Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Ride Down Memory Lane

We visited our son Steve who lives in Piedmont, California, last Saturday. Steve’s lucky to live in a great area boasting dozens of wonderful little restaurants. It’s really hard to visit him without trying out yet another good eatery. That afternoon it was crepes, and they were delicious! Bob and Steve had chicken crepes, while I couldn’t resist one with strawberries, bananas and chocolate sauce. Out of this world!

After lunch, the three of us drove through the area where Bob grew up. It was like taking a walk down memory lane. Remarkably, my dear husband – who has trouble remembering our anniversary every July – could name just about every one of his then-neighbors along the entire block.

“This is the house we lived in when I was seven,” he proudly announces, gazing wistfully at a tiny, light grey stucco house with a handkerchief-sized front lawn and a driveway consisting of two narrow strips of worn concrete surrounded by gravel.

“It’s pretty small,” our son Steve comments, obviously unimpressed.

“It didn’t seem small then,” Bob counters, studying the house more closely. “I think it’s shrunk since we lived here.”

From there we drive a few blocks to a nearby grammar school that has definitely seen better days.

“I thought you said you walked a couple of miles to school every day,” says Steve skeptically.

“I did,” Bob replies. “They must have added a more direct route to the school since my time.”

“Uh, huh,” Steve grunts, rolling his eyes at me.

Next, we pass a liquor store that used to be an ice cream parlor, and next to it a kids’ arcade that had previously been the neighborhood movie theater.

“Now why did they go and change those?” Bob asks, staring morosely at yet another fading memory of his childhood. “Every Saturday we’d all meet to go to the matinee, then hit the ice cream parlor on our way home. The movie cost us a dime, and you could get a great hot fudge sundae for a quarter.”

“And for an extra nickel I’ll bet you could get tyrannosaurus rex to walk you home,” Steve says, stifling a chuckle.

“Hmph!” Bob grunts. “Laugh if you want, but the kids of today have no idea what they’re missing.”

About now, Steve realizes that this ride down memory lane has not lived up to his dad’s expectation. Our good-natured son looks guilty, then brightens as we pass a new Cold Stone Creamery that used to be a mom and pop grocery store.

“Hey, Dad,” he says, pointing at the creamery. “Stop here and I’ll treat you to a hot fudge sundae. For an extra quarter, I’ll bet they’ll throw a cherry on the top.”

“Look at it this way, Bob,” I say quietly as we follow our son inside. “Some day when Steve has kids, he’ll drive by this place and describe all the ice cream he used to be able to get for $5. Time for new memories, sweetheart. Time for new memories.”

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Inner Kid Inside Me

While my husband Bob and I were on the road last week, we kept busy doing book signings as well as visiting friends and family. Although we’re forced by the sheer number of people we want to see to keep our visits brief, we always have a great time!

Last Friday night we took our son Mike and his family (wife Norma and 5 young children, Melissa, Vaneza, Danielle, Mikey and Scarlet) to see “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” It was a huge success. I have to admit I didn’t expect to enjoy the film, but I actually did. I found myself laughing out loud, and a few times even singing along with the chipmunks! I think that’s the greatest thing about having children and grandchildren, you’re forced to revisit your childhood – although my husband Bob claims this is stretching things, since he insists I never left my childhood in the first place.

At first I wasn’t sure that I appreciated that remark; after all, I’m a serious author and screenwriter, right? Then I got to thinking about it and I had to admit that it was probably true. Actually, I guess there is still a lot of kid in me.

After all, I love to ride my bike along the beautiful Willamette River here in Eugene, I enjoy roller-blading, eating ice cream cones and watching 007, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Ring and Indiana Jones movies. And I’m usually the first person through the gate at Disneyland or Magic Mountain, and the last one to leave at night.

I love swings, slides, merry-go-rounds, roller coasters, building gingerbread houses with our grandchildren, and getting down on the floor and playing games with them. I’m still passionate about popcorn, popsicles, bubble gum and Christmas. I like to sing and dance and laugh at silly jokes – in fact, the sillier the better!

So I’m not the prim, sophisticated woman I expected to be when I reached “a certain age.” But you know, that’s all right. I love my life, along with all the wonderful people in it. Sure our family has problems – what family doesn’t – and we’ve hit some rough spots along the way. But as long as we keep the love alive and aren’t afraid to show it to each other, and as long as we always remember how to have fun, then we’ll get through it all okay.

And if that means keeping that inner kid alive inside me, so be it! After all, why would anyone want to leave behind something that’s so much fun?