Tuesday, October 23, 2012

colorado trip-October 2012-day three and home

  Families are a collective memory. My children could have combined thoughts to recreate this park, though none of us 
remembered its name.

Kyle remembered a slide with a creepy clown but remembered it in California, maybe because the Oak trees are thin and long branched enough to
resemble Eucalyptus.

Saturday morning we had some house keeping to do; shopping, laundry, lectures. Granddad supervised the clothing at the local Laundromat, while I took the kids with me to Wal-mart to stock up for the ride home.  Anne was giving a reflexology demonstration at a small gym that was opening up among the collegiate coffee shops and Asian bistros in downtown Alamosa. We stopped in to say hello, and shuffled out just as quickly, as Anne began a reflexology session with an open house guest.  Fortunately, Cole Park was just around the corner from where we parked. We passed the white, wooden community church, whose parking lot had been curiously crowded the Thursday evening that we pulled into town, and across the street there was an old adobe house, that made me wonder whether the town had grown up around it or in spite of it.
The park seemed rejuvenating to everyone.

                    Sophie never needs rejuvenation.

Grant set a goal for himself to master the monkey bars.  He reported that he crossed them successfully eight times before we left the park. I can only do that when my feet are on the ground.
The Rio Grande River runs next to Cole Park. We walked across the large, rectangular, grass field where the city was hosting a Latin music festival on our last visit, surrounded by Oak trees and one-story, fifties era homes on two sides, the river to the East, and at the top of the park-- the black model train that everyone remembered from before...but no one knew exactly where they'd seen it.

 This adjacent Alamosa City Hall and Public Library was not here in 2010. It is a beautiful addition to the city park.

 At two o'clock the reflexology demonstration ended, so we met Anne and Eric and drove out to Joyful Journey Hot Springs pool.

 The kids enjoyed the warm geothermal water even more with the cool air and clouds, than they had on the hot summer day during our July visit. 

 As I have said before, the Cafe is wonderful. Eric made lemon bars for desert. They are one of my favorite traditions of our visits together. As it grew dark we said good-bye to Anne and Eric and returned to the motel.
 Sunday morning we enjoyed the breakfast buffet for the last time and succeeded at leaving before eight o'clock. I determined that Olivia is my kindred spirit on road trips. She shares my enthusiasm for road trip work: van washing and vacuuming, packing and organizing, and staring out the window for hours and hours.

I love passing through the small towns in Colorado.

Somewhere along the road, when they are bored of fighting about music and who's taking up too much bench,  it always seems, that at least once on every trip, our conversation turns to memories.  A favorite topic is school cafeterias of family history... the mystery meat and bitter lemon water in Quito, the mythical sandwich bar in Beijing, the spoiled chocolate milk of present day.  I love listening to their discussions and the momentary enjoyment of their common experiences.  I feel hopeful.

Sunday evening the kids were excited to be home.  I was grateful that they all helped unload the van, so I had things settled in time to meet my friend Cami at a singles' fireside at the Stake center by the Provo Temple.  I pulled on to Temple Drive and saw a line of cars just outside the glow of the temple lights, already   parked outside the Stake Center. 

 Me being me, I parked on the outskirts of the rest of the outskirted vehicles, and as I walked toward the building, I wondered what was drawing such a big crowd of LDS mid-singles, as they call  us..not too old, definitely not too young. But as I approached the church I noticed that the parking lot was basically empty, and I had to wonder about our collective mentality. Not surprisingly, I was the only mid-single there with a fifteen passenger van, so the rest of them couldn't blame their distance on size. So I wondered as I joined the those seated in the chapel, who were already enjoying a violin solo so beautiful that I thought it was either an angel or a recording,  if as a group, we LDS singles are too quick to feel more comfortable on the outside, what contributes to our timidity?  

