Here’s a Love Story for You

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Rudy was about 16 or 17 years old, living in Honduras, (long before he met California). He was a senior in high school, a star basketball player, and an overall good guy. A nice guy. Friendly. Sometimes observant, sometimes talkative.

There he was one evening, walking across the only bridge in town, when he sees her walking in the opposite direction. Her green eyes look at him, casually. Her long dark hair rustles in the breeze.

The most beautiful girl in the world.

She’s Honduran with mix of her dad’s Australian.

Rudy gazes at her, shyly, unable to speak.

Unfortunately.

He doesn’t see her for a few days. And then he does. Again. Crossing the bridge.

“Hola,” he says.

“Hi,” she responds.

And off they go, heading in the opposite direction, passing without another word.

He asks friends about her. Asking them about the beautiful girl who speaks English.

“Oh, her? She’s been around. Where have you been?” they say, playfully shoving him.

One night, not too long later, he goes to a party and sees her there. He feels his heart pound, excitedly. Feeling confident, Rudy introduces himself and asks her to dance.

She told him she used to have a boyfriend with the same last name. “Yo tenía un novio con el mismo apellido.”

Bravely, innocently, and boyishly he responds, “¿Quieres otra novio llamado Romero?”

She laughs. As if he’s a joke.

Rudy wants to sink into the earth. He feels stupid. Why did he ask if she wanted another boyfriend with the same last name?

So, he turns, walks away, drags his feet. Feet that seem to take ten years to move to the other side of the room. His head hangs down. He starts to leave with friends. The party is over, for him at least. But, she runs after him, says she can see he’s feeling down and that she is sorry, she didn’t mean any harm. Didn’t mean to be rude.

Suddenly the air filled with music.

Rudy asks, “¿Quieres bailar?”

She grabs his hand and pulls him with her, back to where the party is.

 

 

Anger Strikes a Pose

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A few years ago a student of mine stated, “You’re so chill, so easy to talk to.” I smiled, happy I was making an impact with my low-key demeanor. Happy that just being me was important to someone else.

“You know what I also really like about you?” she added.

I made eye contact with her. “My blue Vans™ High Tops?” I joked.

“Well, yeah,” she laughed, “but I like how you respect kids. Instead of talking down to us, you speak to kids as if we are equal. Like, you don’t make me feel small. You make me feel I can accomplish anything.”

“Wow! That’s so great. That’s exactly what I am hoping I am doing.”

I must say, all that is awesome, great, the reason I wanted to be a teacher, a person who has an impact on these youngsters who cross my path, not only to educate them but just as important, to build their self-esteem.

BUT, this year, for the first time, no kid has ever said nice things about me, to me. (Not that I need the accolades) it’s just that I have questioned myself as to why I am allowing deep-set negative feelings about the world at large seep into my core and camouflage who I truly am. In other words, I feel what’s good about life has taken a backseat to what is wrong in our world. Thus, these feelings have had an impact on the kind of teacher I never thought I’d be.

Nothing dramatic, just not cool. Not chill. Not low-key.

“…I like how you respect kids. Instead of talking down to us, you speak to kids as if we are equal…”. 

I’m missing that. 

A few weeks ago, when I had a conversation with myself (yep, I do that, I talk to me because I know myself best) I realized my behavior was out-of-tune. Today, the old me, the chill me, stood if front of a group of relaxed,  smiling kids who seemed to enjoy being in my classroom.

The Arkansas Way

 

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Several years back I would spend my time off work relaxing in Arkansas. You see, during a three year stint Rudy was living and working there. Not by choice, rather because of necessity. It was the only job he could find when the economy was suffering. A time when choosing where to work wasn’t an option for him.  So, when Arkansas called he left. And, unbeknown to me, I fell in love with a true wonderland. Arkansas is beautiful. The landscape is breathtaking.

Though Rudy did come home for visits, I looked forward to flying out, hanging out, walking around and embracing the true meaning of relaxation. Instead of spending my week or a complete summer cleaning, organizing, painting, repairing, etc., like I always did (and still do) in California, I’d chill.

My daily routine in Arkansas was so simple, so basic, so enjoyable. After giving Rudy a ride to work in the early morning (I wanted the SUV during the day) I’d plop on the couch and begin writing. I’d spend a few hours spilling my thoughts, constantly editing and rereading until I felt a publishable story was complete. And then I’d walk. I’d take long walks through neighborhoods, walking down paved roads, admiring the architecture and the tall trees. Or, I’d walk the length of a complete hilly golf course. Walking along the golf-cart trail. Which never seemed to be an issue as the course was rarely being used by others – possibly due to either very cold or very hot weather. Not ideal for the players, yet perfect for me. And then, back home, after a shower, Brad would awaken, which meant we’d travel around town finding different scenarios to engage in for the remainder of the afternoon. (Did you know the Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel is in the middle of the forest in Bella Vista? Or how about the Crystal Bridges Museum, a wonderful establishment full of modern art in Bentonville?) We’d explore places like this until it was time to pick up Rudy from work.

