That Trip: page 1

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This is my favorite picture. If I ever write a book about that trip, this will be my cover. It pretty much encapsulates my life as a teenager. I was sixteen in this picture but given my upbringing, my sixteen years was easily everyone else’s twelve. I’ve always been a young soul and super naive.  I always looked younger than my age so people treated me like I was younger. This was a blessing and a curse but mostly now that I’m older, I think it was a blessing. I dodged a lot of bullets looking the way I did.

I remember the day this was taken. We were waiting forever for my parents to finish loading up the RV that my dad would be driving us across country in for our big educational adventure of the summer. This adventure was hatched up by my mom of course. She was always one to string together impossible plans on a shoe-string and a prayer. I would never take the risks she took with us kids or her finances but because of her free spirit and general optimism, I have seen more places and experienced more crazy stories than my kids will ever hope to.

So there we are: me on the left leaning on my cousin Nicki’s knee in exaggerated tiredness. Next to her is, Tara, her sister and then that gangly dude in knee socks and hightop Converse is my brother, Shawn. We were a pack. I have a zillion cousins but I’ve always been the closest to Tara and Nicki (I hope you guys don’t mind me using your real names.), probably because we were closest in age. My mom has five brothers and sisters and us four were the first grandchildren born in the Albertson family. We stuck together.

I remember that porch with the red concrete bricks so well. It is still my favorite and when I’m house-hunting (if I ever get so lucky to be a homeowner) I will always want a house with a big front porch. The red bricks were always hot in the sun and if you were cold from running in the sprinklers all day you could always stand on them and warm your feet until they burned.

I made it a habit to jump up these steps everyday when I got home from school. It was a game for myself that I would never touch the middle step. A few times I misjudged and ate the concrete but for the most part I was limber as a billy goat. There was also a 3-foot short stucco-covered brick wall on both sides of our big front yard. I also jumped over those walls whenever I came to them like a hurdler. I was really tough on myself and my physical fitness regime. It’s too bad my parents never let me try out for track and field. But I digress.

There were a lot of cement and stucco around because the man who lived in our house before we moved in, was a cement contractor. I think everyday when he came home from a job and he had some extra cement he just smeared it onto the outside walls of our house. Everything was covered in white stucco. In fact, even the ceiling of the front porch was stuccoed cement. Our house was a tank. If a hurricane ever ripped through the desert where we lived, our house would stand still while the rest of the neighborhood blew away.

Anyway, I’ve always loved this house. It wasn’t the nicest. It was kind of a hovel but it had a lot of charm, quirk and weird add-ons. I will always be trying to recreate the sense of home it gave me. We moved a lot before we moved into that house and we stayed there the longest so it will always be my childhood home.

But back to the trip. My parents always take forever to get ready for a trip. They still do. My mom makes lists and checks them twice and just like me, she overpacks as she imagines every possible scenario. I’m sure she packed a lot of food and of course we had “busy bags” of things to do since this was the time before cell phones and boredom was only be kept at bay with coloring books and sketchpads and Uno cards and hula hoops. Wait, hula hoops? Yes, hula hoops. I’ve been reading my old journals and I made a point of mentioning that they were packed and stored behind the kitchen banquette seating because you’d never want to be caught out and about without your hula hoop. Face palm.

 

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I’m sure we kids were no help. The fact that we are all sitting there on the front step looking bored out of our minds, and then sticking our heads out the window while my parents rush about fussing over packing and taking inventory of all the broken things on the rented RV, is a pretty good clue. But we were kids and I think our responsibilities started and stopped at remembering to pack enough underwear and a swimsuit. As soon as that was done I’m sure we felt free to whine and complain about how boring and hot the day was. We didn’t leave until 8pm that night and if I remember right I bet our goal departure time was more like 10am. That’s the way we roll.

The RV is a character itself in this story. It was a 32-foot beast called the Executive. I’m not sure if it was my aunt or us kids who renamed it “The Execute” after it proceeded to break down in every state that we drove through. It was rented from one of my dad’s pest control clients. I remember the guy’s shop well. It was a furniture rental store called Don’s Furniture. It was dusty old place full of big bulky wooden desks and grungy tweed couches sitting on a cement floor. I don’t know how he kept in business when you could find just as nice of furniture at the Salvation Army but it was the sticks and nobody really had much money back then so maybe that’s how he made it. He was actually planning on expanding his store to a second location with the two-thousand dollars he made from renting this RV to my dad. Which leads me to another question, how the blankety-blank-blank did my family afford to spend 2K on an RV? We couldn’t even afford to eat out at fancy restaurants!

