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Archive for July, 2008

Suburbia.

We moved to suburbia and became regular middle class  American citizens with a cat and a dog and 2.4 children.  The .4 children was in my mind and a figment of my imagination, the third child I never had.

We had a nice house on a nice street. The elementary school was at the end of it with a nice park next to it and everybody had a large front yard  for the kids to play in that populated the neighborhood.

Our front yard had a lawn with in the middle an olive tree with silvery gray leaves. It was an elegant tree, but I can’t for the life of me remember if it produced olives, not being fond of them at all and conveniently having forgotten that detail. My ex husband, who liked to trim bushes and trees to within an inch of their lives, trimmed the olive tree one day to the point that it was just a stumpy shadow of its former self and it never fully recovered. from the shock.

A path led to the walled in courtyard which you entered by a rod iron gate. About a third of the courtyard was covered by a trellis and over it grew a humongous bougainvillea  which always seemed to bloom and and the blossoms were always scattered over the patio under it. The kids had a swing here and always had competitions to see if they could swing as high as the trellis.  In an alcove in the wall, there was some exotic spiny deserty looking plant, which we completely neglected, but which thrived anyway.

We also had a backyard, which was rather boring and consisted of a patio and flowerbeds in which nothing much could be grown, because the dirt was hard and dry and we had a grassy area. We did have a ficus benjamina there, that started out as a houseplant and had grown to treelike proportions and another tree of which I never knew the name. They came in very handy when teaching my kids the old Dutch tradition of tent building for which you need rope and clothes pins and old sheets and blankets.

We had some very nice neighbors with a swimming pool and their youngest daughter always played with my kids and as a result, many happy hours were spent by them in the water playing Marco Polo.  The neighbors were Turkish Jews and the mother baked special sweets such as baklava every month and filled the freezer with them, so it was always a treat to be asked over for Turkish coffee, because you knew she would bring out a tray of these sweets and your mouth would water thinking about them.  They were very nice people and well educated and real New Americans in the sense that they tried to make a success of themselves no matter how tough it got sometimes.

Across the street from us lived a family from  Japan, of which only the husband spoke some English. We got along famously and did a lot of bowing and smiling  and saying, “Yes, yes, I see.”  They had two little boys who were crazy about my daughter and she spent many happy hours there, somehow communicating with them.

I made my friends and they were all mothers whose children went to the same elementary school as my kids did and who all lived in the same neighborhood.  Luckily, these were educated and intelligent women who were interested in the things I was interested in at the time and they gave me a lot of support that I needed then as a mom and a wife of a  man who was climbing up the corporate ladder. I was not exactly cut out for the life of a middle class American housewife. Let’s just say that it didn’t come naturally to me.

I have less specific exciting memories of this time. It was sort of a ordinary life in which I did ordinary things, or tried to anyway. I did a lot of volunteer work at the school and for the Parents Teacher Association.  Because my daughter ran track, and was very good at it,  I became involved with that and coached little kids for a while.

Once a week I and a group of my friends went out for breakfast. That was a standing tradition. Some of us went out for lunch once a week if we could swing it. Three of us went out for dinner and to the theater once a month. We took our kids to see all the new movies and ate popcorn until we were sick of it.

At Christmas time, we went caroling  and drank hot mulled wine afterwards. We always had a party too at Christmas time and invited about 25 0r 30 of our friends and enjoyed the food and the wine and the silly games we played.

For a while we were hooked on playing Trivial Pursuit and we would get together at someone’s house and form teams and have a real competition. We also did this with Charades.

I guess what I am saying is that these were not very interesting years, although in a way they were safe years. I was unhappy in my marriage, but I was bolstered by my environment. I could have gone on forever like that, except that I kept getting real or psychosomatic illnesses. That was my body’s way of saying that all was not alright.

I could have grown old like that, though, and never have felt really happy. I kept telling myself that the outside elements counted. The kids, the house, the cars, the furniture, the friends, but I was fooling myself and I found out how much I was when one day we had to move far away and I had to leave that safe life behind me and start all over again.

That’s a story for another time.

