Don Rogers: New year, new life
Mom helped the kids load up at 3 a.m.
They didn’t need help, of course, but she knew they’d welcome it. This is Mom, remember, always there, unconditional, sixth sense alert. Even in the middle of the night. One more touch, one more last goodbye, watch the red lights disappear down the driveway.
Dad? Fast asleep, probably snoring. Tomorrow’s a workday. He’d said all his goodbyes, kissed his little grandsons, man hugged his son, hug hugged his daughter-in-law. Wished them all well. Gone to bed. All they had left was to get up with the alarm and go. No need to prolong things. Why draw it all out again?
Oh, they’d been them, moving across the whole country with young ones. The longest was upstate New York to Southern California. Dad furious at Mom’s romantic, ridiculous notion to drive not west to get there, but the wrong direction for a whole damned day to Maine and the ocean.
Furious, that is, until his little daughter started squealing at the sight of the Atlantic and couldn’t stop.
“Worth it?” Mom asked with a knowing smile and her eyes alight.
Dad was only grumpy by comparison in Utah following a more agreeable though long day that included a wiggling road into the clouds over and through Rocky Mountain National Park and not finding affordable lodging till Parachute far into Colorado’s west slope in the middle of the night, finally past all the tourist destinations.
Still blurry, but making good time on I-70 past Green River. At last.
“Take that road.” “You’ve got to be kidding.” “Oh come on. We may never be this way again. Don’t you want to see what’s there?” Dad with big, bugged-out eyes, grumbling about reaching the final destination. Mom nudging, insistent only as needed to make what she wanted to happen, happen. For the kids, of course. For the memories later, the stories they still tell each other when they’re all together, ones they’ll tell the grandsons soon enough.
Without Mom’s insistence, they never would have driven those dirt roads, picnicked at that lonely lake high in the trees, wondered at the tiny villages amid green hayfields, passed all those hoodoos — tunnel dog castles, according to the kids, who kept a sharp eye out for the creatures. Such striking country, between slickrock and aspen groves.
From there, a late discovery of being out of enough money to stay in Cedar City, and so a night crossing of simmering desert — kids awakened and paraded out the minivan to gawp at the Las Vegas lights — and dropping finally, Dad exhausted, down the driveway and into a new home in Murrieta, California. At last, sleep. Ah.
Dad should have known better by now. The kids were up maybe two hours later, before the sun. The ocean, the ocean, let’s go to the ocean. At first even Mom wanted sleep, but she soon joined the chorus. If they hurried, they’d catch sunrise at Encinitas, on the beach.
And so they did, little daughter on the run only shin-deep into the surf before realizing the Pacific was not Old Orchard. Shrieking in hilarity and high tailing out. Even Dad smiling, laughing.
The kids with their kids made Vail in a long day for Christmas with her folks. Then Davenport, Iowa. Then South Bend, Indiana. Family awaiting at each stop, eager to see the 3 year old and the 1 year old. Eventually Glens Falls, New York, near the Vermont border before the new year, the new life so far from Truckee, next to those old nubbed Adirondacks in a hockey town, what’s on the pubs’ big screens.
It’s a familiar life, picked up again by the next gen. He’d taken a break, Mom hoping a lasting one in a new occupation that would keep them close.
But something gets in the blood with newspapers and whatever follows. He just had to listen to a headhunter, just had to talk to the recruiter, just had to take the offer. Dad knows the drill all too well. Mom dreaded each step.
New York to California. California to New York. Such journeys often start before dawn, fresh adventures in the making, someday stories to tell when everyone’s back together.
Oh hell. I wish she’d woken me up.
Don Rogers is the publisher of The Union, Lake Wildwood Independent, and Sierra Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299.
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“You’ve heard me say this before: Every acre can and will burn someday in this state” — Cal Fire Director Thom Porter.