happy place

You'd never know by looking, but this woman would take you down at Disneyland

I recently had a dream about my mom. We were at Disneyland and she said something like, “This is my favorite place,” or “I always love this place.” Something like that.

Really, there were two religions practiced in my family. There were Mormon leanings of course, from my mother, but the other religion even more fervently venerated was Disneyland.

My mother was a dynamo at Disney. The first time Liam experienced her there she blew him out of the water. He couldn’t keep up. Plus, she was on chemo. He was ready to hoof it back to the hotel for a nap and she was ready to take on the 45 min. wait for the Peter Pan ride. He developed a coping mechanism to keep up with her. Pickles. Throughout the park they sell big dill pickles, and he would eat one every couple of hours claiming that the salts and herbs were helping replace vital fluids — lost to him on the force march through Disney.

Here’s how the Petersons did Disney: Get to the park early, preferably before the gates open, and stay late. Stay past the fireworks. Leave so fried you do a sort of zombie shuffle out of the park, your cheeks smeared with tear stains; completely spent. If you’re there for more than one day, wake up and repeat the whole process.

My father swears I’ve dined in the Blue Bayou restaurant that looks over the beginning of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, but for the life of me I can’t recall this. I’m sure this is because I was asleep face first in a Monte Cristo sandwich.

When Liam first witnessed this behavior, he thought we were mad. He kept looking at me longingly to put up a fight, to speak up for our right to take a break, take a moment, compose ourselves, something. But he didn’t understand the sanctity of the ritual. We were on hallowed ground. I had no more power to stop this than a moving locomotive. To suggest we leave the park for a nap was sacrilege. A sign of weakness; of a faulty moral compass. Onward we must go! So I’d slip him a couple of bucks to grab another pickle.

Here’s to my mom, especially today, and her amazing determination.XO

Maple leaf

Years ago, I was visiting my friend Lilah in New York and we were walking in lower Manhattan heading to Chinatown. We were on a mission. I was living in Oakland, CA at the time, in the middle of a divorce at age 31, and needing to make a rebellious statement. I decided I wanted to purchase a hip-hop inspired gold-plated marijuana-leaf necklace. [For anyone new to this blog, my parents named me Sativa after cannabis sativa. More on that here.] So we headed to Chinatown where such things could be procured. We were navigating the thick crowds of people working our way to a row of shops along Canal Street whose window displays were jam-packed with thick gold chains and jewelry cases full of the chunky charms and pendants that hang from them. As I said, I was looking for a gold pot leaf. We looked in a few stores admiring oversized pendants of crucifixes, and Jesus heads with crowns of thorns, and Tazmanian Devils, and big dollar bill signs, and Superman’s emblem, and whatever the hell else had been cast in gold. But no pot leaf. Really? We’re having a hard time believing it. Lilah starts up a conversation in broken English with the Chinese lady trying to assist us. Finally Lilah takes out a scrap of paper and draws a multi-pointed leaf on it. “Oh!” the lady says with recognition, “You want Maple Leaf!” I smile bashfully as Lilah says, “That’s right.” She juts her thumb at me, “She’s a proud Canadian.” The lady disappears and comes back in a few moments with a delicate gold maple leaf. Victory! I made the purchase and wore my bling out of the store.

Happy Mother’s Day

Yesterday, I read at a Mothers Who Write event with current and past participants of the workshop. Mothers Who Write is a creative writing workshop for mothers of all ages and stages. Year after year this Mother’s Day reading makes me laugh and cry, in the best kind of way.

Here’s the piece that I read:

It’s while I’m ironing clothes that I begin to wonder if I’ve finally started to turn into my mother. There was a time in my life that I would have picked clothes up off the floor to wear and not thought twice about it. But iron . . . no. My mom liked to iron clothes while watching TV. One time when I was in high school she was ironing on a Saturday afternoon and I was stuck at home — grounded. We were watching some show about traveling America’s highways and bi-ways. “Oh, I know!” she said, “We should pick one state each summer to visit. Wouldn’t that be fun? We could just pick a state and find all those little off-the-beaten path places we’d like to check out.” “Ok” I said in my deadpan teenager voice, “But I better drive.” “Why?” My mother looked at me puzzled. “Because,” I said raising my eyebrows at her, “There are 50 states and you are going to be pretty old by the time we get through with this – taking these one at a time.” She just laughed undeterred. “Ok,” she said immediately revising her plans, “Maybe we better hit two states each summer.”

