A family moves east to find a lot out about each other. Motivated to publish by the readers, this might be too close to the heart but....
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By James J. Marry
Many of us- Americans, that is- have found over the last few centuries that it is our heritage to roam. Look to California and Florida to see what I mean if you don’t quite understand. We are one of the most mobile societies on the planet as United States citizens, and many of us realize that it was our forefathers that began this inherent trend by coming to America in the first place. I apologize for my redundancy, but I think you get the point.
As a young man, I had never left the confines of New York City. My parents had run their course in the Big Apple, and as so often happens, I followed in suit when they moved to the west coast of Florida. I didn’t stay long though. Marriage and an enlistment in the Air Force took me far and wide across the globe that we call “Earth” and I got pretty accustomed to travel and up-rooting my life from place to place. My most recent adventure in this realm was of quite a different nature though.
My first marriage failed due to numerous mistakes that I will not allow my pride to own up to in this piece. I maintained a precarious balance of singularity for nearly ten years there after, and even at my young age (no, I’m not telling) I was convinced that I would continue upon that lonely path. I was wrong, but I was convinced anyway.
Writing consumes me, so I thought, “This isn’t so bad. It will let me work in peace.” Then I began to release my novel to a proof- reader named Terisia and “POOF” my world turned upside-down. Due to the availability of inexpensive flights and the Internet, Terisia and I fell in love and were married on October 21st, 2000. Quite an adventure, I will admit- but not as near an exploit as the putting our lives together with this joining would become. As I have implied, my base of operations is on the west coast of Florida. My beloved’s home WAS in Northern California.
Teri’s business was in her home in Nevada City in the foothills of the Northern California mountains. She cared for middle age men who were mentally disabled. As many as six of them, but currently she was caring for five co-habitants. Teri had told me that she found that this was the best way to care for her family finances while she raised her three children. Her former spouse was a disabled veteran whose earnings were irregular, so Teri had been the main breadwinner early on in their long marriage of 27 years.
I arrived in Nevada City on October 19th. The house sold on October 20th. We married on 21st. It took until December 26th for us to leave and begin making our way across the southern United States to our new home and my old home in Florida. The adventure begins.
I would think that half of you reading this story might be curious about our motivation to move 3200 miles across the country. I mean, you see that my work can be done anywhere, and you have probably figured out that Teri had a pretty good thing going for herself in California. So, why move to Florida instead of living in California?
Teri had been taking care of the mentally disabled in her home for eighteen years. Frankly, she had done her share of that. She'd had more than enough of that, in fact. Also, Teri’s children were 20, 24, and 27. They needed their mother to –for lack of a better phrase- get a life. Their independence depended on Mom leaving them to finish growing up, and Mom knew it too.
I stayed with Terisia, my new wife, while her home sale finished and the “guys” were moved to new homes. We packed up her stuff and got rid of half of it. So, when Christmas ended, we went and got our Ryder and loaded it up with the help of Teri’s nephews and daughters. Then Teri, Missy- Teri’s youngest daughter-, and I started our trek east.
When Terisia and I began seeing each other, Missy was the first child I got to meet from her family. The girl was always smiling. I can only remember her with a gleam in my eye from those early days. A wonderful person, she is, to be allowing me to call her my stepdaughter. Her older brother and sister too, but Missy was coerced by her mother to re-schedule her work to make our cross-country trip with us.
Now, to picture this caravan of gypsies, let me help you all out a bit. We’ve got me, driving a 15-foot Ryder moving truck. Attached to the back of this truck is a four- wheeled trailer with a 1993 Chevy Astro van chained onto it. Then- there is Teri and Missy driving our Conquest Motor Home. The Conquest is one of those 17 footers on a Ford Econoline van body type campers. And off we go on the afternoon of December 26th- Wagons Ho!!!!! I guess.
Let me say this one thing first. Near Nevada City is the site where the Donner party ate their dead back in the mid- 1800’s because they were snowed in and didn’t have a choice to survive. Our trip was a piece of cake compared to that, even though we were traveling ten times the distance. Hell! We even brought our own shower and toilet with us. Not to mention all of the roadside stops that were available for us. Things were going to be okay.
