Riley’s table

Riley, two-year-old princess and budding dictator, came to visit at Thanksgiving, bringing her parents along. Believe me, a two-year-old is always the star of the show, whatever the personality or parenting style may be. This is not to say that she is intentionally allowed to run wild, or take over…there’s a lot of effort going into training, molding, shaping, squashing, and occasionally silencing the little angel. I say all of this with a smile on my face and a wealth of love in my heart. She is a joy, and a bundle of energy, and a two-year-old. I know, I already said that…but it bears repeating.

So on her visit to Gram and PB’s house…she had been to Alaska once before, when she was about eight months, but she wasn’t really mobile yet, so that hardly counts…she explored a bit…got comfy with all the rooms and beds and spaces under the breakfast bench in the kitchen, and craftily hid small toys in places that would take me months to discover. I like to think that we’ll be fully recovered before her next trip.

Her most lasting gift, other than the photos we took, was a small inscription on my pine coffee table. Now, I’ve had this table and some matching pieces since the early 90s…these are classic, traditional Southern-Living-look pieces that have served me well, and migrated about the country from Michigan to Colorado to Alaska with scarcely a mark. But now, the coffee table has met Riley.

On the afternoon of Thanksgiving, I was doing something in the kitchen (my native habitat), when I heard an outburst of “NO RILEY, DON’T DO THAT!” coming from the living room. I rushed in to see if she was ok…not really concerned about anything but her…and saw that she had very thoughtfully been signing the coffee table with a blue ball point pen. This is her handiwork:

Riley’s signature

And although I immediately (truly!) recognized that it was her toddler attempt to leave a memento of her stay, and I also (immediately!) realized that the table just grew in value to me…after all, it was only valuable to me anyway…I must admit, I did give it a good polishing with a variety of products, hoping to at least remove the blue from the marks…I knew those were carved to last.

Well, I didn’t get the blue out, and now, as I look across the surface, that’s pretty much all I see anymore. But it’s growing on me. I’ve already decided that Riley will inherit this piece…whatever else I have to leave to her, she’s getting this table. It’s solid, and it’s hers. She put her stamp on it. And I’m ok with that.

Joking aside, it’s really a great metaphor for the experience of parenting (and now grand-parenting) in general…These little people mark on your heart, little knowing or understanding that they’re leaving a permanent imprint of themselves in your life. Some marks are more on the order of medals, others are definitely scars. But the surface and the marks are unique to the parent and child. (Or grandparent…I keep forgetting I’m in the second category now.) I’ll never look at my coffee table without a reminder of the little girl who signed it. And truly, even though the marks are blue, and don’t really belong in my color scheme, because she put them there, they’re right at home in my space, and in my heart.

If you had an essentially happy childhood, that tends to dwell with you. Tracy Kidder

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Afternoon sunshine

We’ve had a break in the rain. Either the notorious climate of SE Alaska is getting to me, or we really have had more rain than usual this spring. Not sure, but either way, I’m excited to have a window full of sunshine to enjoy. I saw friends from Colorado posting on Facebook that they have snow. Yes, that happens sometimes in Colorado this time of year. I’ve seen it snow there on my son’s birthday, which is in June. And the first summer we lived in the Denver area, it snowed on the 4th of July. I love that state! And I miss it. But I do not miss the late spring snows.

The late afternoon sun is a luxury of only a few months. So much of the year here, the sun appears late and leaves early. And on rainy days, you get a sort of twilight effect, although this region of Alaska doesn’t have the extremes of dark and light like the far north of the state.

This afternoon, as I sit looking around, I notice the light catching on things that I don’t usually see. It plays with the color of paint on the wall, the clear glass vase on the dining room table, makes the room too bright to sit in my favorite chair looking out over the water. I can’t see my laptop screen with the light pouring in through the picture windows. On the way home I noticed more trees leafing out. And the most sure sign of spring? The clearest indicator that the season has come? The construction workers have descended on us. The main road through Ketchikan is under seige, with cones dividing the space for traffic and speeds reduced to the one lane crawl.

The construction boom is in evidence at work. The hospital is getting a new roof. I’m in a different mind set. I’m hoping to sell a house, and spring is the season for homes to be shown and sold. People are moving, new people come to town. Opportunity is on the horizon.

It’s a bit like pregnancy, except there’s no known delivery date. You just sit with the process, waiting for a call from the realtor that there’s a showing, then hoping for an offer to come along. Every morning I leave the house ready.

This afternoon, I pause. I would love to have an offer in hand, to be able to look at the next chapter in life. But nothing yet. Maybe tomorrow. For today, since I don’t have a choice, I’ll enjoy the light streaming in, the blue of the water, the view in front of me. The sunshine reminds me that a new season has arrived, that days don’t stay dark.

How’s your view today?

On the road again

View of I-70 as it turns North at Copper Mount...

