It’s funny how some childhood memories are so vivid, while others only have meaning from being heard over and over again. Every single year for as long as I can remember, my father tells me the story of the first time he saw me after my birth. He swears I was looking directly at him, smiling.
I am an only child – a ranking that has both good and bad connotations. When quite young, I was the “model” child; never getting into mischief, never talking back, never having to be punished. As I grew, and came into myself, I started to test the limits, never doing anything too extreme but enough to catch my parents attention. It wasn’t until my teen years that I really started expressing myself, uncaring of what others thought of me. Being an only child, I had no one else to blame, or point fingers at, and learned early what it was like to either accept your actions, or dig yourself a huge hole.
Once of my earliest memories of traveling (an activity I grew to love until 9/11) was driving from California to Washington to visit family. Ironically I ended up moving to Washington, via Arizona, some thirty years later. I’ll talk about that more, later. Back in the “good old days” before wearing a seatbelt was the law, I would have the entire back seat as my playground.
On one such trip, after leaving very early in the morning and driving straight through we arrived in Washington and were only maybe 15 miles or so from my Aunt and Uncle’s house. My father, exhausted from the 14 hour drive, made what we call a “California stop” as he was making a right turn. (For those of you who don’t know what a “California stop” is, it’s basically when you yield at a stop sign rather than coming to a complete stop.) Unfortunately there was a police officer who witnessed this atrocious violation of the law and pulled my father over. During his questioning he glanced in the back seat, and being it was dark, caught glimpse of me (sitting up at this point) and my “baby” (a life size doll). While he lectured my father on driving safely with “two children in the back seat” I had the sense to keep my mouth shut instead of saying, “What two children? This is a doll!”
The travel bug was in all of us – most especially my father – and we made trips to Chicago to visit family, Disneyland, Tahoe, Las Vegas, Yosemite, Hawaii, and a rented cabin on a lake every summer. My parents – consciously aware of my only child status – would usually allow me to invite a friend along on our travels. I used to think it was for me, so I wouldn’t be bored hanging out with my parents; but now, as a parent myself, I think it was more for their sanity than anything.
When I was 16 my mother went back to work, returning to the career she had before having me. She was a flight attendant. This opened up a host of new travel possibilities for our family and we traveled even more visiting places like New York and London, England. Between my father working at that time for one major airline, and my mother for another, we were able to travel to our hearts content.
It was during my freshman year in high school that my friend Denise and I started planning our graduation trip. While most kids would take a week after graduation to go to Hawaii, Mexico, or Florida, we planned and saved our money for a month long excursion to Europe. We did it too, traveling to England, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, and Holland. Definitely a very memorable trip.
Another facet of my life that was very important to me while growing up was sports. I started dancing (ballet and tap) when I was 5, but with two left feet I gave it up. I tried tennis (boring!) and bowling (now this was something I loved, did well, and still do today), but it wasn’t until I was in the 6th grade that I found my true forte – volleyball. I played basketball, softball, soccer and ran track as well, but slamming that white ball over the net was where I really felt at home.
I continued to play volleyball through my twenties, playing indoor, grass, sand, teams, and doubles. Weekends were filled with tournaments – both watching the professionals and playing myself. Though I never won any trophies or medals, the thrill of the game was all the motivation I needed.
Some of my other favorite early years memories include (in no particular order):
My handmade dollhouse, complete with lighting
Halloween parties and Fourth of July parades
Flying to Chicago to see Shawn Cassidy in concert
Meeting David Coverdale on a flight home from England
Learning to play the guitar
Learning to ride a bike
My grandmother’s cooking and holidays in her postage sized flat in San Francisco
There are a million more I could write about, but since this is already this long, and if you’ve gotten this far I thank you for reading, I’ll keep the others to myself – at least for now.
Part II will come tomorrow or Thursday if you care to come back and read. Until then, g’night.