What I didn’t count on was my own ignorance. That might seem obvious to the brainier members of my audience, but it wasn’t to me. You see, I was going to travel this long distance with my new 40 something wife, and with my 20 year old step daughter. I had been a bachelor for near to ten years. Do you get it, yet?
Guys, you have not lived until you try this maneuver. Let me tell you. I was totally unaware of what to expect. I think that might have been better, though. If I had known, I might have never done it. Seriously. Well, no. I still would have done it, but with a lot more fear. I had no idea what women were like on a trip like this. I needed to learn quickly.
As I say, we departed directly after loading the 15-foot Ryder. We were all fairly exhausted, but anxiety insisted that we get going. I also wished to stop in Phoenix to see my Aunt Audrey and some cousins. Actually, I was fairly anxious about that also since my aunt had raised me for a few years as a young child when my mother and father had some health problems. I had some deeply ingrained memories where that part of my family was concerned. I wanted to get there the next evening, so leaving at 2:30 made sense with my sense of schedule.
Sense of schedule. An interesting term to describe the nature of my occasional mild frustration during the trip. Not that it truly mattered if we arrived at any one place when I personally believed that we should arrive there, but it was an annoyance to me. Remember that when you plan a vacation or long excursion, the other parties on your travels may have different plans and expectations along the way- please remember that. My sense of schedule needed to take a break through out most of the trip and it very rarely did.
One interesting fact that I learned AFTER our journey was that California has a very different idea of penalty than Florida. That is, in California, your third traffic citation within five years gains you a suspension of your driving privileges. Now, I am not saying that I am opposed to this line of reasoning. In fact, I would truly commend the California system for the inevitability that this program would save lives. I just think it might have been a good idea for me to be aware of this before we left on this trip.
Please allow me to explain. You see, there are fifty states in these United States and the ones in the South see this area of privilege a little bit differently. There is no such law on Florida’s books is what I mean. So, in the grand Southern tradition, yours truly insisted on driving the speed limit or possibly a little faster on the California freeways. My partners thought that I was out of my mind and absolutely despised that I would put my license at such risk- a risk that I was very unaware of.
My lovely new wife had been married before to a gentleman who might have been considered by some to be unreasonable at times. I have heard him described in a much less kind fashion by my wife’s father and brothers. She is very well practiced at keeping the peace for her own benefit, let’s say.
So, as we begin the long road to my home, I begin at a slight disadvantage. My ignorance once again blooms, because several times during the day’s six hours of travel, my wonderful bride asks me to please slow down. We had prepared for this trip by purchasing a pair of Citizen Band walkie-talkies with a two-mile range. I’m leading the wagon train here and say “No way.” I am sure that this annoyed my partners a little, but not too badly because we were in the California hill and valley terrain for most of the day. Since the back of the moving van was loaded to the hilt, and I had a car carrier and van on the back of that load, I was lucky not to go TOO SLOW on the uphills for the freeways- half of the time, anyways.
So, DAY ONE ended fairly peaceably. We weren’t hungry and we stopped at a rest area north of Bakersfield near a town called Coalinga at 8:30 p.m.. By the way, it is prohibited for drivers to stay at rest areas overnight in California. Honest. That was what the sign said. So, we made sure that we left the oasis by 5:30 the next morning. Is that an overnight?
Rising early, our first order of business, in my eyes anyway, was to avoid driving through Los Angeles. Nothing personal against this southern Californian town, but driving there can be treacherous. Of course, the marking on Interstate 5 were set up as though I knew that the by-pass was coming directly after the sign for it. Since, at this point, I was relying on the follow vehicle for navigation; I immediately believed that we should transfer a few maps. North Hollywood wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined it could be and the added excursion cost only about a half an hour, and some extra tension.
Now, again, I must apologize to my fairer readership. I’m sorry, but I am just a guy. I try to be more sensitive everyday, but I have a long way to go. Looking back I should have realized that mother and daughter were sharing their morning together. This task must take some energy, and I am aware of that – now. At the time though, I felt that continually warning my bride over the two way radios would warrant enough attention to the map to put us directly on the desired by-pass. I was wrong in more ways than one.
