I am in Portland, with my husband and best friends on vacation. I am up early as usual and in a booth in the coffee shop, surrounded by books. As I sit here listening to the rain fall, I am writing. I am writing to drown out the restlessness in my brain. Even though we went to bed at 1 in the morning, I was still up at 7 am. I kept it mellow last night more out of necessity than choice as my body was saying stop. My body refused to let me have more than a couple of drinks and no matter what I did, I felt muffled and distant. It could be that I am missing my dogs or just anxious, or both.
Tomorrow, we are going to on a waterfall tour to Multnomah Falls. I call my mom and she tells me that we often went there when I was little. Perhaps, I was too little to remember. I think of all the times with my mom and dad growing up. If you've read my stories about childhood, you would probably think that it was all fights and screaming and running away from that. But, I remember the good times too. The road trips to South Dakota, seeing Mount Rushmore and the caves underneath, being amazed at Flintstone Land and fishing in Montana's lakes. Staying at AAA campgrounds. That trip to see the huge trees in Yosemite Park. Camping out there in a tent and being deluged by the rains. Dad cleaning the fish and urging us to try the crispiness of it. "C'mon girls, just try it."
Mom and Dad would fight of course, but there was something about those road trips that bought out their best sides. Mom would make bologna sandwiches and we would eat them in the car along with potato chips and Shasta Cola. Dad would hum along to Johnny Cash or Loretta Lynn. Us girls, there were three of us (me and Jackie-the twins, and our little sister Annie who was only 14 months younger), and we would fight in the back seat. I remember pinching and scratching each other's arms and when Mom and Dad could not take the carousing anymore, switching to the license plate game and then to the alphabet game where you tried to get through the alphabet using names on signs. This was the 1970s and there was no television in the car, and no videos to watch. We had to entertain ourselves. I would always have a book, usually one of Mom's dog eared Harlequins, the pages rendered crinkly by bath water, but it was too hard to read in the car without getting sick.
Occasionally, we would stop at a Motel 6 to sleep. We probably all shared a room. Mom and Dad saved all year for these road trip vacations. Mom's waitressing job and Dad's truck driving barely paid the bills and it could not have been easy. At the motel, we would get a pizza and watch television together. And play Rummy gathered around the table. Those moments are the film reel of my childhood. It is what makes me tear up as I write these words. If I concentrate hard enough, I can see it. Jackie, me and Annie in our matching pajamas sharing a bed falling asleep to Dad's snoring and the blaring television static. Getting pancakes at the diner next door in the morning before getting back on the road.
I think of my life and how self absorbed I am. Other than the dogs, I don't have to take care of anyone, much less three little girls. I have no one to worry about but myself.
There is a freedom to that. Yet, there is also an emptiness to it all and as I sit here in the booth, all I can think is that I wish, oh how I wish, that I had a little girl to take to the waterfalls tomorrow.