I was grateful, feeling a bit more distracted than usual, that the fireside was basically a choral performance put on by the hosting singles' group,  and was quickly impressed that their performance was equal to the quality of the violinist. As it ended and I walked out toward the van,  and was surprised even at myself, and at how far away I had been content to park. But on my very long walk, I thought about how grateful I felt for music and friendship. It was a nice way to end the day.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

colorado trip-October 2012-day two

Friday morning we had rain as we left the motel and drove towards the A-frame where Anne and Eric live.  The high desert plains still had their own mysterious beauty in the gray morning, almost more other-worldly without the mountain views.  We dashed in the house, unaccustomed to the cold wind, to say our first hellos.My sister Anne and their amazing tomato plants. 
After surveying all the interesting lofts, and corners, and artifacts in the A-frame, the kids were ready to go back and brave more outdoor exploration. The rain was still falling so the insect life that they had enjoyed in summer 2010 had retreated.  Eric promised that the weather man had predicted sun by ten o'clock, and miraculously, it appeared right on schedule. The wind blew the clouds away quickly,

and this beautiful double rainbow appeared.
This is the view of Mount Blanca that Anne and Eric enjoy everyday.
Sun in eyes face.Soon we gathered back in the van and Anne joined us on a trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

This was the view from the visitors' center, where along with enjoying the scenery and exhibits, we discovered that the van door had some mysterious issue preventing it from closing, and confirmed, with symptoms, at least one case of the stomach flu, thankfully the cleaning supply closet appeared to be open to the public, so I took advantage. 

But we couldn't let that stop us for as far as we had travelled. Those who were well enough and less concerned about the van door ran ahead to the sand dunes while I stayed back to bundle up the sick with the blanket that Grandma Martha wisely sent with us, and to fashion a door lock with Sam's belt. 

 Then Sophie, Anne, Granddad, Caitlin and I ran to catch up with the others who had already started to ascend the mountains of sand, or so we hoped, as all we could see were moving dots on the landscape ahead of us.  They seemed so far away and the sand so tremendous in comparison, I prayed that the stiff wind wouldn't cause the sand to envelope them.

 Sand in eyes face.

We would have liked to have spent more time on the dunes, but the sand was too painful when the wind whipped it into our faces.  There should also be wonderful hiking in the mountains surrounding the dunes.

We drove back to town, where it was decided that Anne and Granddad would go to the Chevy dealer to investigate the van door, as holding it for the entire ride home to Utah seemed like a comical, yet implausible solution.  As we were driving the rain returned, quite heavily this time. I stayed with the kids back at the motel, where the sick could rest, and the well could bounce off the walls and drive me crazy, while I tried to coerce them into watching another half hour of Disney channel. Meanwhile the big boys enjoyed the quiet of their own room and the movie channel that was featuring a month of horror movies, much to their pleasure.

Anne and Granddad returned with Sprite, soda crackers, and the good news that the Chevy dealer had fixed the jammed lock easily and at no cost.  We drove Anne back to her house and we went, as promised when  the rain started to fall, to the movie theatre.  Granddad and the big boys saw Taken Two. The girls and Grant saw Hotel Transylvania, which they had been anticipating for some time, and William and Sophie and I saw a combination of that, the theatre lobby, and with the manager's approval-- Franken Weenie, which I thought was very engaging for the half hour that William allowed us to remain.

After dinner we drove back out to Anne and Eric's home where Eric was preparing a delicious lasagna.  The kids enjoyed communing with the pets and we gathered in front of their television to indoctrinate my boys, who already considered themselves Bill Murray fans, but had never seen What About Bob.
It was a happy, memorable evening. I was grateful to be able to spend time with Anne and Eric in their beautiful and unique home.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

colorado trip October 2012- day one

I'm sure I've already conveyed my Willy Nelson-like enthusiasm for being on the road. So I was surprised at myself when I realized that it had been so long since we have taken a trip as a family, that Sophie, who just turned two, had never been out of the state of Utah.  That seemed unfathomable to the older children, some of whom had been on as many as three continents before their second birthdays.

  I also realized that on previous road trips I was lacking something that I am now not..teenagers.  

