Sunday, July 08, 2018

...and back

It struck me that it has been about forty-five years since I sat in an airplane seat next to my mother. Sure, it's because I was hugely independent, even before I could legally vote or drink (in Europe no less), but, too, it's a reflection of the way life moves forward for many of us. I mean, you tell me -- when was the last time you flew in an airplane with your mother? (With my own daughters, I keep pushing things forward by offering up all my saved miles, just so that they'd be there next to me, husbands, kids and all.)

So I have some trepidation. I well remember the first flight I ever took with my mother. It was from Poland to Bulgaria and I carried along a pillow (I was only six) and threw up all over everyone in flight and then, to boot, left my pillow on the airplane and made such a scene about it that the poor woman had to get back on the plane and search for it. In those days (1959) you could do that.

This time, things are slightly different. The worry is on me.

I get up early enough to grab some bits of something at the Holiday Inn (it's free in a town where not much is free).


And then we use all her saved up senior vouchers to ride in style (in a cab) to SFO (San Francisco International Airport). I look out the window as she recounts the morning's various peccadillos. She is not sentimental about leaving, even though Berkeley has been her longest home of her long life. The Bay Area is before me. I am the one who is turning the pages for us both.

(From a speeding cab, looking over the bay...)


(And here's a lucky shot: from between the cables of the Bay Bridge, I catch this memorable image...)


No cars on the roads on Sunday. What can be a three hour trip, turns out to be a mere 29 minutes.

My mother doesn't use a wheelchair. Still, I feel she should just sit in one and let someone navigate her through the chaos of a big airport. 

But she insists. She can walk!

No wheelchair.

Perhaps it is my mother's hard determination that got her this far. Who am I to question things now. We walk.

And we navigate the TSA hurdles. Her carry-on is bulging! The zipper wont close. One must patiently remove the stuff that looks benign, but, well, you just can't take that with you, mom.

We are through. And early! No problem. She does her normal Sunday routine, one that she has done for how many decades now? She buys the fat Sunday Times and she settles in to read.


And now, on board at last, time to work iPhone selfie magic! (It may be her first.)


Engines roar, up we go.

Every city has a symbol that's meaningful to the visitor. If you live there, everything is just wallpaper, but if you visit, you look out for icons of what is heartfelt and important. The Luxembourg Gardens are my Paris anchor. Chicago? The brilliantly efficient El trains! San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge. The ocean to the west, the gentle waters reaching the tightly built towns of the Bay Area -- Berkeley, Oakland. The redwoods to the north, and to the south -- this improbable city, San Francisco, which, like Venice, was built even though it should never have been built (hills? earthquakes? no problem!).

And so I'm happy to see this graceful bridge out my window one last time. A little fogged over, a little far, but visible nonetheless.


Our flights are good, but the day is long. There's the layover in Salt Lake City.


We eat a combo lunch/dinner...


... then wait again because, you know, I made sure we had lots of time to connect.

At long last, by evening, we are in Madison.

My mom has to stay in a hotel tonight. (The farmhouse stairs are steep and inhospitable to anyone over the age of 73. Too, the walk from car to house has to be done with speed and alacrity. The bugs will eat you, baggage and all, if you dawdle.) I booked her a room at Madison's best, not because she cares (she doesn't), but because the hotel is empty and thus cheap tonight, as opposed to all those motels by the convention center that are booked solid because of the National Junior Angus Show.  I tell her she has a grand view onto the lake, but she is not a view person. And tonight, she is just tired.

(It is heading to be a stellar sunset!)


I'm hoping she'll rest. Tomorrow morning, I move her in to her new home in Madison.