Idyllwild Incidentals, Part Three

 

Continuing our tour of the Idyllwild Area Historical Society’s cabin, we move into my favorite thing to stare at: old photos! If you already have a firmly established idea of what the characters in my Loveda Brown series look like, you may or may not want to continue reading.

But I think you’ll find they aren’t too far off! It’s fun to find the facts behind the fiction.

 The photos of photos in this blog were taken from the book, “The San Jacintos” by John Robinson. If you love to research, too, the Idyllwild Public Library has even more shelves dedicated to local history:

Where are these folks headed? Why, to Lindley’s sanatorium if you had tuberculosis (before the fire) and to Lindley’s hotel if you didn’t want to contract tuberculosis (after the fire). It seems no one wanted a combination of both. Go figure.

For my Loveda Brown series, I removed Dr. Lindley’s specs and made him just a bit more animated than his portrait might suggest. Ahem.

I’ll bet you didn’t know California had “alps”. Atta boy, Lindley.

Here, we have a sample of the gorgeous old family photos I perused. I could hardly choose which ones to show you. The 1901 shot is so well done. I want you to soak up the hats, the fabrics, the shoes, the mustaches…the attitudes (oh, Ella!). The way Louie has a warning hand (or two?) on Ernest’s chin. Some things never change. Mrs. A’s doing the same with baby Henry, but she is sporting a mixed media outfit, so…extra credit.

The photo of the Domenigoni family is the one hanging in Ms. Nelson’s lobby. Remember where I mention the Swiss lace? This photo of Guanache is the inspiration behind Carlos. And I could not resist a shout out to films made in the mountains and the movie stars that eventually rolled up the hill, including Katherine Hepburn and Elvis Presley. Although I drew a pretty picture of Penelope, the first film shot in Idyllwild was made in 1914 by Cecil DeMille: “The Squaw Man”.

The grand finale: Mr. and Mrs. George B. Hannahs. Here he stands with, I guess, the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota? I got the suspenders right. The couple is portrayed as elderly in my series, and from the look of it, Sarah Hannahs is not having it. Sorry, Mrs. H. Doesn’t their little boy, Ray, have the sweetest cheeks? To note: Sign on far left says, “Burros for Rent”. Sign on right, “Rayneta Post Office”. A handsaw lies over a log on the ground to the right.
My books are entirely fiction, as you can see, but the full flavor of Idyllwild’s rich history is something I try to capture on every page.

 

Idyllwild Incidentals, Part Two

 

Today, we explore the Idyllwild Area Historical Society’s museum. Last weekend, I spent some time there, soaking up community history and clearing up a couple of mysteries with the lovely and helpful docent on duty, Jayne.

The Historical Society’s been closed up tight ever since Covid hit town, but they held their grand re-opening over the Memorial Day weekend. A yard sale and an Ice Cream Social marked the event. If you missed it, their next Ice Cream Social will be held over the Labor Day weekend on Saturday, September 4th from noon to 2:30pm. Board members will be standing by to scoop up sundaes until the ice cream runs out. Toppings, treats, and root-beer floats! Ya’all come!

Meanwhile, let’s take a quick look at the physical artifacts in the room. These items take you back to the days of pioneers, loggers, miners, and homesteaders in the San Jacinto mountains.

The heart of a home is the kitchen, and a cook required multiple skills to pull off a meal for a family or a work crew. You raised or bought your meat and produce, harvested or butchered on the regular, canned or preserved extra for winter, swapped with your neighbors in a pinch, and hoped that weather or pests or cattle rustlers didn’t ruin all your hard work. In addition, your animals required provisions, horseshoes, housing, breeding, birthing, and veterinary care.

You didn’t take your vittles for granted, and just having a cup of tea was a big deal, as Loveda will tell you.

We have a lot of items relating to the logging and sawmills that ran at various creeks around Idyllwild. In the 1880s and 90s, timber was plentiful and the market keen. Incoming railways needed lumber and a lot of lumber went, of all things, to a local box company that made orange crates for farms off the hill. Teams of oxen (11) pulled the rough timber down from the high country, and after the lumber was milled, teams of horses or mules pulled wagons (3) down the treacherous road to Hemet.

