Posted in A Day In the Life, Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?, Storytelling

The Tale of How the Governor Came to Be

In the mid-1960’s in South Denver, a short distance from the apartment where my mother and I lived, was a hotel on Colorado Boulevard. I think it was called Writer’s Manor. Or maybe it was Riter’s Manor. “A fancy place,” my mom called it. They had a large dining room in which all the tables were covered in white tablecloths, each graced by a small vase of fresh flowers. At one end of the room, a wall of windows overlooked an inviting swimming pool. The first time that I went there, I couldn’t stop looking at the pool. I longed to be in that water in the hot afternoon sun. The pool was, disappointingly, only for hotel guests.

Two glasses with iced tea with lemon and ice on the wooden table

On this day, my mom created an outing for us: we got dressed up and went to the hotel dining room where we were going to order banana splits. My mom was creative in the ways in which she entertained me. She worked during the week, and weekends were the times I got to see her the most. We didn’t have a car to go places, just the bus. There were no trips to the mountains or lakes like my other friends, but she tried hard to come up with things that were not just fun, but affordable. This is one of the reasons I still love summer so much: it feels like time for fun.

            Mom had insisted that I wear gloves. She was a woman who had watched one too many Joan Crawford movies. I didn’t think that gloves were cool, but I put them on anyway, and we walked to the hotel on that hot summer day. I can’t remember the dress I wore, but during those times, almost everything I owned was an A-line cut, and I was partial to little flowers, so I imagine myself in a sleeveless flowered dress, wearing uncomfortable patent leather flats, inappropriate for walking, but perfect for a formal dining room, and those stupid little white gloves.

            I was sweating by the time we got to the hotel. Still, I remember being excited about getting to see the swimming pool again, and I was excited about ordering a banana split in the hotel dining room. Years later, I realized my mother probably couldn’t afford to buy us lunch there, but at twelve, I was very enthusiastic about banana splits — not having lunch made no difference to me. We were led to one of the tables, and I told her I was thirsty.

            A waiter came by and poured water into what I observed to be grown-up glasses. The glasses had stems, not like the glasses at home that were short and squat.

            “May I bring you ladies an Arnold Palmer?” the waiter asked.

My mother nodded. “Would you like one?” she asked me.

Yes, please,” I answered. And then as soon as the waiter was gone, I asked, “What’s an Arnold Palmer?”

            “Half iced tea and half lemonade,” she said, and smiled.

            I felt grown-up and proud to be with my mom. I felt special sitting in the beautiful dining room all dressed up with her. And I loved her for her making me feel that way.

            Disappointingly, the Arnold Palmers didn’t come in the kind of grown-up glasses I’d hoped for. There was no stem. Still, I felt very grown up drinking one. As with all things I remember, it’s not so much the thing itself, as it is the feeling tone that lingers in the heart and mind. Sitting in that fancy dining room with my mom, wearing those stupid white gloves—it was all just kind of perfect.

            After the Arnold Palmer came the banana splits, and I ate mine slowly and carefully, as a grown-up would, careful not to let any ice cream or topping spill on my A-line dress or the white linen tablecloth.

            Years go by, and I’m middle-aged, married, and sitting in a lounge chair on my deck next to a girlfriend. We’re recalling summer stories from childhood, and I tell her about the hotel, the Arnold Palmers, and the banana splits.

            “Arnold Palmers,” she says. “Those sound so good right now. We could make some.”

            “I have lemonade, but I only have green tea.”

            We look at each other.

            “What the hell . . .” I say. I get up and mix them—half green tea and half Knudsen’s lemonade. I pour the mixture over ice and stick in a couple of paper straws.

            “Ta-da, Arnold Palmers,” I say, holding out the glasses to my friend.

            She takes a sip. “They’re good,” she says. “What’d you make these with, again?”

            “Lemonade and green tea.”

            “I guess they’re not really Arnold Palmers,” she says.

            “No, but close enough.”

            “Who else do we know named Arnold,” she asks.

            “Schwartzenager?”

            “The governor of California?”

“That’s it. I dub this drink ‘The Governor,’” I say.

And that’s how The Governor, made with green tea, came to be. Gone are my banana spilt days, but I often enjoy like a grown-up glass into which I can pour The Governor on a hot afternoon.

The Governor:

Steep 3 Tzao Zen Green Tea bags in a 2-quart pitcher. This is best if you steep this in the sun all day, instead of boiling water and pouring it over the tea bags. The tea will turn a light greenish-gold color after about 6 hours. Refrigerate it overnight. The next day pour ½ glass of green tea over ice. Fill the rest of the glass with Knudsen’s lemonade, which is sweetened with fruit juice rather than white sugar. You won’t need any additional sweetener. This is the perfect tea for any summer afternoon.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

The Very Last Day of Summer

IMG_0341-2The announcement came early in the day. I was at the row of mailboxes at the bottom of the hill. Sandra had tucked it into her pocket, waiting for a moment like this where she could share the news. “This is the last of it,” she said. “This is the last of the hot weather. It’s going to rain on Saturday.”