Ciao…

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Bunch of Tulips.

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Tulip Fields.

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Hollerin’ and yellin’.

One time, when we were staying with my ex in laws in the desert, the kids and I walked away from the house to the foot of the mountain, to an area that was strewn about with rocks and boulders and I put my foot on a small boulder, cowboy style, as if I was going to chew and spit my tobacco, and I showed them the crack in the bolder and told them how that came about because of the constant extreme difference in temperatures from hot during the day to cold during the night. We all bent over to have a closer look at the crack on which my tennis shoed foot was resting and what did we see there, lurking in the dark recesses all curled up and ready to strike.? Yes, a rattlesnake. Oops!

I very carefully removed my foot from the bolder and quietly stepped back and then said to the kids, “Let’s get the hell out of here, ” or something along those lines. I was always such a naive dummy, that I forgot when I was in rattlesnake country and I never took any precautions and I think it is only luck that prevented me from any worse encounters.

When we lived in the mountains, one of our neighbors encountered a rattlesnake who had come to close to his house to bask in the sun and since he had five kids playing there he didn’t like that very much and he chopped of its head with an ax. He was a Mormon, that is why he had five kids and he and his wife never drank any coffee, but some substitute made of grains. We heard much later, after they had moved to Oklahoma of all places, that he abused his wife and that there had been a messy divorce and I am sure it doesn’t say anywhere in the Book of Mormon that you can beat your wife.

The town we lived in had about a population of 600 people. There was one church, one school and one little grocery store and one Avon lady. Everybody knew everything about everybody else and in their delicate Christian way they gossiped. If you wanted to have an affair, you couldn’t have one in town. You had to go ‘down hill’ and have one with a ‘flat lander’ as we called them.

In the wintertime, all the ‘flat landers’ came up hill to play in the snow, which they didn’t know how to drive in, causing hilarious road slipping scenes, because they all had cans of beer with them and were feeling no pain. They would find a slope and get out their inner tubes and whoop and holler and make spectacles of themselves and we would all shake our heads and say mockingly, “Those flat landers, they are a different breed, ” forgetting that not too long ago, we had been flat landers ourselves.

One time, all of our neighbors chased a brown bear through the woods. It had come too close to our houses and we decided to scare it away with a lot of hollerin’ and yellin’. We had big sticks and beat on the trees with them and that poor bear didn’t know what hit him. He turned around and made a beeline out of there so fast and ran back into the woods and we never saw him again.

Coyotes would come down from the upper canyon and at night you could hear them howling at the moon together. They caught and ate our cats, so if your cat was missing, there was not much sense in looking for it, either that or a hawk got it. It was a cruel world.

An ice cold stream ran through the canyon and in one place it formed a deep clear pool of water were we would swim. You could look all the way to the bottom and imagine water snakes swimming around in it, but they were just dead branches from the trees. The water was very cold, but on a very hot summer day it was the best thing. The kids had fun building dams and trying to divert different parts of the stream.

There was a neglected apple orchard at the other side of the canyon up on a hill in the bright sunshine. In the fall we went over there in the pick up truck with our friends and picked barrels of small tart apples with which we made apple sauce and apple pies. We ate apples untill we were sick of them.

At night, when the weather still allowed it, we sat out on the veranda with our neighbors and drank wine and brandy cappuccinos with whipped cream on top and in our slightly inebriated state we discussed the state of the world and all the problems of mankind. I don’t remember how many problems we solved, we were a bit young and naive, maybe. Full of good will, that’s for sure.

We had many impromptu barbecues. Everybody would bring a dish of food and we would slap some meat on the barbecue and have a great old time, because in the mountains, time did not exist. Kids roamed around all over the place and went to to bed when they were tired, which they were quickly from the healthy mountain air and all the playing they did. Grown ups wandered into each other’s houses as if we were all family to each other.

One time, there had been a lot of rain, which caused a landslide across the only road in and we were cut off from the world for a couple of days. We didn’t mind. We always had enough food in the freezer and it did give an extra feeling of isolation. Sometimes the electricity went off and we heated the house with a wood stove and and read by petroleum lamps.