Missy, my stepdaughter had learned by this time to avoid driving. Terisia, her mom, had allowed that having Missy follow the speed maniac that she had married was just not going to work at all. Additionally, Mom and Missy had decided that Terisia should be the one to figure the maps out- yes, while driving. So, the task was next to impossible for my able new bride- and, oh, by the way- it was all my fault.
Terisia had taken a moment early in our travels to pull me aside. She was concerned about Missy’s moods. I will say that I didn’t really know Missy that well, but I didn’t wish to listen to a worried mother for another 2500 miles either. I told Teri that Missy was fine, and that I would try to be even more understanding than I normally was. I thought that the road might be the reason for Missy to be acting strangely. Mom thought otherwise, and I would learn to trust her thinking more a bit after the trip.
We made it to U.S. 10 safely, and began our trek west to Phoenix and my awaiting family. California goes west from L.A. for quite a while, passing Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, Palm Springs and Indio before reaching the Arizona border. I mention Rancho Cucamonga only because I remember hearing about it from a big fat rooster in Merry Melodies cartoons as a kid. Funny, how some things stick, isn’t it? Phoenix lies 145 miles to the east on I-10, through quite a bit of nothing. Nothing you can see at night, it seems. It was a very dark night that brought our caravan to the doorsteps of my Cousin Tracy. I have to give her a lot of credit for getting us there too. It took her four separate e-mails, but the turns and road signs were superb. A lot has changed since we were kids.
Before my kindergarten year, growing up in New York City, my mother took quite ill requiring hospitalization. My Uncle Charles and Aunt Audrey were willing to take my sister and I in under their wings. They also had two boys and three girls of their own- Tracy being the youngest. I stayed with them until the middle of my first grade year. My memories are quite vivid of their home in Danbury, Connecticut.
Tracy and her sister, Laura Jean, were my age and usually my partners in crime. Tracy was always a very quiet child, while her older sibling was the leader of the pack. It seemed that way to me anyway. Today, Tracy is a confident mother and homeowner and as beautiful as I remember my Aunt Audrey was when I was just a wee lad. I would say that I am proud of her, but I really didn’t have anything to do with her growing up. Since our youth, I have seen Tracy maybe four times and twice this past year including this trip.
I suspect that my Aunt will probably read this, so I need to apologize first. I am sorry, but when I was a little boy, she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Okay. I know that is in the eyes of a four or five year boy. I also know that I felt like she and my uncle had rescued me because they made me feel good most of the time about what was going on. They are both going to be special to me forever.
When we arrived at Tracy’s, the anxiety inside of me could have been squeezed out like toothpaste- I was that tense. Of course, the girls- Teri and Missy- wanted to fuss about themselves and get pretty. So, we sat parked in front of Tracy’s castle with all of the Christmas lights of Rockefeller Center while I waited for my women. I understand; I just want you to imagine the lump that was building in my chest by the time I walked up to the doorbell. Immense.
Of course, I am sure that my aunt and cousins were just as edgy about seeing me. Maybe not, but it would be nice to think so.
Memories are subjective, and we spent nearly two hours exploring the differences in ours. We spoke about family. I spoke about my writing. Tracy spoke about her children. I introduced my new family. Aunt Audrey was wonderful- naturally. She talked about her relationship with my mom. It was a very cool experience. Whew! I’m glad to say. They asked us to come back some time when we could stay longer and I repeated the offer to them regarding Florida. Not likely- but one never knows, does one.
Before we went to sleep for the night I needed to apologize to lovely Missy. She needs to receive a great deal of respect from me and sometimes I forget. It all comes down to a mistake she made just before I got to know her mother.
Missy fell head over heels in love with a guy named Bobby. They eloped to Las Vegas and when Missy returned, she told Mom about it. There was an additional stipulation to the agreement though. Missy had “BOBBY” tattooed above her breast. Two months later, Missy had filed for divorce and “bye-bye” Bobby- except for the ink work. No big deal to me, or to her.
Everyone has teased or at least kidded Missy about the remnant of her love misspent. My own son, Kevin, has even confronted her about her lack of logical choice here without incident. I never mentioned the offending colors before- until we got ready to go meet my family. I don’t remember saying anything too bad and it was just Terisia and me and Missy there. In the two hours with my people though, a molehill turned into a BIG ugly mountain though. I begged her for forgiveness and I will never comment on her choice again. I will probably start a Christmas Club just to get the stamp removed for her- if the pain of getting it doesn’t make her keep it.