Idyllwild Incidentals, Part One

 

Idyllwild has always been beautiful. When Loveda Brown falls in love with this tiny town in the heart of a big mountain, it’s absolutely an invitation for you to join her there.

Wander up with us.

The first question you’ll ask upon arrival is, “Where’s Loveda’s hotel?” The answer is, “In my imagination.” Loveda and her neighbors are almost entirely fictional.

There’s no trace left of the original Idyllwild Post Office, but here’s a snap anyway:

There really was a George and Sarah Hannahs. Mr. Hannahs ran a sawmill in the logging days and later was Idyllwild’s first postmaster. He named Idyllwild Rayneta, after his son, and if you’ve read Book One, you already know the rest of the story!

But Idyllwild historians will tell you that there really was a Walter Lindley, and he really did run the Idyllwild Inn. And the Idyllwild Inn is still there!

The second question you’ll ask is, “Where is it?” Fair enough. You probably parked in front of it without realizing it. No need to find Foster’s Meadow. The Inn is central to the town. I asked the proprietress at the front counter whether any of the original buildings were still standing. She thought perhaps one cabin still had an original stone foundation, but that was all. Over one hundred years for a working hotel means constant updates and remodels. You can find out more about today’s Idyllwild Inn here.

The Inn began as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients, as you’ll recall, and if you’ve read Book One, you also know that it burned down under mysterious circumstances in a freak April snowstorm in 1904. Nothing was saved but the piano. I didn’t make this part of the story up, but I did give this piano further adventures in Book Three, and I plan to keep it in Lindley’s new ballroom as a little piece of continued mystery in the series.

Nor did I invent the part about Lindley’s medical cronies giving up and wandering away from the venture afterwards. However, I use Lindley’s medical knowledge to help solve a mystery in Book Three, and his medical colleagues will fictitiously appear as characters in Book Five.

I have always pictured Mr. Lindley as a self-made man, quick on his feet with big ideas. Rather like a Willie Wonka for Idyllwild. His White Owl coach ran guests up the hill from Hemet and was pulled by white horses, and this was too good not to put in the books!

In reality, the Idyllwild sanatorium was one of Mr. Lindley’s later in life ventures and considered one of his very few failures. He also spent most of his life in Los Angeles involved in politics, opened an orphanage, started a hospital, and was even the President of the LA Humane Society. I like the guy. If you need his nitty gritty, click here.

Read more about Mr. Lindley and Mr. Hannahs in this well-sketched history of Idyllwild.

Idyllwild and the Cahuilla

 

This is the view of Tahquitz Peak as you stand in the little dot on the map of Idyllwild. If you had this sitting over your rooftops for enough years, wouldn’t you create a legend about it?

As the next Loveda Brown book prepares to launch, I want to share some of the fascinating historical wanderings I did in Idyllwild last month. There are always more fun facts about my materials than will ever work into each of my mysteries! Loveda Brown: Summer Storm highlights the legend of Tahquitz and the Cahuilla peoples who migrated through the San Jacinto mountain range and left the name of their shaman chief behind.

We will address the legend another time, but if you take a drive up and spend a day in Idyllwild, these places are on the “must see” list.

Our first stop is in the Idyllwild County Park. You won’t get charged for parking if you’re only driving in to see the pictographs/hieroglyphs painted hundreds of years ago on granite boulders. The gate is welded shut, if you’re wondering, and—I have to think my guess is as good as anyone’s—all the symbols I looked at remind me of maps.

The second location for Cahuilla pictographs is north from here, in Pine Cove. I put the directions in my phone and followed them precisely, but I circled back and forth on a tiny residential road while my phone insisted I had arrived at my destination. In frustration, I pulled over and asked the phone why it was making up lies and it said, “GPS Location Service Lost”.

I looked around. No signs. No other vehicles parked at random. I got out of the car to stretch and if I hadn’t stepped across the road to look at the view, I would have gone home disappointed. The secret entrance to the pictographs is well hidden and not tailored for visitors. This is an ancient tucked-away haven that was worth searching for.

