Sunday, August 31, 2008

Over the hills and far away

What's that you say? Weren't G and I supposed to be on vacation last week? Well, we were, and here's the abbreviated report.

Saturday, Aug. 23

After an unplanned three-hour delay, courtesy of a dead car battery, my dad, G and I dropped the very unhappy cats off at their prison lovely holiday accommodations and hit the freeway. By three o'clock, we were at the iconic train-depot McDonalds in Barstow, which has expanded since I was last there in 1994 (!) to include an entire mini food court. There, we all ate, visited the restroom and bought gas, and within 45 minutes, we were back on the road and heading for Arizona.

This was somewhere between Kingman and Flagstaff. It was raining in the distance and the sunset turned everything purple and rose.

It took forever to get to Flagstaff, which was where we intended to stop for the night, and when we arrived it was long past dark. We got rooms at a Motel 6 and ate dinner, and then the altitude caught up with me -- Flagstaff is at 7,000 feet, and I felt like I was wearing concrete shoes. I'm embarrassed to admit what time I finally woke up and told G to turn off the laptop and go to sleep, so we'll just say it was late and leave it at that.

Sunday, Aug. 24

Quote of the day from my dad:

"Hurry up and get dressed! We have to get to Denny's before the Baptists do!"

I LOL'd.

We did beat the Baptists to Denny's, and after breakfast, we were back on the road. Here are some photos:

Now leaving Flagstaff, home of the only trees in Arizona.

The first sign you're entering New Mexico: an invitation to buy Indian souvenirs.

Red rock cliffs from far away.

And from close up.

We finally got to my grandmother's house in Albuquerque around 3 p.m., and then spent the rest of the day going out to dinner and watching the Olympic closing ceremonies on TV. Quiet, but nice.

Monday, Aug. 25

On this day, my dad, G and I went shopping in Old Town. I loved it there when I was G's age, and she enjoyed it too, picking out souvenirs for herself and presents for her cousin and three of her friends. After the shopping we went to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, where we watched the "Living Sea" IMAX movie and saw loads of fossils:

Tuesday, Aug. 26

Got up at 5 a.m. -- it was still dark outside, ouch -- and drove 200 miles to visit my great-uncle and aunt, who live in a little town called Portales. There's not a lot to see on the way to Portales, but here's a nice abandoned farmhouse for you:

There are similar houses everywhere you go in New Mexico, many of them almost completely ruined. Whenever I see one, I always wonder about the people who lived there, and what made them decide to leave. Were there too many bad growing seasons in a row? Did they hear of a better opportunity someplace else? Or could they just not bear the sound of the wind through the prairie grass any longer? How did they feel when they closed the door for the last time and drove away, never to return?

I know. I think too much.

Anyway, we arrived in one piece, spent a few hours having lunch and visiting, and then turned right around and drove another 200 miles back to Albuquerque. ("Well, I'm not going to do that again," announced my grandmother when we arrived. We all agreed with her.)

Wednesday, Aug. 27

Not much happened, as we were all still tired from the day before. We had lunch at a soup-and-salad place called Sweet Tomatoes, and my dad, G and I did a little more shopping and visited Borders, which, as you might expect, is exactly the same no matter where you are. Aside from that, I washed clothes, packed suitcases, and tried not to think about the next day.

Thursday, Aug. 28

We all got up at 5 a.m. (again ... sob) and my dad and grandmother dropped G and me off at the airport to catch our 7:35 flight home. To say that I was not sanguine about the prospect would be an understatement; "crawling out of my skin with nerves" might be a better description. But I'm a good actress when I want to be, and G had no idea that anything was going on. In fact, G thought that she was the nervous one and I was completely calm and cheerful. (You can just put my Oscar right over there on the mantelpiece, thanks.)

What ended up getting me through the flight, when I wasn't sneaking on my earphones to listen to a few minutes of my buddy "Edward"'s reassuring voice, was giving G a running commentary on everything I know about airplane travel: "And now the pilot's opening the flaps to slow us down ... and in a minute you'll feel a bump when the wheels touch the runway ... and now he's putting on the speed brakes so we can stop." I'm sure the lady next to us wanted to smother me with her airline-issue pillow, haha. All in all, G took the experience really well, and after we landed, remarked that it had been "like riding a big flying bus." ("Yep, nothing to it!" I said as my legs slowly stopped shaking.) However, she refused to let me take her picture while we were on the plane, so her first flight will forever be comemmorated by photos of the back of her head, or her hand held up in the classic "no paparazzi" pose. I don't know what was up with that, but I was too glad we were both alive to care very much.

And that was our Big Exciting Adventure in the American Southwest. Next on the travel schedule: New York in November. Woohoooo!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Get your craft on

My mother has always been the craftiest person I know. In the seventies, she crocheted sweaters and made beaded macramé holders for our potted plants. In the eighties, much to my embarrassment, she sewed some of my school clothes. (Remember that plaid material with metallic threads running through it? Yeah, me too.) Today, she stencils, sponge-paints, and whips up sofa cushions and curtains that would make Martha Stewart weep with envy.

Sadly, all this crafty talent almost completely passed me by. I dutifully labored over the cross-stitch and needlepoint kits my mother gave me for birthdays and Christmases, but I never had much luck with them, and as an adult, I tell anyone who asks that I'm "just not good at making things." The only problem is that G seems to have inherited the crafting gene from her grandmother, and guess who she turns to for help in realizing her artistic visions?

