|Pastel Art of James Southworth|
By Jean Southworth
Recently I caught the movie, "Rainman" on TV. At the end, Dustin Hoffman recites to Tom Cruise how many months, weeks, days, hours, and then minutes until they'll see each other again. Taylor did a similar countdown as school neared its end, and I paid attention to my own little Rainman's calculations because it meant the start of Girl Trip to California. Annie and I were among the last-known relatives to meet Melanie's three month old twins in Sacramento.
When I asked Taylor if he'd miss me, he said "yes", but I caught the low chuckle under his breath. Taylor knew he was in store for daddy time- extreme fun, and no one around to nag about unmade beds or dirty cereal bowls in the sink. I would have asked Zach the same question, but he was too busy talking on the phone, watching TV, playing computer games and chatting on-line with school friends- all at the same time. (I do not exaggerate.)
Jim hugged me tightly and said he'd miss me; I believe him. I'll miss him, too.
So off Annie and I flew down I-5, through God's lush creation of the southern Oregon hills, WOW praise music blasting, singing along at full throttle. Annie's as easy a travel companion as Jim, except she can't drive, so we broke the trip into two days, each way.
ASHLAND AND THE WEDGIE
Henry V wasn't my first choice. I'd never even heard of the guy. Traffic of scalped tickets for Taming of the Shrew went nowhere. But, hey, how often are you at the Shakespearean Festival? How often can you sit through a three hour, 500 year old war play you hardly understand? The experience, that's what counts, you know.
Seated next to us were several Japanese-American girls who appeared to be around ten years of age. They kindly agreed to snap a close-up photo of me and Annie in the theater before the play began. At once the usher abandoned her ticket station to chastise us. "No photos in the theater!" For a moment I feared confiscation of my camera; only assurances of improved behavior placated her.
An elderly gentleman near us began a recurring series of coughing fits, each starting softly, then a steady crescendo into full hack mode. Soon he was escorted out by a woman with a name tag, never to be seen again.
Annie began squirming in her squeaky seat. Audience members turned, staring at our disruption. I was worried. I didn't want to end up wherever they'd sent the old gentleman. "Why are you fidgeting?" I asked.
"I've got a wedgie, Mom!"
If you go to the Shakespearean Festival, make certain not to take any cameras, itchy throats, or wedgies.
Henry V had war scenes, hangings and stabbings, with red handkerchiefs flowing from neck blows. The Japanese girls next to us were horrified, mouths gaping and hands covering their carotid arteries.
Afterwards, we discovered about 15 of these fully-Americanized Japanese students in our hotel lobby, waiting for their chaperone. I asked them questions, and they gathered in a semi-circle around me, Maria Von Trapp style.
Where are you from? LA
Did you understand the play? Oh, yes, we performed it at school last year. A fifth-grader was Henry.
I immediately thought of Taylor, playing P.T. Barnum in his 3-5 grade school play, with songs about Jumbo and Tom Thumb.
CHICO AND THE WONDERFUL THINGS
Now that Sacramento has the draw of the twins, brother James is seeing a lot more action in the form of visitors; Chico is all but on the way. James says he's on the family trade route.
Chico is far enough off the interstate to retain its small-town charm. People ask where you're from if you're visiting, or hail you on the street if you're lucky enough to live there. James gave us a tour of Chico State, including his corner office in the library. The campus was lovely.
Back at James' apartment, we were attacked ("greeted," James corrects) by his dog, Cody. James' place is in full bachelor mode, but I resisted the urge to hang pictures and reorganize the kitchen. That'll happen, he assured me, when he gets a bigger place.
Chico was gifted an enormous piece of property by the Bidwell family, early pioneers to the area. A mansion and extensive park bearing their name are a treasure to the residents. Cody takes full advantage of the park's creek, bounding through the water with unbelievable force.
James took us to a Chinese restaurant for dinner where James suggested we try the fried eggplant, a dish I'd not normally consider. "They are wonderful little things," he guaranteed. Indeed, they were little morsels from heaven.
THE SACRAMENTO TWINS
My objective of the trip was to offer Melanie and Bill as much of a break time as possible, without the benefit of lactation. Melanie squeezed in feedings between errands, shopping, and dates with Bill.
Annie and I got to spend lots of time with Suzanne and Cooper- who is recovering nicely from his cleft lip repair of a week earlier. Cooper has a goofy, sweet little smile that declares he's just about the happiest little boy in the world. Suzanne, with her red hair and fiery personality, reminds me of Melanie as a baby, a sometimes eerie resemblance. While generally agreeable, Suzanne has a legendary scream and I was curious to hear it. I almost missed it, but it finally manifested on our final day there, when Suzanne felt tortured by a diaper change.
As with James, I had a great time hanging out with Melanie. Annie said she likes to watch me with my siblings, how we finish each other's sentences and laugh at family jokes that nobody else understands.
Annie was terrific with the babies and I was grateful to have another set of hands. I should have heeded advice and used the front-pack instead of carrying babies in my arms. I also should have worn tennis shoes instead of slippers on the hardwood floors. The result, by my own failure, was a sore back and achy feet. Even so, I already miss these little creatures.
JACKSONVILLE AND THE HONEYMOON SUITE
Jacksonville is a quiet western village near Ashland, one of only three designated historical towns in the country. Annie and I reserved a room in the Jacksonville Inn, a hotel built in the 1860's. Apparently it was a slow night, because we got bumped up to their honeymoon cottages on the next street.
Hot and weary from our travels, Annie and I entered a cool space with soft music wafting. The living area and bedroom were partially divided by a glass fireplace that rose to the vaulted ceiling. We eyed the king-sized canopy bed, two-person Jacuzzi tub, mini-bar, and massive steam shower. This was probably the most romantic place I'd ever seen. As I looked over at my 13 year old daughter, I realized I'd brought the wrong person here. Annie must have read my mind. "Daddy would really like this place." Yes, indeed.
"We can have a masseuse come to our room!" Annie read aloud from the hotel instruction sheet.
For a moment I gave that serious thought, considering my still-sore back and feet. But no, I decided. A massage in a place like this would be redundant. As I'd predicted, Annie and I were revived by our little cottage. The soaking tubs with bath salts and the terri cloth robes rehabilitated us enough for some sight-seeing. Best bet: the museum, only $2.00, including admittance to the children's museum.
I asked if we could take photos inside. "Of course!" was the answer, as if anything else would be ridiculous. When you enter the children's museum, their greeting is, "You can touch whatever you want!"
We weren't in Ashland anymore.
The children's museum was amazing, teeming with hands-on exhibits, like a fully recreated pioneer general store. Annie and I loved it. The next day, the innkeeper had to tackle me to the floor and wrestle the room key from my hand. Well, not quite, but we certainly didn't vacate one minute earlier than the 1:30 check-out time.
Back at home, Jim and Zach packed for their annual fishing trip with Grandpa Joe and friends. Jim managed to unplug Zach from his communications center long enough for a male-bonding trip to the mountains.
As I write, I am certain Jim and Zach are creating their own memories, their own versions of Japanese students, hollering babies and steam showers. I know they won't forget their time together. These Girl Trips... these Boy Trips. Absolutely, they are wonderful little things.