And it did. The rains came on the heels of a hot, smoky, too dry summer that had over stayed her welcome. And with the rains came the inspiration and promise of autumn. On that last day of summer, the mercury rose to 90 degrees. My lips couldn’t soak up enough Burt’s Bees. The dog lay sprawled on the cool, hardwood floor, not really interested in walking our usual trail, dusty from the months of unrelenting heat. On that very last day, after I returned from the mailboxes, I began to think about what I would do with autumn.

I thought about apple butter simmering for three days until it became thick and brown, the spices permeating the air, IMG_0364smells creeping from the pot on the stove to the floors and rising to the ceiling, filling the house with scents of clove and cinnamon. I dreamed about mums and peppers, gracing the front porch for another month, the last of flowers, a flourish of color and glory that would segue into brown and grey when winter frosts came.

I moved quickly, stealthily into the autumn promise, knowing that the announcement my neighbor Sandra had given me was true and certain. By Friday, I’d collected apples–honey crisps, red delicious and gala, for the large stainless steel pot where later in the week they would begin their transformation. I planted peppers in the remaining containers on the front porch and I defrosted chicken for the soup I would make on Saturday morning.

What if the rains didn’t come? What if it was another false alarm? What if autumn was cancelled this year and we were doomed to live only summer from now on? Oh I can hear the climate change deniers now, telling me this would somehow be good for business, that it would increase the bottom line. But the rains came and washed all those thoughts away. Another fall. Another change of seasons, and I was grateful and prepared to celebrate.

Friday night my husband came downstairs excited. “Come on,” he said as he pulled me by the hand. He took me outsideIMG_0352 where we stood on the deck as the rain was staring. We took in the smells and let the water drops splash on our hands and our faces. We raised our arms toward the sky and said, “thank you.” We sat down for a while, before the rain got heavy and talked about how wonderful the moisture felt, about how beautiful our oak tree was. Her branches spread out over us, keeping us sheltered as she dropped leaves that gently floated to the deck and swirled about our feet. The great grand oak of our valley, the one we imagine to be the grandmother of all the oaks that live here. That’s the story we have made up and delight in telling ourselves.

On Saturday, chicken soup simmered on the stove. A basket of apples sat on the chair awaiting their mission in life. The fireplace warmed the chilly living room and outside the ticking of rain on the grape arbor leaves sang the new season into being. It’s here. It came with flare and fanfare. I will never grow tired of the changes, the anticipation of the shift.

It is as if everything around me, everything inside of me relaxed. Last night found my husband and I sitting on the covered front porch in the dark. I wrapped a blanket around me. The dog lay down between us. And all of us listened to the rain, tilted our heads toward the sky, breathing in the time of decay and shedding that autumn brings, saying goodbye to a summer whose very last day was behind us now. Oh for the love of the seasons. Oh for the love of change.IMG_0353

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

I Am A Little Fish

It’s not so much of a memory as it is a sensation that rises again and again in the summer months. A little girl lies on a towel on the warm concrete, resting for a moment in the sun. She has been in the water for what seems like hours, holding her breath and crawling under the shimmering blue from one sibling to the other; being thrown into the air by her brother and making a huge splash; floating on her back. She is a little fish, and she belongs here.

The water is cool in hot desert sun, and she loves the sun, loves how it feels on her skin. This is her world; A mother and father who sit in lounge chairs and occasionally come into the water to play; a brother and a sister who will stay with her in the water all day; Sandwiches that the mother has packed in a cooler; Cold drinks from a concession stand. It is a family day and everyone is happy.

It does not matter that this world broke apart in divorce and moves to other states; dissolved itself into the mess that is part of adulthood and failures of the heart. What matters is that each summer it comes back—the sensation of the sun and the water, the excitement about going to the pool and swimming back and forth in the lanes for adults. Do they know that when I am in this pool I am not an adult? I am that little girl again, alive in the sensations of summer, the feelings of security and happiness brought on by sun and water.

A bag is packed with towels and iced water, a kindle to read in the lounge chair. All around me are the happy sounds of children playing in the water, laughing and squealing; the sounds of parents who get into the water and play. These summer afternoons retrieve something precious from a long time ago and thrust it forward into a present that allows me to be my purest, most real self–at play in the world, filled with joy, and delighting in kisses from the summer sun.