The third item on the Cahuilla bucket list is sitting in the Idyllwild Nature Center. You are encouraged to tour the entire place, as the park is located within an ancient Cahuilla Indian village, but what you’re looking for are grinding stones and mortars. Acorns from oak trees were a staple in Cahuilla cuisine and once ground into flour, fed a family…or a nation.

Come back soon for three more places in Idyllwild that fuel the mysteries of the Loveda Brown series!

Joshua Tree National Park

 

Spending a few days in Palm Springs was the first trip Hubby and I have made in…one year, two months, and twelve days. Our four housebound walls suddenly stretched to infinity and beyond. Such space! Once the shock wore off, I’m pretty sure our next reaction was universal: time for margaritas by the pool.

After that, we went exploring.

Our day trip to Joshua Tree National Park was possible because of moderate spring-time weather, a gentle sky, and a chilly wind. We drove from scenic points to high desert overlooks and through prickly cacti meadows. We hiked to the top of Ryan Mountain and along massive rock and boulder trails where climbers scaled their heights, tethered only with a rope or two.

Joshua trees aren’t actual trees, but the world’s largest yucca plants. On average, they live to be 500 years old but they say the oldest could be 1,000 years old. They bloom around April or May, but we missed the event and found only the remains of the conical blooms at the ends of their branches.

The Mojave Desert carries its own unique ambiance. The air is distinctly distilled, stripped of tomfoolery and run through a sandstone purifier. It serves your oxygen at an elemental level. Occasionally, with velocity. It commands respect.

And yet. There’s something about Joshua trees that brings Dr. Suess to mind. Skull Rock will forever link to Peter Pan. The landscape presents ample space for the imagination and the opportunity to slow down, spread out, and breathe in a fresh perspective. An unexpected trip outside the box.

Ride along and tell me what the park makes you think of…

San Diego Cinderella

On our Italian tour last year, we took trains from La Spezia to Genoa to Milan to Venice, passing Verona on the way. This week for our anniversary, we followed our hearts back. Longing for piazzas, basilicas, and doumos, we decided to revel in the balconies and tombs of Verona and, consequently, the passion, the pageantry, the drama, and the death that is Romeo and Juliet.

I may have mentioned: Italy feels just like home.

I’ve never been to Balboa Park’s Old Globe Theater. Like a star-crossed lover, I always passed by offering terms of endearment and wistful looks but never stopped to embrace it. It was easy to be seduced by Shakespeare. I painted my toenails in anticipation.

I wore the same dress – strictly for the memory – that I wore to the opera in Sorrento. Remember that night? So does my dress. But alas, the pink stilettos from that adventure are no more for this world. I wore the understudy for tonight’s trip to Verona.

Our first stop of the evening was a romantic restaurant on the harbor. I sipped sangria, nibbled chicken salad, and watched the pretty boats sail by on the late summer breeze. In case this was not enough to set the stage, a fat pale moon rose slowly over the San Diego skyline as the sun began its descent in the west. Our waitress presented creme brûlée, a delicately crisped, creamy concoction that curled my toes. A lot. More than average, apparently.

Hand in hand, Hubby and I sauntered from the restaurant, admiring the tiki torches, admiring each other.

“Clomp, clomp, flop,” went something on the sidewalk.

“Flip, flap, flop,” went the next three steps.

And then, without provocation, one of my shoes decided to throw a fit. “I bite my thumb in your general direction sir!” cried my right shoe.

And in the very next step, the entire bottom of my shoe flew off. Off. The valets and restaurant patrons might not have noticed, had I not burst into hysterical laughter. I had to decide: stop in the middle of the sidewalk and retrieve the errant brick or continue to the car walking like I was on a carousel ride.

I guess I did both. Safely tucked into the car, with no time to spare, we drove to the theater weighing our options. Now, I’ve heard rumors that some ladies keep spare shoes in their cars. They probably keep spare feet in their cars. I am not that lady. Neither do I keep crazy glue nor pliers in my glove compartment. Um, or gloves, now that I think about it.

“What should I do? Can I sneak in barefoot?”

The light turned red. A train went by. Another sigh for Italy escaped me, and we kept driving.

“There’s nowhere to park,” said Hubby, “It starts in ten minutes and we haven’t gotten tickets yet!”

I was bent over what was left of the shoes, still attached to my feet, “Go for it,” I grunted, “we’re doing this!”