Well, one day we had to move out into the real world again and move away into a different place called suburbia, which had some of its own charms and which I will tell you about another time. My mountain years were my fairytale years. Nothing seemed real then. It was as if we were caught up in a story.

One of my best friends still lives there. She is a real mountain woman and I would give anything to be sitting on her veranda tonight with a brandy cappuccino and talk for about four hours. We have a lot of catching up to do. Maybe some day I will make the journey back.

Here’s to good memories, may you all be able to dip into yours and come out with a smile on your face.

Ciao…

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Angels.

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Thunder and lightning.

As I write this, it is thundering and lightning again and I hope to God that the electricity doesn’t go out.  I do have a flashlight and candles and come to think of it, maybe it wouldn’t really be such an awful thing, if not a little spooky, but I do have the Uberhund to protect me.

One time, when I lived in Sonoma on my own, there was a huge storm and the electricity went off and I sat in front of my bedroom window at night with a candle and watched the spectacle of the lightning and how the wind blew the debris across the street. It was actually a little bit exciting and a moment in time I won’t forget.

That was a time in my life when I lived on my own and wasn’t happy about it, even though I had the cutest apartment and had it nicely decorated. I felt lonely and the walls felt like they were closing in on me if I was alone there too much. I felt I was in desperate need of a man then and being desperate for a man is not a good state of mind to be in, because it means you will settle for less than you deserve.

I had an on and off again relationship with a very confused individual who wanted his freedom and me at the same time. Unfortunately, I believed I was in love with him. Looking back now, I realize it was an obsession that I needed to be cured off. It was one of those relationships that make you feel that you have been in a bad car wreck when it is over and takes a long time to recuperate from. Badly battered and scarred emotionally.

I saw lightning storms in the desert that looked like a curtain of lightning bolts coming down in the distance. That was an awesome sight, because it was almost silent and very warm were I was.

Have you ever seen the sun come up in the desert and see it paint the nearby mountains pink? And did you ever see the desert sky at night and see so incredibly many stars that you thought that the whole firmament was going to fall down on you?

I have very many fond memories of the desert, because I experienced them all in relative luxury, in air conditioned houses with swimming pools. But they were built out in the canyons between the foothills and there was no better place to be. The heat is incredible and you wonder how the pioneers ever managed, especially the women in their long skirts and sleeves. They were tough people.

My first father in law had a small mine in Death Valley. He wanted to exploit it on a bigger scale, but didn’t get permission from the government, although he tried for years. One of the things that was there was gold and he had gold nuggets in his possession. He used to go there on long weekends and take his kids when they were little and they caught lizards to keep as pets, much to the disgust of their mother. My father in law died believing that one day he would exploit that mine out in the god awful heat of that deadly place.

I really liked my father in law, although he considered himself to be a conservative Republican and he was a bigoted man of whom I always thought I could change his mind given some time. He spouted a lot of right wing rhetoric that stood directly opposite to my opinions, but I couldn’t dislike him for it. I figured he was lost somewhere in his upbringing and his lack of exposure to other points of view. I never took him seriously and laughed at him a lot and he didn’t mind. I think he secretly wanted to think differently, although he did think that Franklin D. Roosevelt was the worst thing that ever happened to America.

I lived in the United States for 22 years and have a myriad of impressions and stories. As I grow more comfortable in my new skin, I will be able to tell you some of them. There is enough time and distance between me and those memories now. I was married to a republican. Somehow his political points of view got lost in the translation when we were still dating. I came from a socialist family and married into a very conservative and bigoted family. I suffered quite a culture shock and no one took my points of view seriously, because I was so young. My sisters in law were born again Christians, woe is me. They did like their glass of wine, though, and all the guys liked their beer very much.

I fell into a deep dark cultural hole for a long time, until I grew up and made my own friends, but I sure am happy to be a socialist Dutch woman again. Phew, it took a long time.

Now I am taking myself off to bed. Wishing you all the best and much freedom of thought.

Ciao…

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Commanches.

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