It was that time again to stock up the pantry and fridge, so I meandered through the grocery store, strolling up one aisle and down the next until everything on my list was checked off. When I was standing in line with a full cart for just a few minutes, I noticed the man behind me holding only two items in his hands. “Would you like to go ahead of me?” I offered.
“Oh, no thank you. I’m fine.” He replied.
“No, really. I don’t mind waiting.” I insisted, so he humbly accepted. While he paid for his items, I read a new text from my husband that just pinged. When I looked up, the man was finishing the transaction.
“Thanks again for your kindness,” he said to me, while gently tossing a $50 bill that I watched float through the air as in slow motion, landing on my loaf of bread! “Oh, my gosh! I can’t accept that!” I was shocked to see the money in the first place, but then realizing it was a $50 bill had me flabbergasted!
“Please, take it. Your kindness has renewed my faith in humanity.” He gently enforced and literally sprinted out of the store, vanishing in seconds. I stood there with Darlene, the checker staring back at me, the biggest smile brightening her face, both of us amazed at the man’s equaled kindness and generosity. She told me to accept the gift, so my first thought was to pass it onto her. Darlene was friendly and so kind, making each customer feel like the most important person in the world, exuding true customer service. And yet, she was not allowed to accept cash gifts. So, I reluctantly slipped the fifty into my purse, waves of shock still rippling through me as I exited the store.
There is no barometer in measuring the value of kindness, but it is apparent that kindness comes in all forms, and I can’t wait to pay it forward to reaffirm this generous man’s faith in humanity.
Some say backpacking is magical, and I’m one of those people. Backpacking for my husband has been his life’s passion, but I only expressed an interest five years ago when I was fifty-six. To this day, my interest in slipping a pack on my back and hitting the trail has not waned. Trees flanking the trails, butterflies floating from bloom to bloom, dragonflies buzzing above the shimmering water, the breeze bringing relief like a refreshing swim in the lake, and the morning light stretching over the horizon remind us that another glorious day has arrived – they’re all magic.
It is humble to carry essentials on my back. I’m not like Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in three months. I don’t own that level of bandwidth to wear the boots of a thru-hiker, whether on the PCT or on the Appalachian Trail. Nor do I have the desire to attempt a 60-mile trip like my husband has completed on several occasions. I’m a middle-aged woman who possesses a yearning to challenge myself in body, mind, and soul – to step out of my comfort zone and seek adventures to be experienced, even though I need to shed a few pounds.
I get tired at times my legs begin to tremble. I have literally met exhaustion face to face on a few of our hikes. And when I get hot, my face turns pomegranate red, a little embarrassing when greeting other hikers. Sweat trickles and forms in patches on my body that, yes, I’ll refrain from naming. And unfortunately, no shower stands behind the tent waiting to be utilized. And yet, I am pulled into the magic…
I’ve known several friends who didn’t get the chance to celebrate their fiftieth birthday. We all know tomorrow is not guaranteed. I always try to live my life to its fullest, but now even more so as I grow older. Maybe because I’m inching my way closer to the top of the ladder! So, I choose to explore this type of adventure that never appealed to me when I was younger. To live my life in the richest way possible.
I’m not a solo backpacker, but I admire those who are, especially women portraying strength, perseverance, and determination by setting out on their own. I find comfort in the security of going with my husband, knowing he holds the experience and knowledge of the trail. I do help pitch the tent and set up and clean up camp, so I don’t just sit around sipping wine while he does all the work. We make a good team. He’s also the one who calms me in the middle of the night when the snap of a twig causes my eyes to fly open. What was that? A bear? A human? The imagination can truly run wild! But I acknowledge this trait and try to allow his calm composure to flow into me.
