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Another Day in the Country

A California adventure

© Another Day in the Country

It was a dark and stormy night when I landed back in California, a couple of weeks ago.

There had been busy airports, late planes, endless lines, and crowded conditions, along with smiling faces, rowdy 30-year-olds eagerly headed for drinking sprees in Vegas, weary mothers shepherding toddlers, and haggard immigrants on my journey west.

Oh, how glad I was to find my suitcases and go searching for a familiar white van with FENCER1 on its license plate and a car full of more familiar faces, even though the young man who came rushing toward me to help get my cases into the trunk seemed a foot taller than when I’d seen him at Christmas.

The next morning, I woke to light seeping under the bedroom door while the room was still smoldering dark.

Before daybreak, my daughter was leaving to meet clients at the spa she manages in Napa Valley.

Are people really so eager to exercise they get up before dawn? I guess so. LeeRoy does it in Tampa, I muse. Not me!

I lie in the dark, listening as the front door opens and closes. A car starts. The house is quiet.

What seems like minutes later, the sun is streaming through a window curtained by green shards of bamboo I planted more than 50 years ago. It’s one of my favorite early morning views.

Our spring break adventure had just begun.

There’s a tap on my door, and my grandson sticks his head in.

“Dad wants to know if you’d like to go to Gilwoods for breakfast, “ he grins, knowing that it will get me up and dressed in a hurry!

There is green, green, green everywhere I look as we drive down the side of Howell Mountain toward the valley floor. The brilliance is dazzling and outdone only by yellow mustard blooming between vineyard rows.

St. Helena’s streets are strangely quiet for an Easter weekend, but the restaurant is filled with locals chatting, leisurely drinking coffee.

We get my favorite spot by the window, and my favorite waitress is still working there even if the place has changed hands several times and more than 30 years have elapsed. Amazing. Perfect.

I was in California for only 10 days, but we filled every day chock full, sandwiched between work schedules and previous appointments.

Dagfinnr had a tennis lesson, and I went along. Instead of me driving him to the courts, he drove — the proud owner of his very first driver’s license. We met his coach, a gracious old pro — my peer group!

Later in the week, he had an appointment at the DMV 20 miles away to correct a mistake on his license. Someone had inadvertently entered a “1” in front of the street address.

We had to stand in four lines and deal with an unfamiliar computer and two less-than-helpful clerks to correct the matter.

“I guess government employees never learn that apologies are free,” my daughter quips. “That’s how they get their reputation tarnished.”

With part of our mission accomplished, we started on the rest of our adventure, together again.

“Let’s hit 31 Flavors and See’s,” Jana says. “Nothing like hitting all our favorite spots in one day!”

Now that’s a vacation!

At the ice-cream spot, Dagfinnr whips out his billfold and says, “My treat!”

If there’s anything better than jamoca almond fudge, it’s having a grandchild gallantly pay the bill.

On Richard’s day off, he suggested we drive to Rhonert Park and play 18 holes of miniature golf.

How long had it been since we’d done that? For me, it was more than 30 years; for the rest, probably 12.

Richard won, coming in one under par with the rest right behind him. My claim to fame was that I made three accidental holes-in-one.

I reminded Dagfinnr of the summer he was 6 and we tried setting up a mini golf course in the side yard.

California was in drought and the ground so hard we resorted to using a couple of empty gopher holes!

He and I have been playing new board games. “Go” is one we’d never played. We used a very weathered old game board that once belonged to Richard’s late father.

“Inside Moves” was another. I obviously have not mastered this game because I’ve lost every round we’ve played. I tried reading up on possible moves on the sly, but then I realized that for them to work, the counter moves were vital, and who could predict those with my sharp opponent?

On Easter morning, there was a tiny basket outside my door from my Easter bunny daughter.

We went with Jana to hide Easter eggs around the inside of the spa for staff members who were working on Easter Sunday.

We wore bunny ears to the delight of the patrons who’d outgrown such childish things.

Then we came home. I hid eggs first, around the yard where we’d carved out a place to live so many years ago beside the hedges and vines I’d planted and tended for 30 years before heading back to Ramona. I used all the hidey-holes I knew by heart and hoped they wouldn’t.

When it was Dagfinnr’s turn, thorough as he is, he took a picture of every spot he’d hidden an egg so none would languish there indefinitely.

Yesterday, he said, “I want to teach you a new game. It’s working as a team to defuse a bomb in five minutes.”

Jana had played the game with him before, and she was eager to play. I was dubious, wide-eyed, and hesitant, albeit a little horrified that this actually was a game.

After a bit, Jana had to go to an appointment, and Dagfinnr said, “Do you want to try guiding me through the steps?”

I did, frustrated and inept at first, but I soon got the hang of it.

We all were blown up several times but eventually made it with time to spare, even once with a three-minute deadline!

I’ve always believed in living every day to its fullest, grateful for the mundane as well as the marvelous, cherishing the simplest of blessings like the double-yoked egg we just collected from California hens in the yard for breakfast.

This adventure was my holiday extravaganza. I chronicled it with my camera from beginning to end to refresh my memory during quieter spells in Ramona and to tell you the stories on another day in the country.

Last modified April 11, 2024

 

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