Meeting Jacqui

I was 16 or 17 returning to California on a Greyhound bus after visiting relatives in the Midwest.  As happens on long bus trips, my seat-mate and I got to talking.  This time it was Ivan Day from New Zealand.  The important part of that chat was that he suggested I write to a family friend of his.  Jacqui Knight was a few years younger than me, but we shared a love of animals, especially horses.  Thanks to Ivan, Jacqui and I became pen-pals.  And pen-pals were all the rage then.

Jacqui with my Mom 1973, Lakeside, California

We wrote frequently for a couple of years, exchanging letters, cards, and small gifts.  Some years the letters tapered off, then began again.  She visited the States in the 1970s. I was living in Swaziland then, so she met my parents, but not me.  We had never met until this week.

Social media has made it so much easier to keep in touch and to make quick arrangements.  Snail mail was quite slow.  She visited the west coast earlier this year – I almost flew to LA for a lunch with her.  She suggested waiting until May when she would be back for various conferences and events.  She is the butterfly advocate in New Zealand and founded Moths and Butterflies of NZ Trust.

She planned to be in Lawrence, Kansas for Monarch Watch’s Spring Open House.  I decided to take a road trip to meet her.

We stayed at a delightful bed and breakfast – Cedar Acres Farm near Oskaloosa, Kansas, for three nights.  We had time to talk, visit Lawrence and Monarch Watch, talk more and more.  We had some catching-up to do do.  There were a few gaps and for me a few memory lapses.  It was amazing.  We hadn’t met before, but we have known each other for over 50 years.  Definitely not strangers.  But I did learn some things about Jacqui.

She can keep up a frantic pace – very energetic, gets a lot accomplished, and keeps up with a huge network of friends and colleagues.  I need a day off every once in a while – even on a road trip.  She doesn’t – she thrives on this life.

She’s very tech savvy.  On this trip as I drop off social media, she seeks it.  The American car, the GPS on her smart phone, and her computer – along with everyone’s version of wi-fi:  none of it fazes her.

She’s very knowledgeable about butterflies, not just Monarchs.  She knows the habitats and ecology as well.

I’ve always known she was adventurous.  About 20 years ago she rode her horse from one end of New Zealand to the other.  You can read about it here.  I learned she’s still adventurous and interested in what’s around her – water tanks or children’s games.  She tackled her own road trip here – a couple of thousand miles.  No fear.  Which leads to the next discovery.  She’s an excellent driver.  And brave.  My proof:  she drove in Mexico City.  Enough said.

Jacqui giving her talk at Monarch Watch.

She still watches horses.  Maybe that never changes for us horse-crazy girls.

She’s very easy to be around.  This definitely felt like an old comfortable friendship.

I didn’t want our time together to end.  It was hard to watch her drive away from our one meeting in fifty some years.

Sentimental about a Tree

Always Backroads

I’ve just picked the first apricots off the scraggly little tree in my yard.  The entire crop will be about a couple dozen apricots – most will go to the birds.  And that’s fine with me.  But the taste of that real, that fresh apricot took me back to the wonderful tree that Dad planted at the family house in Lakeside, California.

Apricot tree in Lakeside backyard.

When I was planning to leave California and rent out the house, my nephew asked if I would be okay emotionally letting others live in the house that up until then had sheltered only family.  My response was that I could let the house go, but I was a little choked up about leaving the apricot tree.  It was about 35 years old, pruned to a perfect bowl shape and every year produced a huge crop of apricots.  They were almost too fragile…

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Childhood Replay

Yesterday I was watering a big pecan tree for a neighbor who was away.  I dug out a bit of a basin and filled it twice with the hose.  The memories returned of watering the avocado trees when I was a kid.  There were about 12 or 15 young trees in three rows on a slope above the horse corral.  Dad had already made the basins, but if I didn’t pay attention, I could over-fill them and a small crisis occurred.  Hurry, move the water wand to the next tree, grab the shovel and repair the damage.  Every tree was watered twice.

Today I was ironing some handkerchiefs – I sell vintage items online.  And I again returned to childhood.  My first ironing chore was pressing Dad’s handkerchiefs.  Not quite foolproof – I can remember the smell of scorched cloth and the permanence of that mark.  But they were the easiest thing to iron.

Now maybe I should go dry some silverware.  That was my first job in the dishwashing department.  Couldn’t break anything.  I, of course, graduated to washing and drying all the dishes and now have regressed to never drying anything.

There is something to the idea of becoming young again in our advanced age.  It’s a loop and I’m enjoying the replay.  Want to come over?  We could build a fort out of sofa cushions.

The Scar

This was an assignment from a writers’ conference in Santa Fe a few years ago.  The instructor said to write about a scar and would you want to have it removed.

The Scar

     It should be across my chest, just below the collarbones.  An imprint of a wall I’d never seen before – hundreds of yards long, twenty feet tall and forever thick.  Cemented rocks to block my eyes, my ears from my heart … and from this newborn in my arms.  It’s preventing me from feeling love for this grandchild just as it shielded me years ago from feelings when the social worker took the signed papers and my son.  I built this barricade with river rocks of lies and jagged blocks of denial and hid it from sight.