Looking neither to the right nor to the left, heads high, we hustled from the parking lot to the ticket stand to the entry to some nice seats…and only then did I take a breath and look down.

These were the ugliest flats on the face of the earth. I traced my finger over one thin strap muttering in Italian. The bright moon rose overhead, lending its glow to the outdoor theater lights, illuminating the stage of Verona. The stage comprised of…a sandbox? I flipped through the program.

Apparently, this year’s director envisioned Shakespeare’s tragedy in sand.

All of the actors were costumed to their ankles, and…barefoot. The beautifully talented Juliet sang a rousing rendition of Barry Manilow’s Copacabana. Teenagers brawled in the alleys. Adults marched around telling everyone what to do. Romeo slumped along with his guitar declaring that without his true love, life – hallelujah – wasn’t worth anything at all.

The main characters get married whilst still children.

Nobody really relaxes until they’re dead.

And nobody can figure out what all the fighting was about.

Like I said, Italy feels just like home.

As we gave them a standing round of applause, I recalled my wobbly circumstances. What was a pair of shoes measured against an amorous tryst under an enchanted moon? An embrace on the balconies of Europe with Prince Charming?

Prince C hazarded a quick look at my feet and grimaced as a very unromantic thought escaped.

This dazzling night was going to end where all good affairs end: a serious flirtation with a new pair of glass slippers.

Tiki

San Diego at the harbor

Spreckles organ pavilion

Museum of Art

Old Globe Theater

Romeo and Juliet

Sandbox?

Girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

5K On the Bay

There’s a brand new piece of bling in my jewelry box and my earrings are trying to make friends, but the string of pearls won’t even make eye contact.

All silky ribbon and gilt-edged beauty, this little sparkler was coveted from afar, hard won, and brands me forever as a LEGEND.

Read it and weep…

“Just try it,” said my sister, “it’s fun!”

This is not the first time that I have been duped into doing an activity that was clearly designed to kill me, but cleverly disguised as a mentoring opportunity. It is, however, the first time I’ve been awarded a medal for it.

If you’ve never participated in a 5K, let me set the scene:

A 5K is a “small” run, usually connected to a “larger” run such as a half-marathon or 800 meter leopard chase. My sister, and many others, collects 5Ks like bubblegum wrappers. She is running one a month for a year and is halfway through her goal.

Every 5K has a “theme” with swag (party favors that include a water bottle, towel, T-shirt, and coupons for a free beard trim). Today’s run was themed “San Diego Legends” and it included major sports celebrity guests and Hank Bauer as MC.

You can run in costume to show your theme spirit, you can run with a team and wear matching comrade shirts, or you can show up in your finest athletic garb and rock those warm-up stretches like a pro. If your Olympic-level outfit makes you look like a giant asparagus, it will only be overlooked if you come in first place. Otherwise, film will be rolled.

And there are certain things that should never be photographed.

Like this.

I decided that bull-riding easily qualifies as a warm-up activity, especially if combined with free-style on the swings and followed with a couple of fast slides into the sandbox.

Once you’re warmed up, you squeeze into the cattle chute with everyone else and wait for the gunshot. You check your shoelaces and your bib and tighten your cap a little. People are hopping up and down. There is just enough time to wonder whether you are about to make a terrible mistake when the gun goes off.

A lady in front of us, startled, dropped her keys, and had one nanosecond to scrabble for them.

We found our place in the herd and I put my head down and focussed on following my sister’s jacket. This is why I didn’t notice the double-wide stroller trying to pass me at the corner. Whining from the vehicle alerted me to a fiercely driving dad as I jumped to safety.

“I don’t want to run a race!” cried a toddler, “I want to stop!”

We plugged along after them, not sure who to commiserate with.

5Ks are held in various locations but you are not supposed to know exactly where it will take you until you are actually running, because surprises make your adrenaline pump faster.

We came to Nimitz Bridge, up and over and back we went, circled the USS Recruit, and zigzagged between views of San Diego Bay and Liberty Station Park. We went around a fallen seven-year-old with skinned knees, a napping residence-challenged person, and a lizard on the sidewalk doing push-ups.