After sleeping the night away in front of Tracy’s- a motor home is a wonderful way to travel- we awoke the next day to a new adventure. Terisia’s family had been quite mobile in her youth. She had been born in St. Paul, Minnesota. Then her family moved to Phoenix for a year or so. One of her most vivid memories is the family station wagon moving them all- mom, dad, six kids and a dog- to Sacramento in the sixties. She also remembered her school and home in northwest Phoenix. We simply had to go find them both.
We all tried to tell Terisia that the likelihood that we could find a school more than thirty-five years later was very slim. She insisted. We tried to lighten the blow, since there were very few developments in the area that she said the school belonged in. She insisted. She was right. We found the school and the house. Terisia beamed with satisfaction, maybe from finding what she had wanted to see, and maybe at proving that they existed where she said they would be. It didn’t matter. I was happy for her either way.
I still think she was smug just because she proved us all wrong. Oh well. Good for her, I say.
So, we jumped back on to I-10 and began heading east again. We were coming to some fairly deep conclusions about the trip and each other at this point. One- I was a driving force to keep us going east and kind of a pain in the ass about it. Two- My wife, Terisia, was fairly casual about “the plan”, as I saw it. And Three- Missy was becoming hard for me to please, and needed to make plenty of stops for food.
I guess I ought to elaborate on that last subject. I can eat a lot of food in one sitting. I’m a pretty big guy- not enormous, but pretty big. Teri usually will eat twice a day at most. We brought plenty of snacks and food in the refrigerator of the motor home to keep us from munching for 3200 miles. It seemed like a good manageable plan to us- Terisia and I, that is.
Then comes Missy. Now, I don’t want to give the wrong impression here at all. Teri and Missy’s father were married twenty-seven years before their divorce. Her children loved that their mother was away from their father, in fact. Just a couple that never worked, I have always sensed. But, Missy liked Mom a lot when she was totally available to her without a man like me. So, some accustomizing was in order and I think still is. But, I want you to understand that I love that little girl as much as I possibly can. I would do anything for her.
With that said, Missy seems to have a digestive personality disorder. When she is hungry, one should be sure to feed her. She may only eat a quarter of the food put before her, but by all means she must be fed. Hopefully, you get her the food she wants too, because she will not eat at all if you don’t. Persnickety seems like the right term for this behavior, but let me assure you that there is a moral to this story later. Luckily, we bought gasoline three times a day at this point, so the oasis stops kept Missy in check.
Traveling east, when it became “O’dark Thirty”, we reached the eastern outskirts of El Paso. I happen to like country music when I drive long distances, though I usually float all over the dials. Did you know that I couldn’t find a station in El Paso with country? I thought that was odd.
Anyway, after nearly running out of gas in freezing weather (the ice storm that froze Arkansas was this week too), we camped at a resort near Sierra Blanca. I was a little miffed about our arrival though. We were running low on fuel and suddenly I was detoured off the road at a U.S. Customs station. I know that there was some point to this, but we were driving a moving van with a truck dollied to it, and a motor home. We were from out of state, and we were not stopped. Plus, this permanent station is at least thirty miles from the Mexico border. In fact, I didn’t see anyone stopped there. I guess that makes me ask- What was the point of the station being there? I know, I am just not smart enough to figure it out on my own and as the military always told me- did I have a NEED to KNOW? Whatever, I say.
We got our stuff in place. Set up our fees and board for the night and went to the RV place’s restaurant for some terrific steaks and salsa. I tell my wife all of the time that she should be making salsa for a profit, since nobody makes theirs good enough for her. This was pretty good though. Missy ate well too. I only had to eat her fries here.
As Teri and I were getting to the camper for a nights sleep, she pulled me to the side to have a quiet discussion. Apparently, twenty-year old Missy was dealing with a touch of discomfort from our previous nights on the road. She was losing sleep because of our “NOISE” making- and I do mean “NOISE”.
