Sunday, October 21, 2012

Lorraine and the Pacific Ocean

I came across this story I wrote many years ago and was surprised to see how pertinent it is to Vixenhood. Every woman is entitled to step outside the narrow boundaries of her expected role at least once in her life. I hope it will remind you of any dreams you may have let go of, and think about making them come true, "just because." I'll let Lorraine explain it. Enjoy! - SW  

Lorraine and the Pacific Ocean

Everyone who knew I was taking this trip thought I shouldn't go. My daughter Jilliene kept glaring at me, or she’d work it into the conversation somehow. Like, Kimberly, don’t talk to your grandmother that way. She’s leaving for California and God knows if she’s ever coming back! And her hand goes on her hip and here comes the glare again. So I said, Oh, for Pete’s sakes, Jilliene, of course I’m coming back, don’t be ridiculous. I don’t know what she was thinking.

They all thought they had good reasons for me staying. That’s the disadvantage of living in Brookside: you don’t do anything but everyone knows about it. I’m not saying it doesn’t have its advantages. It does. Just ask all the young couples trying to get houses there. But I think they’re looking at the houses and not the neighborhood. They think living in a close-knit suburban community is the American Dream, because of TV. But unless you actually live there, you don’t really know.

Even when I was buying things for my trip, I had to hear about it. I just wanted some hand wipes, hand lotion, a fresh compact and some Pepto-Bismol for when my stomach gets nervous. But Ray behind the counter has to quiz me, What are you going to do out there, Lorraine? And I said, I won't know till I get there, will I? Then he says, Nothing good ever came out of warm weather. Besides, don’t you watch the news? Before I could answer, he says, What would Mike have said about all this? Can you imagine someone saying that right to my face? I looked him right in the eye and said, If you recall, Ray, we buried Mike six months ago, and if he had any objections, he should’ve spoken up before then.

All of this excitement, all because Jilliene’s friend Sarabeth told her I was running off to California to be with a stranger I met at the gas station! See what I mean? You never know what’s going to come flying out of people’s mouths. I told her, Jilliene, don’t be ridiculous. Just because I talked to someone I don’t know doesn’t automatically mean I’m running away with him. Honestly. And Jilliene says, Aha! So you were talking to a stranger. Like she’d solved some great mystery. I said, Yes, as a matter of fact, I did happen to chat with a young man who was also filling up a while back. And I would very much like to know how Sarabeth or you or anyone else got the idea I was running away with him. Jilliene said, Well, maybe you’re not, but Sarabeth said he had wild hair and crazy eyes. And I said, Oh, now really, that is just plain ridiculous! I was the only one who was close enough to see his eyes. That shut her up for a second, but I could see she had another dozen questions, so I suggested we just drop the whole thing. She started up with her But-but-but's, but I just said, Jilliene Lee, I’m going because I’m going, and that’s that. It doesn’t matter how old your children are – sometimes you have to talk to them that way.

Just for the record, I don’t make a habit of talking to strangers, and he was the one who started talking to me. And I thought, this isn’t so bad. Yes, his hair was a bit messy, and he wore lots of layers of clothes even though it wasn't cold out. But he had a nice smile and he was friendly.  And, his eyes were not crazy, they were blue, if anyone's asking. Of course, I didn’t say any of that out loud. We just chatted, back and forth about how he was going to college back east and that he was going to see his parents in California and how seeing America was pretty amazing. And I just said how nice it was of him to  go see his mom and dad, and how I have a daughter and grandchildren. And then I just said to him, I’ve always wanted to see California. I’ve always thought it would be beautiful there. I didn’t know why I was saying any of this to him! I was kind of shocked the way it just popped out. But this young man, David, acted like it was the most natural thing in the world. He said California was truly amazing, and why didn’t I ever go? And I said, I don’t know why. Because, truthfully, we could’ve afforded at least one trip out there. And Mike wouldn’t have minded. But it seemed too far away to drag Jilliene, and then time went by, and we never did go.

Anyway. This young man says, When are you going to go, then? I laughed, but he said, No, I mean it: when are you going to go?  Because there’s only one Pacific Ocean and you’ve never seen how amazing it is.  He kept using that word, amazing. And before I could say anything to that, he looks me straight in the eye and says, If you’ve always wanted to go, you owe it to yourself to do it. Just like that! Not, Wouldn’t-it-be-nice? You owe it to yourself. Well, there was something about the way he said it, because it got me thinking: I never have set eyes on either ocean except for pictures and TV – when did I think that was supposed to happen? What’s to stop me from getting on a bus right now and going to California? Then I said to myself, Now you’re just being completely ridiculous – that’s enough of that.

This young man and I wished each other well and waved goodbye and that was the end of that. I can assure you, we made no plans to run off together. But when I got home, I took a good, hard look in the mirror. I said to myself, Of all the crazy notions. What do you think you would do out there? But then I said, Lorraine Ensley, if you live your whole life without ever once doing something just because, well, then you were never alive to begin with. And seeing the Pacific Ocean is the best just-because I can think of. I didn’t say it exactly that way, but I did make up my mind to do it. And after that, there was no turning back.

I found out how much a round-trip bus ticket to Los Angeles was, which was not cheap, but not as bad as I thought. I felt so bold! Which is what I was, really, because I had never done anything like that before. But I didn’t dare say a word of it to Jilliene or anyone else because I knew they’d just try to talk me out of it, which they did. But it didn’t work, obviously.

Jilliene said I was just being ridiculous not telling her my plans. She kept saying, What if you end up in the hospital? What if this? What if  that? Right up until I got onto the bus. But I wouldn’t say a word, because I didn't want anyone back home to come looking for me. But mostly because I don’t know myself. I have enough money to stay at a motel for a week, according to the AAA Guide. With a side trip to Hollywood to see the stars’ homes. Other than that, I just don’t know. Walk around, maybe? See what there is to see. I’ll just have to decide once I get there.

I know just what I’m going to do when I see the Pacific Ocean. I’m going to kick off my shoes and run in up to my knees and splash around and wriggle my toes in it. And then I’m going to sit down on the sand and watch it for a long, long time.