The last sprint to the finish line was epic. We had a record to beat, and my sis was going to PR by less than a minute if we fumbled. Gasping for air on the other side, we realized that the timer was set to the gun, not to our bibs.

In 37 minutes and 45 seconds, we became San Diego Legends.

Placing our bling reverently around our necks, we circled the camp to take in our Hero’s Welcome: apples, bananas, water, Gatorade, free Fair tickets, and Healthy Veggie Chocolate Cake samples.

We were the only major sports celebrities there, as the advertised guests had never arrived. They dropped from Legends to Myths.

We looked around for the asparagus but she had left the party.

Hopefully, she wasn’t in the chocolate cake.

Lone Stars in her eyes, my sister insists that we could become San Antonio Legends next month.

I know a trap when I hear one.

I wonder if I could squeeze a Texas-sized bling in my box?

To see us on real, live TV, click here. The asparagus is ahead of us, of course. Veggies are overachievers. We follow, 30 seconds into the video.

When Disneyland Becomes A Whole New World

Disneyland.

Spinning and spinning at Dizzyland…

I haven’t visited the Magic Kingdom in at least a dozen years, when I was surrounded with kids and baggage and baby wipes. When I spent the day slathering sunscreen onto wildly waving body limbs and handing out fruit gummies to dodge the imminent threat of spending five dollars for an ice cream cone that would not last the wait in line to the next ride that two out of five kids didn’t want to go on, which didn’t matter because the baby STILL wasn’t tall enough to ride, which meant I was going to stand this one out regardless…..

Hubby splurged that year and bought family passes. They got us in four times, but not on weekends or holidays or Spring Break or months ending in “y”.

And still, it was too much.

Last week, I used Park Hopper Passes – courtesy of my employer – to take my sister and I back to the Happiest Place on Earth.

As we both carry battle scars from previous visits, we kept the jumping up and down with glee to a bare minimum, and made a firm pinkie promise: this time was going to be different.

There would be no dashing madly, elbows flying, between rides.

There would be no baggage: no strollers, no totes, no jackets “in case it gets cold” or hats “in case it gets hot”, no cameras or video recorders, no toys for when we’re bored in line, no grocery-store-in-a-backpack if one of us starts screaming for a giant lollipop shaped like Mickey.

There would be no whining. If we wanted to spend twenty minutes in a shop staring at Mickey ears, we would. If we wanted the dang lolli, we were – understand this – going to buy it.

And eat it.

And not share even one lick with anyone else in the whole world.

There would absolutely positively be no waiting in line for a ride we didn’t want to ride. We would avoid Mr Toad’s Wild Ride and Tom Sawyer’s Island and why do they even keep Autopia? Toontown and the “tune” that lives next to it: definitely out.

(It’s stuck in your head now, isn’t it?)

This time, we would saunter into California Adventure and figure out what the hype was. Little did we know that just getting there proved to be as much of a California Adventure as I am willing to take on any given day. 

The LA freeways, true to form, were once again under construction and what map quest said and what the patched up freeway signs said were totally different things.

We ended up trapped in the HOV lanes, going lickety split past appalling traffic. We could not get out, and as each sign warned us that we needed a transponder (whatever that is) and to have at least three people in the car (say what?), we had several rounds of hysterics before finally escaping. It easily replaced the Radiator Springs Racers, which weren’t racing that day.

I’m fairly certain we’re going to jail.

We practiced our Thelma and Louise by going on – hands down – the scariest ride there: Soarin’ Around the World. There was nothing about the boring wait in line to indicate that we were about to wet ourselves. No screaming or thunderous roaring from inside.

You sit in a row and get lifted maybe ten feet off the floor. You are surrounded by an IMAX theater screen and an overhead panel that customizes what you are about to do: jump off a dozen cliffs around the world and hang glide over breathtaking beauty.

When you swoop down over a herd of African elephants, you can smell the earth and the trees and feel the wind in your hair. When you glide above the Taj Mahal, you can see every tile and smell fresh jasmine. When the whale breaches right in your face, you are spritzed by water.

When you climb up to the top of the Eiffel Tower and leap from it, you scream like a little girl and close your eyes and grip the handles and your sister thinks it’s hilarious, all of ten feet up.