As to my body, there are moments when my knees twinge or my hips groan from sleeping on nothing but a pad separating me from the ground! And the sleeping bag manages to twist me up at times, too. All magic. Every lens to the surrounding beauty, every chirp or snap, even each little ache or unexpected precipitation literally raining on our parade falls into the package of a life-changing alchemy. The welcome peace from the hustle and bustle of daily routines. The whispers of wind through the trees attempting to touch the vast sky. The breeze ruffling my bangs looking a bit wonky after taking off my hat. Getting outdoors, inhaling the fresh air, time to reflect. As I said before…magic for the mind, body, and soul.
So, given our bodies remain capable, my husband and I will continue on the backpacking trail one boot in front of the other, relishing the magic of it all.
It felt like walking back in time, strolling around the loop in the park flanked by redwoods, families laughing and holding dialogue over a barbecue burger lunch. The aroma tickling our noses. Opened bags of chips and containers of various salads on the table ready for serving. Grandma shuffles across the street, both hands gripping her walker. Grandpa right beside her, his hand resting on her lower back. Deep, long-lasting love in his eyes. Parents play badminton with their children – a portrait of entertainment at its finest. Our stroll takes us to the bridge where we pause for a few minutes. Leaning against the rail, we see young girls and boys splashing in the creek, laughter whirling around in the warm June air. The sound, musical and magical. Redwoods stand tall in their regal manner, providing shade from the scorching rays of the golden ball in the bright cerulean sky.
A week has passed since extreme high temperatures inundated our area – no air conditioning, felt like we were simply existing, wiping sweat from our faces, zapped of all energy, fans at arm’s reach. So, a day among the Redwoods sounded ideal for a cool breather. Our stroll continues past the inviting, glistening creek where we spot poison oak on the side of the road, but we don’t touch. No desire to itch. A Western tiger swallowtail with its black tiger stripes and pretty pale-yellow wings joins us, flying around my husband then me, as if wanting to listen in on our conversation.
Campgrounds on our right display tents in all sizes and colors of blue, red, orange, and lime green. Kids of varied ages play games at a picnic table, a far cry from fingers flying across a keyboard. The delightful scene transports me to my childhood at our cabin on the corner, playing Yahtzee, or the classic Go Fish and Crazy Eights with my parents and sisters. A breeze whirls around us – we want to capture it with our bare hands, bottle it for when the house is sauna hot. A few dogs trot beside their owners, our dog mirrors them, happy to be outside with an abundance of stimulation: smells, people, children, food! His nose in overdrive!
We wind down the road, then make a U-turn. Reaching our picnic table, our stomachs begin to rumble, so my husband pulls out the Reuben sandwich for us to split – haven’t indulged in a Reuben in a hundred years, with orzo and tabbouleh salads for sides. What a feast. What a beautiful day in the company of the majestic Redwoods. His Deschutes IPA and my sangria tap. Cheers to 34 years ago on this day when he asked me that timeless question and I said, “Yes.”
The day I saved a spider…My daughter taught me how when she was twelve years old; her heart loved all creatures. There is much to learn from our children.
Lucky for me, the dime-sized trespasser stayed still on the floor, as if paralyzed by my enormous presence, unaware of my heart pounding erratically, ready to jump out of my chest. But I mustered up an ounce of finesse and a pound of courage. I hurried into the kitchen, pulling a tall clear glass from the cabinet, a glass that has its own place on the shelf, and one we don’t drink out of. It holds the label of spider catcher. I placed it over the spider’s body. Then I grabbed a paper plate and cut out the flat base. I slipped that piece under the glass. When I picked up the spider in its glass cage, its speedy steps just about made me fling it across the room! I didn’t want to feel eight tiny legs skitter across my hand. I managed to tamp down those goosebumps, firmly holding the paper. Then again, I never thought the day would come when I felt compassion for a spider, but I did while watching it scurry around the sides, probably fearful. If it only knew I was the good Samaritan. Stepping outside in the yard, I laid the glass on the lawn, pulling away the paper. Out scurried the arachnid – in a cartoon, it would’ve waved to me. The happy spider didn’t waste one minute of freedom. If only humans could be so wise.