Icy I-70

I miss the road. Mythic in the American psyche, the open road calls to us, beckons us to the next chapter, the next adventure, the grocery store. Ok, the last one wasn’t so romantic. But most of my life, that’s where my road has taken me.

Oh, I’ve had some amazing journeys. I remember moving cross country with three-week old Alex, driving toward a new house that I had never seen, twelve hundred miles from family and the world I had known. Turned out to be a great move, and the launch of our family. Forced us to be independent, to be us.

Then five years later, we drove to another new home, this one in Midland, Michigan, and driving across Colorado in February, we crossed Vail Pass, and my car went skidding on an icy patch of interstate. We were caravaning, Rob and I, he with our dog and one child, me with the other. I did a complete 180 on the interstate and came to a stop facing oncoming traffic. I still don’t know how I turned myself around and got out of there before I was hit. But I did it, passing Rob like the wind in a panic. Somehow we made it down to Denver, and I think we had stopped for dinner at a restaurant before I stopped shaking.

Over the years we did a number of cross country trips back to see family. Stephanie was in her permit driving phase on one of those trips, and I had taken the kids back to see family. I sat in the front seat next to her, carefully monitoring her driving skills as we headed west on I-70. The thing about I-70 is that so much of it is the same. After a while I got sleepy and nodded off. When I woke up we were headed east. She had come through some exit options and had somehow managed to turn us in the opposite direction. Fortunately it was a short nap.

One of our epic journeys occurred only a couple of years ago when we drove a 30-foot class C RV down from Anchorage, crossing Alaska, Canada, and 17 states, on a drive that began in September and ended in December. We had never driven an RV before. Rob practiced turns in a parking lot with the RV salesman before we left. We had the dogs with us, and we were novices at everything we were doing. But we did it. And I’m pleased to announce I drove that vehicle. Those ten miles of Texas interstate were the longest of my life. But I drove them, and no one can take that away from me!

I have a short commute, living on a small island. I live in town, and although the paved road goes from the north to south and stretches about 20 something miles in all, my trip to work from my neighborhood is only about a mile. I can hardly get through a song on the radio. And I don’t get much talk time in. In the past, time alone in my car has been an opportunity to talk things out, to plan my day, to hear myself think. But I must have larger issues than a mile’s worth. Can’t get through much in that morning drive.

There are some advantages. I only fill my car about once a month. When I’m asked about the price of gas, I don’t even know what it is. I fill my tank so rarely that when I need to do it, I just put gas in the tank. Of course, it’s all a matter of perspective. The price of gas for an airline ticket is just a wee bit more expensive. Tickets from Ketchikan to Phoenix are running about $1,000 right now.

This week is a reminder of what I like about the road. Anticipating a return to life more connected with driving, I realize I’m ready. And if you should pass me having an animated conversation with myself, just know I’m working something out. Just me and the road.

Yum, doughnuts!

Krispy Kreme 10

Krispy Kreme Hot Light

I caught a few minutes of a Food Network program that was profiling snacks, one of which was Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Gave me a flashback to when we lived in Colorado and a Krispy Kreme store opened near our favorite mall. We lived in the foothills above Denver, one of the most beautiful places I know. Genesee, a little community in unincorporated Jefferson County (JeffCo) was home for many years. It was a perfect place to live, high above the city, and the lights at night were beautiful. We had an amazing view of the mountains and could see a range of snow covered peaks by looking out our windows.

Ok, got sidetracked there…this post is about doughnuts. The important point of where we lived is that it was just far enough from our favorite mall, Park Meadows, that we needed a doughnut snack to make the drive home complete. When the Krispy Kreme store opened, any time we stopped by, there was a long line of cars waiting at the drive through window. Of course you could go in and buy at the counter. You could also watch the doughnuts being made, going through the process of rising, frying, then riding through the waterfall of glaze, before coming out on the other end, ready to be eaten in a few bites of warm gooey deliciousness.

The important thing to know about Krispy Kremes…if you ever see the hot light on, you must stop, whether you need to, mean to, want to, even if you just started a diet…this is an imperative! The hot light indicates that doughnuts are in production at that moment. If you haven’t experienced a freshly cooked doughnut, then you haven’t had a doughnut. I won’t claim that Krispy Kremes are the best doughnut in the world. I haven’t sampled all the options. But it is the only brand I’ve ever had warm, right out of the fryer; and that you can regularly have them fresh and hot is enough to make them a favorite with me.

So this is my suggestion for a great afternoon of retail therapy: take two fun kids along, shop your heart out, have dinner at your favorite burger place, then end the day with a box of warm Krispy Kremes. You have to have at least one on the ride home, and then one or two for breakfast the next morning (they reheat nicely with a quick microwave zap). Not sure what is more delicious: the doughnuts, or the memories. Here’s to you, Stephanie and Alex! Thanks for being part of those afternoon trips, those rides back home. And next time we’re together, let’s get some doughnuts.