Made To Order

Both of my brothers and I were born in the midst of the Great Depression (between 1931 and 1936).  My father had worked as the foreman of a maintenance crew for the Union Pacific Railroad Company and they provided company housing located in Nacin, an isolated rural area in eastern Oregon, miles apart from friends and neighbors. Our playground was the wind swept dusty backyard dotted with scrub tumbleweeds or the nearby swift flowing Deschutes River where we would wade along its banks. By the time my older brother was 5, he’d wandered over the surrounding hills, often accompanied by the family goat. Rather than the dangers from traffic or crime associated with the cities, the perils he faced were prodding and disturbing; a sleeping rattler or nearly losing his footing at the edge of a ravine.

Nobody Knows Me

It was the story stored in her soul that only she and her beloved husband Ray were allowed to see. She ultimately gave me a glimpse, but only when it was too late.

Walking Up Hill

The first day I walked into my Physics I A class at UCLA I knew I was in trouble. In the class of more than 100 students I saw only two other women. Everyone I talked to seemed eager, confident. Most had already taken a physics class in high school. Many were planning to be engineers.

A Walk on the Wild Side

There must have been some wild stormy nights in Los Angeles where I grew up. I should have at least a few memories of looking out of the huge north facing picture window in the living room and seeing storms pass through or snow collecting on the distant San Bernardino Mountains or at least lightning occasionally crackling across the night sky in waves or forks, but I have none.

Saurkraut

Unsurprisingly, I found myself resistant to the idea of eating sauerkraut as a regular part of my diet.  Alba, the physical/massage therapist that I see had been urging me for months to eat sauerkraut——so good for the digestion. She said that she eats it regularly, and that her children eat it as well. As a matter of fact she has a friend who makes it for her. Alba pays for the organic ingredients (cabbage) and the friend then prepares it for her in batches. Delicious, she assures me.

In Flight

We have boarded in Rome.  He is already seated in his leather Business Class reclining window seat, a glass of champagne on the little pull-out table. I have the aisle seat and nod to him, offer a brief greeting and busy myself with settling in for the long trans-Atlantic flight. The flight attendant comes around and –it being only 10:00 in the morning –opt for orange juice.  My companion, probably in his 50s, leans forward and takes a second glass of champagne. The attendant pauses, looking intently at him, and says, “Weren’t you just here yesterday?”  Oh, those business fliers, I think, back and forth, up and down.  No wonder he needs two glasses of champagne before breakfast.  He nods at the attendant, who is poised to offer a snappy reply, and says softly,  “My mother has died – while I was flying to Rome.  I got the message when I landed.  I have to go home– right away.”  The attendant, visibly jolted, takes a couple of beats and offers her condolences.

Salvation

It’s been a very long day. This morning, intending to walk to the Piazza Venezia, for shopping and lunch somewhere nearby, I set off from the train station at Piazzale Flaminio. In the wrong direction. Again. My son warned me, the first time I’d embarked on an exploration of Rome, not to orient myself by the Tevere, the ancient river that snakes its way across the eternal city. It is very easy to get disoriented. He, having lived in Italy for most of his adult life, was right. Again. I’d walked straight down the Via del Corso toward the Piazza Venezia. But, turning left at some point instead of right, I’d crossed the river twice, ending up in the hills above the Vatican, far from my destination in a residential neighborhood bereft of cafes and bars where I could sit, rest up from my meandering, and have a bite to eat.  I walk and walk, further and further from my original destination.  This journey has now become my destination. And while the neighborhoods are leafy and homes quite lovely this is not where I want to be. I am tired, beyond hunger. My head is beginning to ache and I must sit down.

The 57

I didn’t notice her when I got on. It is my first time riding the #57 bus in our new neighborhood. Figuring out the cost of the trip and digging in my purse for the correct change preoccupies me. As the bus lurches into action I grab the pole, struggle to keep my balance, and fling myself into the nearest vacant seat. Fumbling with extra coins, I toss them into my purse and hear a voice nearby.  “Excuse me,” she says.  I look up.  She is sitting to my right, on a seat reserved for the elderly or disabled. “Excuse me,” she says again, leaning forward. “Would you take some advice from an old lady?”