Have you lived with arachnophobia? Can you relate to my fear, my pounding heart, and the courage I had to muster up to save that lucky spider? Do you also prefer arachnids to stay outside? Is there a different creepy-crawler that speeds up your heartbeat?
Lauren Scott (c) Cute spider photo: Google I can’t look at real spiders on the screen yet, but I’m working on it. 🙂
It was close to 7:30 am when she walked into his room, sitting down in front of him. She looked into his eyes with a combination of love and resolution, as if to say, “Don’t you know, too?” He looked at his adorable black lab and shook his head, thinking, this is a little odd. But the obligation of school called, so he patted her soft head, saying, “Love you, Girl, see you later!” And he finished tying his shoes before walking out the door, heading for the high school.
The rest of us also left for the day’s routine: work and school. Just the ordinary; it was to be an ordinary kind of day. She was curled up and content on her soft bed in the backyard where she liked to keep an eye on any trespassing critters.
But shortly after we all left, she cried out. Our good neighbor next door heard her high-pitched cries, so he called us on our cell phones, then he stayed with her. One significant glitch was that all our cell phones were turned off, which had never happened before, and which proved to be the conundrum on this tearful day. So, over an hour passed before I even listened to the urgent message; during this time, our neighbor waited patiently with Lucky Girl breathing her last breaths. The guilt from this unintentional blunder stayed with us for a very long time; we felt sick inside imagining that she was lying there waiting for one of us to come home to tell her that everything was going to be okay.
He got down to her level, parking himself on the cool November concrete, her head resting on his leg. He was not a dog person, but he was a dog person on this day, petting her with compassion. It was ironic that she had had an aversion to him for some unknown reason. But that morning, any dislike she had for this man faded into the uncertainty of what was happening.
I pulled into the driveway, eyes wet and puffy from the phone message, and this was only the beginning. Walking through the side gate, I spotted our neighbor sitting on the walkway, his back up against the house, legs stretched out with Lucky Girl lying beside him. She was barely there, though – her eyes revealing acceptance and sadness. I think she knew more than we did at that moment.
He helped me lift her, gently laying her in the back of the car so she could lie on her side with plenty of room. As much as I wanted her in the front seat where I could see her, I knew she wouldn’t be comfortable. It wasn’t until I pulled out of the driveway that I realized the inevitable was drawing closer. She was eleven years old, but until today, she still seemed so full of life.
With tearful eyes, I drove, feeling grateful the freeway wasn’t a necessary route. Half-way to the vet, I knew. My heart felt the crossing. I pulled over to the side, got out of the car, and walked to the back, lifting the car door. I saw that my Lucky Girl had crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. I sobbed again, knowing more tears would follow.
I kissed her on her nose then managed to get back into the driver’s seat, continuing for another ten minutes to the vet. When I arrived, frantically entering the building, I shared my devastating news with the girl at the counter who acted amazingly aloof for my untamed emotions. But two vet techs wearing light blue medical jackets carried Lucky Girl from the car into a private room. I asked for a few moments alone with my girl. There she was lying on the silver table, where I’m sure many furry family members have done the same. I bent over, laying my head on her soft black fur, gently petting her, and whispering on behalf of her family, “We love you, Lucky Girl.” More tears slid down my face as I was unable to comprehend that this was it…
No more walks together, no more cuddles on the bed, no more tossing of the ball, watching her chase that silly round toy with the excitement of a toddler. No more playing tug-o-war with her favorite rope toy, entertained by her incredible strength and admirable effort. No more watching TV with her lying at our feet as though she’s enjoying the show as much as we are.
When we were all home later that day – the news weighing heavy on our hearts and minds – we huddled in a strong embrace, emotions running wild. This unforgettable chapter was part of life, part of owning a pet, allowing their unconditional love to wrap around our hearts. But this chapter was also about learning how to say good-bye.
The strange thing was Lucky Girl had never indicated that something was off kilter…except, perhaps, when she walked into his room that morning. She looked at him with knowledge we couldn’t possibly have been privy to. Even though her behavior was unusual, she was quiet, not crying or whining, so it didn’t propel us into worrying.