A couple years later, when I would come home from my college located clear on the other side of the country, I’d often find my mother wearing a jumper dress. If it was the holidays she would be wearing a holiday jumper dress, usually with a bib and some decorative festive appliqué thingy featured prominently on the bib-by part in front. She may even have a coordinating turtleneck underneath. And maybe even themed shoes. For instance, the jumper would have a big smiling snowman on it and the turtleneck would be covered in tiny little Christmas trees and her slide-on flat shoes would have candy canes on them. I, on the other hand, would be wearing ill-fitting thrift store clothes that I hemmed myself with non-matching thread. The fabrics I leaned toward were the types you didn’t have to iron; stain-resistant nylons and polyesters. I might put together an outfit featuring a purple gingham patterned dress paired with a fuzzy leopard print purse and red clogs. Or, a t-shirt that said, “Born Again Pagan” with an orange polyester A-line skirt. My outfits had to look every bit as ridiculous to her, as hers did to me.

Upon seeing my mom’s outfit I would usually roll my eyes, or say something mildly mean depending on my mood. She would look perturbed but would restrain herself from clobbering me.

All these year later, as I stand here ironing while watching Storage Wars, it occurs to me that I was on some level totally missing the point back then. The point being that I was not my mom’s target audience. She was not dressing for the approval of a smart-ass like me. She was an elementary school teacher; a long-standing veteran of the second grade and to them, her students; her core audience, she must have been magnificent. She was marvelous and fun and loved the holidays with the same unbridled passion they did, feeling no shame in declaring, “Ho, HO, Ho” on the front of her clothing. This is what I failed to understand back then in my fill-a-bag for a dollar wardrobe.

No, I’m not suggesting that I’m going to go buy an appliqué holiday jumper, just don’t be surprised if you catch me wearing candy cane flats.

Today also happens to be my mom’s birthday. She would have been 62 today. Happy Birthday Mom.

All around like the wind

What happens to the earlier versions of ourselves? Our kids? Where do they go? When you’re the parent to a small child this feeling is so poignant. You spend hours upon hours with that spirited three-year old, and that person is – in some ways – your closest human relationship, but then they go. They grow. They are no longer that same little person. What is the name for losing that? Where did that little best friend go? What becomes of all that energy that was generated in those moments? The baby that chewed on my chin.  Not that you want any of it to stop going onward, and further, and forward. I’m just wondering what happens to it all? I’d like to think it’s all around like the wind.

I woke up the day after my birthday at a hotel in Tucson and snuck downstairs with Em to get some breakfast. With absolute clarity she said she would like to have steak and eggs. Because she is that kind of a girl. So we got them to split. Her eating most of the steak, me eating most of the eggs. I still have the Super Guppy on my mind from the day before at the Pima Air and Space Museum. My heart feels as lumpy and lofty as this improbable plane.

The smell of spring

One day last week I’m surprised to discover the soap in the bathroom at Lux my favorite coffee shop smells exactly like the perfume I wore the year I was going through a divorce almost ten years ago. It sticks to my hands.

I have been wearing the same fragrance for 15 years or more, Folavril; worn so often it’s a scent I associate with continuity; with my life. But not that year. That year I wore a different scent that smelled like the ocean wide with possibility and unpredictable. I only just learned that Folavril was inspired by the “savory attraction of the tomato leaf” which is amazing to me because a tomato vine is one of my all time favorite scents (along with slightly burnt toast). It’s funny when you make little discoveries like this in your life. The fact that my love for the scent of the tomato vine has been reflected in my favorite fragrance all along without my being consciously aware of it is reaffirming in a small way. Like you are sniffing out the right path. The tomato vine is closer to the happiness I feel on this rare rainy couple of days in Phoenix when it is cool enough to wear a big sweater and spot rainbows and bake cookies in the afternoon. It smells so good outside. What are your favorite smells?

amoeba weather

When the weather is perfect and you can’t tell where the inside of yourself ends and the outside begins — that is what I call amoeba weather. There is no sweating, no shivering on such days. Just amoeba, perfect state. I’m striving to make other dynamics with my world reach an amoeba state.

Days when inner fears and outside threats are in check. When I don’t feel too young, old, restricted, scared, filled with self-loathing, or flip. Just days when I am amoeba. The inside and the outside in harmony and I drink orange cream soda.

Happy Weekend!

I also wrote here this week:

For Likes, Loves, and Exes

Do you believe in Miracles?