Whatever. I need my feet on the floor.

In return, I made her ride the Disneyland Railroad all the way around the Park. She had never done that and it was my secret weapon back in the day. You can ride it as long as you want, and we ate Dole Pineapple Floats and cheered the old school dino animatronics.

Just go. Trust me.

We took the Jungle Cruise for old time’s sake and it occurred to me that I missed my calling as a tour guide comedienne. You can keep your Disney princesses; my fantasy is that you can be paid to tell goofy jokes all day.

When you can’t put your cellphone away for the night…

We lounged around New Orlean’s Square, visiting Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion twice. We were happy to be running away on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and even happier to hit light speed on Star Tours.

The fantasy came to a halt at Space Mountain. Someone had forgotten to turn on the light display inside, and the ride was entirely in the dark.

If I wanted to be in the dark and jerked around randomly and come out feeling confused and vaguely nauseous, I could’ve stayed home.

We wrapped the day up nicely with dinner in the Blue Bayou, a place harder to get into than an old pickle jar. We sat in the Louisiana twilight, watching boats drift by, and ate lamb and steak and fresh bread that made your eyes glow like fireflies with delight.

We spoke of treasures and teacups, castles and carrousels.

It was a whole new world, going to Disneyland without the fam.

A smaller world, perhaps, but one glittery with pixie dust.

Tea at the Blue Bayou…so so so nice.

The Rain of Caesar

All hail to the chief.

It’s been three weeks of rainy day recess and teachers are sneaking shots into their coffee mugs.

The only creatures happy at this point are ducks and the Great Earthworm Migration coming through my kitchen, which is the only dry spot for miles.

Our cul de sac has it’s own riptide.

The last time our pool overflowed was New Year’s Eve, 2014, when I inadvertently left a hose running in the spa and then left for an all-night party. I woke up in 2015, the proud owner of an infinity pool complete with optional slide and waterfall feature into the back yard.

People pay a lot of money for this stuff.

If I had the option of curling up in a warm, cozy recliner and watching raindrops caress the windowpanes, I might enjoy the spa experience.

But I have to drive to work in the dark, in the deluge, with maniacs who think they are driving speedboats. My car wobbles in the wake of semi-trucks, my wipers frantically flapping in my face and all I can see are blotchy red dots and two freeway divots from the car in front of me.

Just as I’m deciding between drafting with the lead car or dropping back to a safe speed, we drive out from under the hellion cloud, and here are my wipers, just obliterating the last lone drop.

And the minute I turn them off, it starts sprinkling again.

I’m exhausted and it’s only a ten minute commute.

Once you get parked, there’s the dash into the building.

It’s the moment of truth: which do you value more, your handbag or your hairdo?

Because you can’t keep both.

Because you live in San Diego and IT NEVER RAINS HERE. You don’t have an umbrella. Well, you might, but it’s buried in the garage somewhere with your fishing poles.

This is where you find out if your girlfriend paid bank for that fancy leather bag or if she bought a knock-off.  I’ll be the one covering my head with a reusable grocery sack if necessary – curly hair does not do humidity.

Stitch melts in the rain, the Wicked Witch of the West melts in the rain, but my hair stands up and flips it off.

Even flat-ironed, my hair can predict the weather, and frankly, the next time we stay in a motel I’m swiping the little plastic shower-cap that’s been sitting on the sink-top since 1972. It fits into a purse nicely and why I didn’t think of this before, I have no idea.

Oh wait. Yes I do.

BECAUSE IT DOESN’T RAIN IN SAN DIEGO.

All day, we took calls from hysterical concerned citizens about sinkholes opening, trees tumbling, floodwaters rising, and the sky falling. We had mudslides. Not the Kahlua kind.

Someone reported a leaking fire hydrant (how? how can they tell?), but we think maybe it can wait until any possible chance of a fire occurs. (That would be the Ides of Autumn, when all these nicely watered weeds dry out.)

My sister, who loves rain and the dark, who is probably a vampire, has a cute little sign in her house that reads:

“Life isn’t about Waiting for the Storm to Pass,

it’s About Learning to Dance in the Rain”

No.

Skipping the freeway, I drove the side roads home, dodging potholes, cowering under swaying eucalyptus, fording rivers, and watching for tornadoes.