Now that my son is back in my life and I hold his son, the infant sends the feared question through the wall at me, ‘How could you give up a child?’  And I know now.  I know I had to build the barrier.  And that knowledge causes the wall to dissolve leaving just a ragged furrow.

No, I won’t have the scar removed.  It’s too new.  I remember the weight of the wall.  I haven’t yet found the extent of its damage.
Scars

You Knucklehead!

Barb and Roy Davis leaving the church after their wedding (7/15/1947).  I hope he avoided the use of 'knucklehead' that day.

Barb and Roy Davis leaving the church after their wedding (7/15/1947). I hope he avoided the use of ‘knucklehead’ that day.

An early memory:  Uncle Roy Davis driving Los Angeles freeways in the 1950s ranting at other drivers “You Knucklehead.”  This was a frequent epithet and bellowed with conviction, but I never heard him use any stronger swear words.

Knucklehead seems fairly tame now.

Wayne Farm House

I’ve written about abandoned houses and the corresponding abandoned dreams (here).  And I realized that our family farm house in Nebraska would probably join those ranks – too big, too old, too expensive to remodel.  It made me sad but I began to see how it could all happen.  It would happen.  People move, people die, families grow somewhere else.  Very common in rural areas.

wayne house

The house in earlier times – maybe the 1920s.

The other day I was researching a post for my genealogy blog and checked Google Earth for the location of the old school near the family farm.  Found it.  Scrolled over to see the farm and was shocked to see all the building were demolished.  Empty cellar pit left from the house and dark scars where they had burned the horse barn and workshop.
google farm view 1

View from an upstairs window to the barnyard.

View from an upstairs window to the barnyard.

When we met in Wayne for Uncle George’s burial a couple of years ago, we were allowed into the house – it was up for sale then.  We took lots of photos.  Then we wandered through the barnyard venturing carefully into the old barns.  I admit I took a couple of hasps that had fallen off and found an old curry comb that certainly looked as if it had been there for 50 or 60 years.  It felt a little strange to take things, but now that I know they burned everything, I wish I’d taken more.  I certainly hope someone salvaged things from the house – doors, fixtures, hardware.  farm house room

 

I had expected to watch the slow demise of the house, not to have it just vanish.  And the strange thing is that I think this affected me more than the loss of my childhood house would (it’s still occupied).  I felt connected to Wayne even though I never lived there.  The family owned the farm from 1916 to 1984.  Most houses haven’t stayed in the family that long.  I heard a lot of stories about the house and farm, saw hundreds of photos, and visited many times – walked that land.  Now the buildings exist only in those photos and memories.  And an old curry comb.

farm horse barn 2

The horse barn near the end of its life.

 

Ten Things About Me

This is similar to the 10 Random Things About Me that I posted on my first blog.  So I’ll start this new personal blog with 10 more things.

  1. When I was about 10, I could ride my horse alone the three miles into Lakeside to the blacksmith’s shop.  Tom La Madrid would shoe Buck and I would ride home.  When I was 12 or 13, I often rode to a friend’s house about 7 miles away and we would ride in the hills there together.  And then I rode back home.buck 1955
  2. I’ve never had a car payment.  Always paid cash.
  3. I played co-ed intermural soccer at the University of California at Riverside.
  4.  I was a Sputnik student.  Entering high school in 1959, I was encouraged to, and therefore, signed up for Russian and Advanced Math.  Russian had never before been offered in our district.  All because the Soviet Union was ahead of us in the space race.  I stuck with both for a couple of years.  And I was fascinated by Russian, loved learning to read the Cyrillic alphabet and liked learning about the culture.  But my skill in foreign language has never been strong, so it’s one of my many languages where I know about 15 words and no conjugations.  I just use the present tense.

    Found these at a yard sale - the same text and flashcards that we used.

    Found these at a yard sale – the same text and flashcards that we used.

  5. I saw the bright flash in the sky from one of the Nevada A-bomb tests in the 50s.  We were camping on the San Luis Rey river in San Diego county.
  6. I saw Percy Sledge in concert in Swaziland.
  7. When I was young, I watched boxing with Dad.  Gillette sponsored the Friday night fights.  Archie Moore.  Johansen.  Dad and Jim Humphries bet on a corner, not a fighter.  Betting – that’s another subject.
  8. The only opera I’ve seen is Boris Gudenov with Boris Christoff in Covent Gardens in 1971.  And the only thing I remember is that Alfred Hitchcock was filming Frenzy across the street as we waited in line for tickets.
  9. I have dual citizenship – U.S. and U.K.
  10. In the summer of 1955 we went to Disneyland in Anaheim just after it opened.  The favorite ride was Autopia because you could drive the cars by yourself.  But I was too short to drive by myself, so I had to ride with Mom.
    autopia still

It’s fun to make these lists.  I extend the challenge to you – make a list and share it.  You might surprise folks.  You might surprise yourself.