The answer is: my mom. I’m sure she connived and cajoled her sister into getting her wealthy husband to pay for it in exchange for my dad doing all the driving and she doing all the cooking. That might have been a good deal. I don’t know but I do know that there are many layers to my mom and her sister’s relationship. They’ve both been known to have hot tempers and I do remember there being a lot of stress generated between the two of them. But I love them both and I know that they loved us and they wanted to create this amazing adventure across America so that we kids could learn US history in person the year before we all studied it in school. It was a brilliant plan. I almost want to try to do it myself with my own kids. But it was an expensive plan and we had no money so it went the way most expensive plans with no financing go: disastrous. Wonderfully, comically and epically disastrous.

*these memories are mine and not necessarily accurate. If somebody remembers it differently please reach out and correct me. :)

Dinky Creek Camping Trip: Part 3

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This is my last installment of blogging about our Dinky Creek camping trip. After this it’s back to garden news and dog walks. I know, gripping. But we do what we can, right? Pandemic life surely has its challenges.

Starting up where I left off, back we went to the creek. We pretty much lived at the creek that day.

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The water was sooooo nice. I realized that Payam is the most happy when he’s floating around in the water. One of his favorite outings when we are back home is visiting Raging Waters at Knott’s Berry Farm and just floating down the Lazy River all day. I’m not as fond of Raging Waters, as it is usually quite crowded and germy (in my mind at least. I know there is a ton of chlorine but still…) so finding our own lazy river in the wild is a dream come true for all of us.

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We found a nice big swimming hole and the kids and Payam played around in it with Cody for hours. Whisky and I enjoyed the shade nearby.

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Poor Cody, he swam so hard he really tired himself out.

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Summer + dogs + water = happiness.

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I wish we lived here permanently.

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And yes, I swam too. But I much preferred to sit along the sidelines and take pictures.

This is probably one of very few times I will ever post a photo of myself in a bathing suit. Look at those thighs. Red beans and rice didn’t miss her. But I actually like this photo of me. I feel happy in my own skin and my bangs that are growing out. Payam took it and you can see that he makes me feel great about my body. I wish I could go back to my twenty-year-old self and give her a hug and tell her that somebody is going to love every part of me someday. I probably wouldn’t have believed me. I’m glad to be here instead of there.

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Finally we got our fill of swimming and headed back to camp to cook dinner and chill.

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Everyone relaxed and Cody probably slept for an hour or two. He was wiped.

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Here I am in my sexy camp outfit.

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You know what’s great about getting older? You stop caring so much what other people think about how you look. I love not having mirrors and just wearing what feels good. Sure, this isn’t my proudest moment in fashion but I was comfortable and happy. Camping is dirty and full of weird things like bugs (ew!) but once you get over that  and desensitize yourself, it is really wonderful to just embrace nature and and enjoy the beauty.

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The best part is watching my kids detach from their virtual worlds and connect back with us in the present. They are really quite pleasant to be around when they don’t have their noses stuck to their phones. They have lively conversations and they don’t hate our company. Go figure!

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As the sun began to set Payam made a roaring fire and we settled into our camp chairs around it.

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Each crackle of the fire seemed to erase another wrinkle of stress from our foreheads. We almost forgot there was a pandemic going on. Well, until we had to go back into the main campground for water or to use the restrooms. But we stayed away as much as we could and were never happier to find a tree to pee behind than this trip. I never thought I’d say that but my recently acquired pandemic-related germ phobia has made me re-think everything.

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You know you are winning at camping when your daughter is bored enough to braid your dogs hair.

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We sat around and relaxed. I finally broke down and had a glass of wine. It was nice but nothing I want to continue. At least not until I’m really comfortable my drinking habits. I am feeling much better about it though. I haven’t had anything else to drink since that campfire and it feels good. I love my new non-drinking self. I feel much better in my own skin.

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Then we tucked in for the night. The girls had battery-operated lights on their tent which is a cozy addition to our camping list. The first night Joon had a really hard time sleeping with all the new noises but the second night she was out like a light because she was so tired from sun exposure and swimming all day.

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The next morning we woke up early and started breaking camp. We all had mixed emotions about leaving. While we couldn’t wait to get home and shower off the gritty layers of sweat and dirt, we were also sad to leave our lovely campsite. It felt like home.

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The girls took the dogs on one last walk and then we were off.

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“Make a face like you hate camping.” I said as I took our last selfie.

I think you can tell by their faces that nobody hates camping. Until next year, Dinky Creek! Hopefully by then we’ll be pandemic free.

Le sigh.