Tell me when the tyranny ends.

I’ll be hiding under the bed in my shower-cap with a pot of tea.

Taking a Breath

Once a year I hop in the car and drive away for a weekend with my girlfriends in Palm Springs.

It’s becoming a tradition that I could really get behind. It satisfies those pesky feelings that come around once in a while that whisper, “RUN. Run now. They won’t catch you. Someone else can do the dishes.”

It’s nice to turn to them and answer, “Yes, of course. It’s just that I’m so busy right now. I’ll tell you what…next May we’ll run away to a place where we will never do dishes, clean, cook, or run laundry. Ever. OK?” And then I get on with my day.

I get mixed reactions to my weekend away from the family. Hubby supports it, inasmuch as he is thinking to himself, “Self,” he thinks, “this is the weekend where I won’t do dishes, clean, cook, or run laundry! Awesome.”

The daughters are thinking, “Mom is so lucky! Why can’t I go too? I’m a girl! Please, please, please don’t leave us with three males of the species!”

The sons are thinking, “Dad’s gonna be in charge. That means hotdogs and pizza for dinner and random adventures that we will always be running late for. Awesome!”

All I am thinking on the day before I leave is, “The laundry is completely caught up, the kitchen is clean and a pre-made dinner is in the freezer. I’ve signed all the school papers and left reminders on the calendar for the weekend for everybody. I’m packed, there’s gas in the car, directions on the GPS, and every cell phone here has my number in it.”

Not that they need it.

Mine is the only one that all of them have memorized.

Never would I have attempted this in the younger years. You don’t leave diapers to chance. The kids are all old enough to forage for food in the kitchen if abandoned to their fate. No one will accidentally leave a stove burner on. At least not for long. The strange smell in the house should alert people.

Right?

This is the part where I force myself to take a mental detour into a happy place and sit there on time out for a reality check: the house will not burn down, a child will not lose a body part, no one is getting sick; everyone will be safe, fed, and happy until Mom comes home.

It’s only two days.

Palm Springs is lovely in May. Warm poolside weather, funny movies on the telly, books and magazines, maid service and restaurant meals. Sleeping in as long as you want is a treat so rare, only a mom could fully appreciate it. It’s what we do after a night of sitting in the spa, drinking margaritas, star gazing and talking the night away.

A decadent game we play once in a while is “doing nothing”: you settle down in a comfy chair with a wonderful view, and…do absolutely nothing. Except smile.

It makes us uneasy after five minutes or so, but it’s fun practice.

Our drive home includes side trips to massive shopping malls. Hunting down a good bargain gets our head back in the game, so to speak.

As soon as I pulled up to my house, the instincts kicked into full alert.

One does not simply “ease” back into reality from a vacation, however brief.

The garage door was open but no one was around.

Hm.

I walked into the house, rolling my red carry-on behind me.

I came full stop in the middle of what used to be my living room.

Couches and tables were pushed along the walls, cushions piled up in drifts. Heaps of clothing here and there suggested closets had been sick at some point. There were Legos in the potted plants. Empty cups, half empty soda bottles, plates of crumbs and a trail of skittles led to a kitchen of greasy countertops and a truly exciting refrigerator full of leftovers. Empty pizza boxes stacked in a corner. Candy spilled out of opened bags like little lava flows.

The bodies of my family were draped over furniture, trapped in suspended animation. Only their eyes moved as they followed my speechless tour around the house.

I stopped in front of the Hubby. He smiled faintly.

“Why hello!” he said, clearing his throat, “I didn’t know you were coming home so early.”

My daughter called out softly from her place on the floor, “We had so many people over here!”

“We went swimming and shopping and watched movies all night!” bragged a son from behind a couch.

“Um,” was what I managed to say.

“We’ve already been cleaning for a couple of hours,” said Hubby, sensing the direction of my thoughts, “it looks pretty good now.”

After unpacking, I rolled up my sleeves and stepped back into the fast moving rhythm of making a house a home. I knew the steps by heart.

It’s always good to be back.

And Palm Springs will be waiting for me the next time I need a breath of fresh air.

Once in a while, moms need a breath of fresh air.