Teri and I are both still very affectionate to each other. We even kiss in public just because. Now, I say “still” because I hope that this continues, but its okay if it doesn’t. We even hold hands when we shop. Missy’s father and Terisia were quite the opposite. I get the impression that the kids were waiting to see which one of them would “spit” at the other first. So, to see us so dozy would naturally be a new experience for her.
The girl has an active imagination as well, though. She was convinced that Mom and her new hubby were having more than normal sleep functions in the motor home at night. Yep- you guessed it. Missy thought we were sharing some extra fluids in the double bed in the back of the motor home while she slept in the front bed over the driver’s seat.
First off- not on your life would I be doing such a thing with my new step- daughter fifteen feet away. Forget about it. I wasn’t raised that way and I avoid any monkeys in the tribe that might be that way. Aside from the fact that we were always exhausted, the idea of sexual conduct under the circumstances is repulsive, so I was shocked to be hearing that we were being accused of this. I promised not to move around so much at night though and to limit the kisses to three before our eyes closed.
The next day we slugged our way uneventfully across the expansive state of Texas. My first experience with the Lonestar region came as the leader of fifty recruits at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio. I didn’t care for the state much after that, but not because of Basic Training, but because of some folks I had met from the area. I distinctly remember a red headed airwoman in Okinawa who was dreadfully full of Texas up to her ears. We were in no hurry to stick around anyway. My cousin, Chuck awaited us in Beaumont on the Louisiana border.
Missy’s behavior hadn’t really changed much to this point. I still couldn’t do anything right, and we couldn’t keep up with her desires or lack therein for food. This part of the trip went smoothly for a few reasons though- Missy slept a lot and we were looking forward to a planned day without driving in New Orleans.
On the way in to the Beaumont area, we called Chuck and his wife on the cell phone. We got the teenage son in the house since Mom and Dad were out shopping. God bless the boy for trying to get us to his house, but all we could do was get close. Luckily, Chuck turned up and came out to lead us there in the early afternoon.
My cousin Chuck lives on a nice cul-de-sac in a bedroom community about ten minutes from I-10. When we got there, it was nice to remember what it was like to sit in a nice living room and relax. Chuck and I reminisced about the long gone past and a handful of relatives. After a few hours, I think the both of us had enough. It is nice to know that family really is thicker than friendship though. I see this end of my family very rarely anymore, but I am sure each time of how much they really care about me. I am even surer of how much I care about them.
I suppose the thing that brings that so clearly to mind is that I have had so many friends over the years and travels of my life that just didn’t hang on real well. I have even caught myself thinking that I have seen one of these friends that I haven’t seen or heard from in years, and walking the other way. I know that sounds like a horrible thing, but what would we have talked about, and did I really want to drag up that part of my life again?
I suppose that with family, it is true that one never gets to make that choice. It hurts me sometimes to remember that I have an older brother who may never become aware of this fact. He has virtually disappeared from the rest of the family and I only get to share a paragraph of chit-chat on the telephone with him each year. Maybe. It’s really a shame, but I think you see what I mean.
So, we finally found our way to the beautiful pearl of the South- New Orleans. I like this city a lot. Plus, since we arrived on December 30th, we were going to be there for New Year’s Eve 2000. I consider myself well traveled and fairly sensible, so we were not going to be in Jackson Square for 12:00 midnight the next day. I think we are all a bit smarter than that. But, it was still pretty cool to be there.
On the other side of that, I am a pretty avid Buccaneer’s fan. I joined them in the Tampa area in 1977 and have been devoted since. I shamefully admit that this has been a very painful relationship, and most football followers will understand why. The Tampa Bay team looked really good this year and they were going to play the fledgling team that was Philadelphia’s Eagles. I was looking forward to a real good game that I would watch on Bourbon Street the next night with my new wife.
We even got ourselves a room for two nights at the La Quinta outside of town. Missy decided to stay in the motor home, but Teri and I were just too exhausted for much celebrating on our arrival night. The traffic coming in frazzled me a bit since we arrived when the Saints game finished. Sheesh.
So we slept.
In the morning we rounded up our threesome and took a fifteen-dollar cab to Jackson Square and walked down to the ferry. New Orleans is a great town, but we were a little subdued by the weather. The massive cold front that had started to beat on us in Texas was full force in the French Quarter. The ferry took us all to the Audubon Zoo. My wife is a bird lover, and we thought it would be fun anyway.