Which brings me to today. Day 1 of Spring Break, Orange County, CA. And how I’ve decided to spend the week. I’m taking the time to embrace relaxation. The Arkansas Way. I will not use the days to clean, organize, paint, repair, etc. This week my routine will be as carefree as possible. After enjoying a cup of hot coffee I will begin writing. I know I will spend a few hours honing in on what I feel is a piece of work that is worthy of publishing. And then I will walk. Whether it’s a walk in my neighborhood, the heights behind our house, or a stroll along the shoreline down south. My mood will guide me. Then I will attend to enjoyable extrusions, whether heading to the store to purchase ingredients for my baking experiments, cruising through a bookstore (just because I love the environment), or any other place that tickles my fancy. I will end my days with conversations with Rudy and, if I’m hungry, eat the food he prepares. Followed by a comfortable bed and a good read.

Walk 38

Walking is what we do best. Me. And my three.

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Roberto, Liz, and Brad

Well, me and Liz, for sure. Roberto occasionally. And Brad, not really. But on this day, this past Sunday, we walked. Together. Up some hills. And on the shore of Pacific Palisades. A beach town in California.

You see, I found this great book, 10,000 STEPS A DAY IN L.A. by Paul Haddad, so we decided to take ‘A Stroll for the Soul’.

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I parked up a hill, about half way, then we walked down the hill, turned left, and walked in the opposite direction of the beach. We headed to the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine. Oh, boy, what a beautiful, serene setting. You’d never know we were surrounded  by people people everywhere. All the greenery, the tall trees, blocked the outside activity, and provided the perfect spot to, seriously, self-reflect.

After balancing our minds, we walked back toward the beach, across Pacific Coast Highway, admiring the magnificent view. The ocean blue.

Nothing is better than walking while spending time with my kids. Kids who are not kids, but adults. Adults who enjoy the outside world. Like I do.

 

bad bad little girls

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We were 8 years old. In the third grade. Girl scouts. Selling Trefoils©, Do-si-dos©, and Thin Mints© throughout our neighborhood.

We were so sweet. So nice. So unassuming.

Until we snapped. For real.

As we rounded a corner, there stood the local Vans© store. A small establishment full of Authentic Vans© lace-ups. But it was the light blue pair that lit up my eyes.

So young. So determined.

We pulled out the money collected for cookies sold, 15 bucks each. Eyeballs barely reaching above the countertop, we grabbed our newly purchased Vans©.

We, bad bad little girls, wore those shoes with glee. Feeling radiant and lighthearted.

I Knew Then

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Note: This memory is a gift for Rudy, as today is his HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Long ago, when we were first dating, during the summer of ’84, I watched Rudy as he paced back and forth, back and forth.

“I don’t know how to ask,” he said to me.

I continued watching him, curious and very interested, wondering about his nervousness..

“Just say it,” I encouraged him.

Honestly, I had no idea what was on his mind. I mean, seriously, it was way too early in our relationship for him to propose, and what else he so desperately needed to say, well, I didn’t know. I couldn’t even begin to guess.

“It’s hard for me to ask you this. I barely know you, and well, it’s not something I should even ask.”

I wasn’t feeling irritated at all, more amused in fact, but still, I really just wished he’d say what he needed to say. And I didn’t know what to do to let him know he could trust me.

So, I just said,

“You can trust me.”

He stopped pacing and looked at me, but then began his back and forth movements across the back patio. Suddenly, without looking at me, his head down, as if he couldn’t handle my reaction (in case it was negative, I suppose) he let loose. The words sprang quickly.

“Can I borrow twenty dollars?”

It took me a second or two to respond because I wanted to laugh out loud. I thought it was cute that he was so nervous about asking me such a simple question. But I maintained my composure, held in the giggles. I did not want to make the situation worse for him. I was pretty sure he’d misinterpret my laughing.

“Sure,” I responded.

You see, for me, I considered the question as part of the development of honesty and loyalty, beginning right then and there, cementing itself into our newly forming relationship. The value of knowing Rudy could trust me enough to ask for money was huge at that moment.

“Really?” he seemed surprised.

And then he went on and on about how he shouldn’t even be asking, but he needed money for food and so he could take the bus to work, and he was feeling desperate, and he didn’t know what else to do. And so on.

“Really,” I answered.

I knew then that Rudy was the kind of person I wanted around. The kind of guy I wanted to spend more time with.