Hindsight is twenty-twenty. If we only would have known. It just happened so fast.
Remembering Lucky Girl who received her angel wings on November 11, 2011. ❤️
Since the empty nester phase has arrived, my husband and I have been flipping through old photo albums. Remember those? Not a folder on a computer, but good old albums where memories come alive on each page.We ran across this article I wrote in the year 2000 that was published in our local newspaper.Talk about memories!
“San Anselmo Memorial Park: Where the fun never sets!“
It’s a beautiful summer day in the low 80s. My husband is at work and I’m the designated recreation director for our son and daughter. There aren’t any play dates scheduled today, so what would be a fun way to entertain them?
I’m a stay-at-home mom and have met many people since we moved to San Anselmo, mainly through school and extracurricular activities. One of the most popular pastimes for parents and their children is going to the park. I have never seen so many beautiful parks to choose from.
Memorial Park is the hot spot in this quaint little town. Although the equipment was old when we first visited, it was a great destination for our children to expel their energy. Then, about a year later, I heard talk of a possible renovation, making it more desirable for children to play.
Talk soon turned into a dream come true. With the help of community volunteers and hired architects, Memorial Park was remodeled in one week! I knew if I didn’t volunteer to help, I’d feel guilty for a long time. This park and our children had already established a close bond and would be seeing a lot more of each other.
So, I volunteered to get my hands dirty and to participate in the camaraderie. Hammering, painting, lifting, cleaning, whatever it took, the work got done. The newly improved Memorial Park is even more magical than before. I haven’t visited once when it wasn’t filled with happy, giggly children creating their own adventures, whether in the mystical castles, climbing on the long-neck dinosaur, or building sandcastles in the big sand box.
Now, instead of wondering how I will entertain our son and daughter, I choose the best time to leave for the park. Usually, our children meet up with friends they’ve already made, which adds more dimension to the fun. While they’re playing, I share in adult conversation with other parents, flip through a magazine, continue where I left off in a good book, or simply enjoy the relaxation on a splendid summer day.What better music to our ears than the giggles of our happy children!
I truly appreciate the many volunteers and their working hands who conceived the renovation, thought it doable, making it reality!
Lauren Scott (c) 2000
I don’t have photos of the park during that time because I probably didn’t carry my camera on me. My bag was most likely filled with lots of water and snacks. And those were the days before smart phones existed where a simple tap, tap, tap could create 1000 photos in 5 seconds.
So, the photos I’m sharing are from the current website, along with the picture of my children that was included with the article. Now they’re 29 and 26! How is this even possible?!
Are you about to embark on the same life chapter of becoming empty nesters…or, perhaps, do my memories evoke special memories of your own? If you’re inclined to share, I’d love to read.
And thank you for joining me on this day at the park!
~Lauren ❤️💙💜 All park photos: Memorial Park website
Wrapping up my workday with fifteen minutes to go before stepping outside into Friday freedom, I hear my phone ping. A short text from my daughter: Hey, Mom, would you want to chat later?
It’s been a couple of weeks since we talked, and since she lives on the other side of the country, of course, I wanted to chat! My fingers tapped back: Sure! I’ll call in a half hour when I’m home.
For hours to fly by when we talk on the phone isn’t unusual at all. But this call turned out to beat that record by a landslide. When my husband walked through the door, home from work, I said, “Hi Honey, I’ve been talking to Steph for two hours.”
“Are you kidding me?” He asked, grinning, not understanding what in the world could keep a conversation going for so long.
And it kept going. We chatted about work – the fun and the annoying elements, and about friends. I asked her about the 3-year-old tabby cat, Oliver, she and her husband recently adopted. Somehow the weather swept into our conversation – another drought and fire season on the horizon for us, and lastly, about her brother who is moving out in a week, embarking on a new chapter of life. He’s been home with us for a couple of years post college graduation, working full-time remotely. But the time has come. The time is right.