So the whimsical, enthusiastic, easy going travelers of my memory, I realized, had perhaps grown past that stage and progressed on to the it's a holiday, can't we stay home and sleep phase. Nonetheless, Thursday October 11, Granddad and the kids and I loaded up the van and were gone by eight o'clock, only slightly behind schedule.  We were headed to visit Anne and Eric in Alamosa, Colorado.  

As I said before, when I travelled that way in April, I love that drive.  I am so taken in by the beautiful streams all throughout the state.  They make me wish I owned a tackle box and boots.

The first day of driving was the most challenging day of the trip...getting re accustomed to hours and hours in a small space with siblings breathing and doing other objectionable things.  Between the inter familial tension, and the stress of really not being sure if there would be any desk clerk crazy enough to allow our family to stay in their motel, and if so would it result in my financial ruin, somewhere at about ten thousand feet elevation I really started to question what strange notion had inspired the weekend's endeavor.

 I tuned in to the music playing over the van speakers. We had arrived at Billy Joel, neutral territory, finally something agreeable to preteen girls and their teenage brothers. There is a moment in New York State of Mind, 
  It comes down to reality, And it's fine with me 'cause I let it slide
Don't care if it's Chinatown or on Riverside...
that makes me feel that it is impossible that I was not a New Yorker in another life. Suddenly it was easier to let of the ridiculous expectation that my children would actually want to be in a van together for eight hours, without trying to kill each other.  My New Yorker fantasy is one of my cerebral alternatives to giving in to the temptation to become... beyond discouraged. 
 And so when I returned to the muted sage and red-brown earth and beautiful explosions of golden leaves, I felt a renewed sense of we can do this.

Granddad and I decided that we would investigate at the smaller, local motels to see if they would allow our large group to rent two rooms for three nights.  We found the Valley Motel in Alamosa.  The owners, a family from India, were very hospitable. They allowed us to see the rooms before.  We rented two suits, which included a full-sized kitchen that were very large and only sixty-five dollars per night. We were so relieved! The facility is aging and rustic, but the staff is friendly as were the other visitors. It reminded me of  family trips of my childhood.  We often stayed in locally operated places along Route 66, or on the way up to Maine, sometimes in Canada.

This was a welcomed relief as well.
After dinner, the big boys camped out in Granddad's room and I had the rest in mine.  We slept three or four to a bed, with some spilled out on to the floor, but everyone was happy because there was Disney Channel.  As I squeezed into an open spot at the foot of one of the beds, the little ones engaged in that favorite motel pastime, jump from one bed to the other.  The resulting vibrations took me back to 1980-something again, when I would beg my parents for a dime to put in those little boxes by motel bedsides.  If you were lucky, and the box was working, the bed would shake for a good five minutes or so, at which point you were just as happy to have it stop. I wonder who invented those, and what else they came up with.
This was Friday morning. The Valley Motel has a great, family friendly continental breakfast.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

pumpkins and prophecy

Wednesday, October 3, I was grateful to attend Kyle's first choral showcase of the year. His choir performed the first song, a Latin piece called Jubilate. Then, several all-girl choirs sang upbeat Americana songs, each with a handful of solos.

 I usually watch with empathetic nausea when I see a soloist step down from the choral risers. Some tip toe timidly to the microphone, and others strut forward with bravado, neither is really an indication of what sound will follow. I have always felt that choir solos were a cruel form of torture. Too much responsibility in too few measures seems unfair to me. Sometimes you imagine the eyes of the choir on the back of your neck transmitting supportive, loving thoughts, and other times you are sure you can hear barely audible, better-not-blow-this snickers from behind.  It feels like an eternity stands between you and the two or three measures that must pass before you turn around and face the choir behind you. Will you feel triumphant or defeated?

