Thursday, January 04, 2007


Last night as I tossed and turned I found myself once again wishing I could still sleep on my stomach. For years this is the way I lay down to go to sleep. But a combination of an old bed and my old back forces me to lay on my side. (For some weird reason, I cannot fall asleep on my back.) Anyway, as I tossed and turned I started thinking of other things I missed from the past.

  • my kids when they were toddlers. Despite the day to day frustrations of raising two at one time, I sometimes really miss them sitting in my lap, smelling their hair as they nestled in my arms. the way all of their problems could be solved with a hug and a kiss.
  • first kisses. We've been married 22 years so I have to reach WAY back, but I still remember the feeling I would get when kissing a girl for the first time. I can't describe it other than it was like a high current flowing through me looking for a ground. The nervousness, anticipation, not knowing if it would be returned or spurned. And the giddiness of knowing there would be a second kiss.
  • my great-grandmother. Her house was right beside my grandfather's (of Hilton Grocery fame). Mama Smith always had time for us young-uns. There was always a cake or pie in the safe. She made the best biscuits - she kept a wooden bowl with flour in it, she would scoop a hollow and add buttermilk and oil and stir in flour with her hand until a dough was formed. She'd pinch off bits of dough and put them on a baking sheet and put them in the oven. no recipe, no measuring - I can't remember her ever having a cookbook out. I would sit on her back porch in a rocker helping her shell peas or butter beans, gather the eggs from the hen house, or get her a jar of pickles from the smoke house. She had fluffy white hair, wore simple dresses, her support hose rolled just below her knees, the blue veins in her strong hands stood out (missing the end of one of her fingers). And a cackle for a laugh - which she did often.
  • my grandfather's barn. That barn was in turn a fort, a playhouse, a sanctuary. It had a hay loft and a tin roof. There was a lean-to on one side that sheltered his tractor and a bench full of old rusting tools and plow blades. He kept hogs in a pen around part of the barn and a trailer of corn to feed them. I loved to climb in the hayloft when it was raining for the sound of it on the tin roof. There was a corn crib which sometimes had corn, and always had spiders.
  • Monterey California. I spent a year there learning arabic. I and a buddy would catch a bus Saturday mornings and ride over the hill to Carmel to go to the beach. We would stop at a shop, pick up some beer, bread & butter & cheese and stay the day catching the last bus back that evening. I met and married Laura while there. Our first apartment was one room with a divider that could be drawn across to close off the bed from the rest of the room. There was a little grocery store that made the BEST sandwiches, Laura and I would split one and bake a potato to go with it. There was a little bakery called Fifi's and the Dream Theater that down front instead of seats were pads on the floor with seat backs wide enough for two, you could stretch your legs out, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder. I saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show there for the first time with Laura. I guess she and I had a lot of firsts in Monterey.
  • my van. I have owned two VW vans (buses to be correct) - a '69 and a '71. I taught Laura to drive a stick shift in one. I rebuilt the engine of the other in our living room. ( I almost didn't get it out of the house, it wouldn't fit through the front door once reassembled.) Our first vehicle was the '69 and we drove it from Texas to Missouri, then to Georgia, then to New Jersey to send it to Crete. On my days off there we would often ride up into the hills and when we got hungry we would pull over, open the side door and have our picnic in the back of the van with the view of the valley in front of us. If the babies wouldn't sleep we could put them in the back of the van and ride them around - they'd be asleep in 10 minutes. I still can hear the unique sound of it's engine.

As you can see, I was awake for quite a while last night. I'm off to get another cup of coffee. Cheers.

13 deeply creased, dogeared comment(s):

meno said...

I was born in Carmel, next to Monterey. It's a neat little town all right.

I also miss being able to sleep on my stomach.

Hope you get some sleep tonight.

Bob said...

Meno - I loved Carmel. It had a great beach, but the water was frigid. It took almost a six-pack's worth of courage to wade in.

Mother of Invention said...

The image of your grandmother shelling peas looks just like a movie clip!
Your memories are all so precious.
All Kodak Moments.

jen said...

what a lovely way to learn a bit more about bob.

first kisses...ah yes. i know.

and the memories of your grandparents...

getting old is strange, isn't it. it happens to us, even if we aren't ready.

Moogie said...

These are lovely memories. I love Carmel and Monterey. I loved the 17 mile scenic drive, and then later on the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I loved to look in all the little shops in Caramel that would cause you to go bankrupt just walking in the door.

My grandmother made homemade noodes..I loved to help her. She never used a cookbook either.

My first car was a 1976 Dodge Aspen..that I seriously bought from a little old lady who only used it to go to the grocery store and bingo. It had no radio or ash tray.

Great post!

Bob said...

MOI - I can still see her as if it were a movie! I always liked shelling peas, MUCH more than having to pick them.

Jen - aging creeps up on you! I THOUGHT I was ready for it....

Moogie - The aquarium openned the year I lived in Monterey. One casualty of the openning was a small coffee house across the street that would have a bluegrass band play some nights and a belly dancer others. When Laura and I were courting we would go there frequently for the chocolate coffee and entertainment.

Antonia said...

Bob, this is such an amazing post. I hope Esme has childhood memories as wonderful as yours but we live a long way from the country, so she'll have to make do with the back garden and my sporadic cooking.

I sympathise deeply with the back-sleeping thing. I found the last two months of pregnancy horrendous because I couldn't sleep on anything but my left side and I hated it.

And snap! My first two cars were VW buses, both '71s. One yellow, one blue. Nothing like that sound. Some of my happiest, happiest times/places were driving to work in the VW through open countryside. In winter I had to wear hat, scarf and gloves inside it and I loved it. Hoping to get another one as Esme grows up. I wish I'd travelled more before she was born.

Bob said...

Antonia: I LOVED my busses too. The way you sit on top of the front tires gripping the huge steering wheel, the 3 foot long stick shift (for left-hand drive US models) under my right hand. My '69 was orange body, white roof; the '71 was tan. The heat came from the back (the air was heated by being pushed around the engine exhaust) and the air flow sped up when the van did, and slowed down when the van did - so virtually no heat. Try living with that in Maryland in two feet of snow!

Traveling with infants can be a royal pain in the ass, but it isn't always - especially in a van! Don't let her slow you down. I'd love to see a VW on a car train in the chunnel. These can be the memories that Esme recounts in her blog later on.

Thailand Gal said...

I take it you were at DLI. I hear some wild stories coming out of that experience. (The guys I knew were in the Mandarin Chinese program... )

I lived in Santa Cruz for a while, met my ex-husband there ~ and, oh yes, I do miss it! It was a wonderful way to live!

(We actually lived in Soquel)



urban-urchin said...

My brother in law was at the DLI, he was working for the NSA. I love Montrey and Carmel, my husband went to UC Santa Cruz (go Slugs!) as did my best friend from high school (who introduced us).

There is nothing that beats the way a baby/ toddler's head smells- that is one of the best memories I have (and am currently enjoying with my 20 month old boy).

I love the memories of your grandparents- they are so precious, you are lucky to have them.
I hope your dishwasher is behaving.

Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob said...

Urban Urchin, Chani: Both Laura and I were in the Air Force when at DLI. (I was later posted to NSA). I love that entire section of California - Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Sausalito. I just wish I could afford to live there.

P.S. - UU: I think the dishwasher is kaput. It won't spray. Is yours still leaking?

Thailand Gal said...

Bob, I knew a couple of folks who worked for NSA after their time in the service. Interesting stuff.. but I keep a healthy distance!- One of the guys took a job with CIA. That was just a bit too "dark side" for me. LOL

Which language did you take at DLI?