What we somehow did not put together mentally was the cold with the zoo trip. The zookeepers had it figured out though. I would estimate that we only got to see maybe thirty-five percent of the animals. Most exhibits were closed due to the cold. Funny, how the guy from South Florida didn’t think of that in advance. Go figure.
After offering our frostbite to the Gods and some souvenir shopping, we toured St.Charles’ streetcars. Cable cars are a nice way to look over the architecture of a city, and New Orleans has some beautiful old homes. We apparently had the wrong weekend for our tour though. In addition to the Saints playoff game, an area rarity- I assure you, we managed to arrive for the Sugar Bowl weekend also. This on top of the normal New Orleans’ crowd made the streetcar pass by most stops. We were packed pretty tight for the sake of gawking at old buildings.
By the time we got back in the Jackson Square neighborhood, poor Missy had just about had all she could stand. Mom and I understood completely. Partly, we wanted to roam the area without her anyway. Seemed like all she had on her mind was the love of her life anyway. We all decided that Missy would be happier back at the hotel. So, Teri and I went and got a cab. We took Missy to warmth and quiet without the threat of seeing Mom and me smooching. Then we took the same cab back down to the Square.
I am guilty of spending some of the time on Bourbon Street looking for bars with the Buccaneer’s game on television. My wonderful new bride understood though. I hope that lasts, since I am such a hard core fan. We did hit some jazz clubs and I even introduced her to the “taste” of “absinthe”.
Absinthe is illegal in the United States, so don’t go thinking that this hippie dragged his right wing wife into a drug den. The stuff was originally made from wormwood with a hint of anise. It was banned multi-nationally by the 1920’s due the after effect that it was causing for users- mental deterioration and convulsions. But, there is a romantic little spot called the Absinthe Club that uses Ouzo dripped over sugar cubes to duplicate the effect- without the convulsions. It was fun.
Teri like to shop, and with the passing of her business, she has a few extra nickels and dimes. She also likes souvenirs. I like to see my wife smile, so she bought a lot of souvenirs. I smiled a lot.
By the end of our evening, we were at a bar drinking some nice wines and slugging down some raw bar oysters. It has always struck me as a “guy” thing, but let me testify- Terisia was slurping up a few for herself. She even let me get a cigar for what turned out to be a horrible playoff game. We are both non-smokers, and Teri hates the stuff generally. I like to have one of the old stogy smokes once every so often, and I was thrilled that she allowed it. We were feeling great.
Last stop for the evening was a little restaurant for take out. I had to try the fish cakes. I was not disappointed. We caught a cab and hauled bucket out of the city at about 8:30. The cab driver swore that we were geniuses for avoiding the New Years Eve crowd. I agreed.
Our happy little caravan arrived in Tarpon Springs the very next night. The trip was a pretty smashing success overall. I didn’t feel like I was as popular with Missy as I hoped I would be after 3200 miles of road trip. That was a little disappointing, but I still love the girl anyway.
We spent some time in a camper park and in just a few days my woman of action chose a house to move us into. We just bought the last piece of furniture for the house today- a futon couch for my office. At least Teri says that it is the last piece of furniture. We are only renting for a year here, and my bride already chose the house we are going to buy. I try to make decisions around here. It just doesn’t really work out that way though.
A large note to close our adventure regarding my step-daughter seems in order. The girl was miserable and her mother could see that she was taking her misery out on me. I tried to blow that off early on in the trip. Being noble is my favorite pastime, I think. But, I wasn’t really listening when Teri tried to warn me that ”something” wasn’t right with her baby girl.
Missy is getting married in March and we are looking forward to the affair out in California. Teri, Missy’s dad, her brother, sister, step-sister and step-brother, as well as her groom and I, all hope that the little lady is not SHOWING by then. Missy is due sometime around my birthday in September.
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|Reviewed by Terisia Kolesnick
|This is cute. But, I think, its doesnt catch you like the first draft or the origional story does. To much detail I think. The first one was short and had more punch to it....XXXOOO Terisia|
|Reviewed by m j hollingshead
|enjoyed the read|
|Reviewed by Theresa Koch
I truly enjoyed traveling along with you and your wife in your words..