  But this time, right in the middle of something completely untypical of inspiring deep thoughts, O Susanna,  or something of that genre, I started to imagine a new scenario. What if this life is really as brief as a three measure solo, and death is like turning around and rejoining the choir, and when you face them, everyone you see, begins to sing again...please let it be a South African gospel piece for me... and the choir is made up of everyone you know and love and some of the people are people that you just met in passing but you are surprised at how comfortable they are, and how you feel like you have known them forever. I have had dreams like that where familiar people appear but in different roles..which makes it seem to me that if life is so short why not live it again and again until you get it right, sometimes taking on a slightly different role, and sometimes doing something drastically different.  It seems to me as if we are doing that, and some people are on a much more advanced verse than I am.   

So I started to get teary eyed in the middle of the American numbers-- even before the combined choirs sang A Simple Song of Peace, with American Sign Language and everything, which made Grandma Martha and I both teary, and ready for the election to be over.

 And just to be honest, when the concert choir came on stage after the other choirs, I immediately noticed that the strength of the male section made their choir stand apart from the others.  Then I recognized a bass voice, that managed to blend with the other singers, but filled out and colored the sound. It was a particularly familiar voice that I'd heard often-- mocking my opera music-- or booming at his sister, and was now on stage making me particularly proud. Kyle it is a blessing to hear you sing.

 This photography doesn't make anyone proud. You'd think I'd know enough to switch on the auto focus. I can't even see which one is Kyle.

 This was Saturday afternoon. The girls had a great time at a sleepover at Grandma Martha's, so our house was particularly quiet for the Saturday sessions of General Conference. Ben made his favorite treat, which I have insisted he commit to memory, so we don't have to dig the recipe out from the remains my favorite cookbook, which is so loved, the pages have left the ring binder and are terribly out of order, and I just have to use my intuitive fingers finding skills to pull the right recipe of the mess of flour crusted pages. I have absolutely no self control around Ben's Blondies.

Saturday evening I loved watching the three big boys walk across the yard dressed in suits to meet Granddad for the priesthood session. It is somewhat of a tradition in the LDS church for men to attend this evening session for men with their sons, grandsons, friends etc, where the Prophet and other leaders give talks on strengthening faith and family. This must be hunger inducing for males because afterwards the local fast food restauraunts, particularly in Utah, are swarmed with suits.  I happened to be in the freezer section at Smith's at around 8:30 and met up with a hoard of hungry men elbowing their way towards the Rocky Road ice cream.  We escaped with two boxes of Neopolitan and Brownie Fudge.

But before that the girls and the younger boys and I took a ride out to storage. I had no idea the ninety bucks a month I pay to have a garage again would also serve as part of the entertainment budget. The kids were so excited about the errand that when we piled out of the van Sophie, who had caught their contagious enthusiasm, raised up her arms and shouted "Yea!! Garbage!!"  Enthusiastic but confused.

It is true that our storage unit is in a particularly beautiful part of town, the southwestern most area where there are small farms and horse fields, right before you get to Utah lake. It was a gorgeous fall evening, the type that seems to give off a delicious and spontaneous scent of something toasting. Storage happens to be next to a KOA campground so this particular cool, breezy, autumn leafy evening, the air was so filled with the scrumptious smell of campfire that I was almost overwhelmed by the romance of it.

And combined with this view, which is so exciting to the OCD side of me...stuff where it belongs...it was a wonderful moment.

The kids' excitement had more to do with getting stuff out, than putting it away however, as is usually the case.  This time we were gathering Halloween decorations, winter coats, and sleeping bags for our upcoming road trip, so there was a lot to stir emotion.

Sunday we enjoyed watching the second day of conference talks on television in our home, after the fighting that arose after I suggested we clean up all the stuff we brought back from storage died down. I was impressed by one idea that seemed to be repeated throughout several talks:  follow the inspiration to serve others. We have been blessed so often as people have followed inspiration on our behalf.  Saturday it was a delicious box of cinnamon rolls that a friend brought by our home.  They became our traditional conference Sunday cinnamon roll breakfast. I was grateful for a little less work. 

In the evening Grandma Julia came down for a visit.  She brought a trunk full of pumpkins from her garden, and each child was able to choose one. 

Sophie's naming the porch 'the pumpkin patch' was prophetic after all.