Steph and I gabbed about Michael’s new chapter nudging “Dad and I” into our new Empty Nesters stage. Exciting times for all of us, but bittersweet where many different emotions whirl around in our heads and hearts. The thing is he’s moving across country, too, which means both of our children will be on the same coast as each other, but miles and miles and miles away from us. This is when our hearts become heavy. We can’t see Steph and Ryan on a whim, and the same will be for Michael when he’s moved.
I filled Steph in about Michael wanting to help us rearrange furniture in the bedrooms so that Mom and Dad can reap the benefits of having the house to themselves. Shortly after he signed his apartment lease, with each day came a new flood of tears for me. But as he moves furniture and rewires electronics, he has tamped down those tears by keeping my brain and emotions occupied. Though a tsunami will gush on the day he drives away. No doubt.
Steph understood. When she and Ryan moved, Michael lived with us. Tears still trickled down our cheeks, but it was different with having one of our kids still at home. So, when Michael leaves, it’ll just be Matt, me, and Copper, our crazy canine, who will watch the distance widen between us and his car. We know Copper will sense the emptiness in the house, missing the cuddles, too, from his brother.
After Matt watered the grass, he poured us some Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and I carried the conversation out to the patio. He joined in, telling Steph all about his recent motorcycle trip, and how he checked off that box on his bucket list. He shared that his dad, two weeks shy of turning 98, is not doing well. “Give him a call,” he tells her. “And send him a birthday card with photos of Ollie. He’d love that.”
Before we knew it, tears from all of us struggled for freedom. The conversation stayed light-hearted, full of laughter, but also brimmed with love and poignancy. When we all finally said talk to ya later, four hours had passed!
Here’s my take-away: we love our children so much, yes, and sometimes to the point that it hurts. Parenting doesn’t get easier as age transforms into a larger number – with each new phase develops new sets of worries. But as our daughter and son pave their own paths, we couldn’t be prouder. They’re adulting and doing it well. We just wish their paths were on the west coast. Such is life. And as the gray hairs flourish and the wrinkles form, knowing they love us to the same extent is something so much bigger to be thankful for – and knowledge to sustain us until we or they hop on a plane, heading across country.
5:30 am. A song from the old, but reliable Sony radio wakes my husband and I up on work-day mornings. Four years ago, getting up before the sun would’ve been unthinkable, insane. Too dark outside, too quiet. Just too early. Four years later, our minds and bodies have initiated this routine we’re still acquainting ourselves with.
When that song enters into our sleepy minds, whether it’s rock, pop, or country, a new morning has arrived and so has coffee time. One of us heads for the pantry, grabs a filter and the bag of Peet’s for the good old Mr. Coffee pot. It may not be fancy, but it does the job well and has never disappointed. The delicious sound of coffee percolating is music to our ears, and when that music ends, we stroll into the kitchen to doctor up our mugs. Holding those hot cups of coffee, we take a seat in the living room – a quiet place for us to chat, read, or to simply sit together in silence.
During those years of raising our children, time was of the essence. There were never enough minutes in the work and school days to begin with leisure coffee drinking and casual chatting. It was more of a race, eyeballing the clock on the wall every two seconds, getting ourselves and the children ready for the day. Busy was the new normal. Busy was our middle name.
Yesterday, my husband drove out of the driveway on his motorcycle, setting out for a 5-day trip with several buddies. But as I sit on my sofa, lights turned on, with mug of coffee in hand, I think of him. How this early morning feels different. Peet’s remains our go-to coffee, but the taste seems duller, the effect inadequate. The silence in the house, instead of serene, feels empty like something is missing. As I turn the pages of my book, the thrill of finding out what the next page reveals has fizzled.
I realize that our early mornings aren’t just about a good cup of coffee, they’re about us. So I sip the brew anyway, and in a few days, I look forward to hearing the motor of his bike as he pulls into our driveway.
“The simple things are also the extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.”