our marriage was progressing. A few years ago, he did give me the largest iPad. My daughter called it a Homer Simpson gift—it seems Homer always gives Marge something he wants. Yep, the only time I ever touched that iPad was when I took it out of the box.
I don’t want you to think that all my birthdays were a disaster. Truly, most of them have been great. We’ve had many fun parties along the way. Six years ago, we were in New Zealand and helicoptered to a glacier. And family does seem to like to congregate in Hawaii at the end of December…if there’s not a pandemic.
So here I am about to celebrate my 75th. I feel much as I did when I was 65. Thanks to PRP and a stem cell in my knee, I can still walk three miles a day, do yoga and work out on ZOOM. I also continue to write and teach . I admit to being a couple of inches shorter and wider, and that my hearing is going downhill faster than Lindsey Vonn. But overall, I feel terrific. Which is a gift.
As for other gifts, I’ve asked my family and friends to donate to food banks or a charity. The vaccine will be another gift, but I’ll wait my turn. Which because I’m now 75, will be sooner rather than later. I think I’m 2 millionth in line.