Right. Me.

On that note, a couple of weeks ago G decided that she wanted to be a skunk for Halloween, and she begged me to please please please please please make a skunk costume for her. I weakly suggested that perhaps she should ask Grammy to help, because Mom is a bit of a dolt when it comes to costume creation, but G, who is still convinced that I can do anything, insisted that she wanted me to do it.

So, I managed to find directions for a skunk costume in a Halloween magazine, and today we went to buy the faux fur to make the skunk tail. While I was getting the fabric measured, the lady offered to let me have the bolt end for half price, and I said yes, thinking that perhaps G would like to turn it into a dress-up stole or a teddy-bear blanket or something.

"Oh, cool!" G said as soon as she saw it. "Now we can make a stuffed animal!"

"Um, I don't know about that," I said. "Stuffed animals mean sewing, and I can't really sew."

"Yes, you can," said G, in a don't-be-silly voice. "You sewed up Delilah's belly when she got a hole in it." (Delilah is a Webkinz cocker spaniel, BTW, not some desperate neighbor who can't afford medical care.)

"Sewing up a rip in a seam is one thing," I said, "but a whole stuffed animal ..."

"Pleeeeeeeeease!" said G.

Well, with the pleading and the big brown eyes fixed trustingly on me, there wasn't much I could do but suck it up, try to remember my mother's long-ago hand-sewing lessons, and try to make a stuffed animal to G's design. And much to my amazement, I didn't totally fail. Here, with a face by G and a body sewn by me, is Miss Kitty:

My mother would be proud!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Memory lane

My dad turned up last night with a pile of old photos he'd unearthed from a box. I hadn't seen any of them in years, so I borrowed them to scan and will now bore you all to tears with them.

I don't remember this one being taken, but it was obviously Christmas, and by the gappy state of my teeth, I would guess I had just turned seven, which would make it 1978. If so, then we were living in New Jersey at the time.

This is definitely New Jersey. My school did "The Elves and the Shoemaker" for Christmas that year, and I played the shoemaker's wife. I had a zillion lines, but the only one I remember is "Oh, what lovely shoes!" because I forgot it onstage and had to be prompted.

This is on the stairs our townhouse in New Orleans, which to this day is probably still the nicest place I've ever lived. (Hey, gold carpet was all the rage at the time.) I loved the dress I was wearing so much that I kept trying to sneak out of the house in it long after it was too small for me, but I always got busted by my mother and sent back to change.

Also on those stairs. I had a grand dream of one day being able to leap from the landing halfway up and clear the eight or 10 steps to the bottom, and would "train" for this by jumping from progressively higher heights. I don't think I ever got past about the sixth step. It's probably just as well.

Here I am with my best friend S (in the hat) and another girl who lived down the street and played with us sometimes. My mother disapproved of this friendship because S's mother was divorced (or possibly never married) and had a live-in boyfriend, but she did let me spend the night at their house and even had S to stay with us for a week after we moved to Texas.

Riding bikes. Odds are good that we had been riding even before the rain stopped, because it rains so freaking much in Louisiana that if you wait for it to stop, you'll never go outside. Incidentally, this was the bike I got for my eighth birthday and promptly fell off, giving myself a concussion.

Attitude. I has it.

Me with Socks, one of the neighbor's cats. That's my dad's Toyota hatchback on the right. It was brown with a tan vinyl interior.

I had a whole collection of these Effanbee dolls. They all got lost during a move later on.

Me and my brother. This was after we moved to California, and he looks about 18 months old, which would make me 10. I love the expression on my face -- it's all, "Come on, kid, let's go!"

Another pic from the same day. I know the park we were at (I still take G there sometimes) but it's a huge place and I can't remember which area we were in.

Good times, good times ...

Hand me a cane and call me Granny

How to tell you are the parent of a preteen:

You're having dinner, and the music that is playing in the background is the soundtrack to iCarly.

How to tell you are the OLD parent of a preteen:

One of the songs is a cover of Deniece Williams' "Let's Hear it for the Boy," and you have to explain that this song was popular when you were in junior high ... 25 years ago.


Friday, August 15, 2008

High anxiety

G and I are going to visit my grandmother in Albuquerque next weekend. We're driving there with my dad -- 800 miles through the desert, woo! -- and then she and I are flying back early so I can get a filling and she can start school.

Now, I will confess here that I am an absolutely terrible air traveler. I am that person you don't want to be seated next to, the one who white-knuckles the armrests, jumps halfway out of her seat at every unexpected bump, and asks the cabin crew calm, rational questions like "WHAT WAS THAT NOISE?" However, this will be G's first time on a plane, and I want her to enjoy it, which means I can't act like a douche and sit there silently weeping during takeoff the way I usually do. So, I've bought a couple of self-help recordings on overcoming airplane anxiety, and I'm trying as hard as I can to get my head into a good place for this trip.

My favorite of these recordings is narrated by a posh, older-sounding Englishman whom I imagine looking somewhat like Edward Woodward from The Equalizer. I've listened to it so many times that I've come to think of "Edward" as a personal friend -- in fact, I would really like it if he could come on the plane with us and hold my hand for the entire flight while soothingly saying, "You must repeat to yourself, 'Turbulence is uncomfortable, but it is not dangerous.'" Sadly, I don't think that's a service I can order online.

Will all this preparation actually do any good? I have no idea. But I'll find out one way or another in 12 days, 11 hours and 50 minutes ... not that I'm counting or anything.