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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reflections on Turning 40

Today I turned 40.  I’ll be pleased if I could say with any certainty that I’m at the exact midpoint of my life.  I’ve been on a steady road of reflection as the months turned into weeks and the days into hours marching toward that milestone day.    I could review the weight of my mistakes or my little triumphs but I thought better and decided to record some of my distinct earlier memories.  Here’s what I remember.  

Some of my earliest memories include being alone in my crib staring at the wooden Disney character cut outs hanging on my wall, the comfort of wearing pajamas with feet and the fear of monsters under the bed.  The cool feeling of my security blanket and favorite “doggy” stuffed animal that was passed on from my older siblings.  My mother taking me to the Bay School and her wild garden that surrounded the house.  The first time a trout started tugging at the end of my line and how I had the bones mounted on a wooden display board for show-n-tell at school.    Picking the offertory candelabras clean of wax drippings while in Mass which was a family affair so as long as my mother’s back was turned. Watching my father pray on his knees on the hard Mission clay floors.  The whistle sounds and steam coming from my mother’s pressure cooker and her idea that syrup on cornflakes was a good replacement for when we were out of milk.  Standing on the edge of our driveway with my brother & father throwing hard pine cones at the row of metal mailboxes across the street.  The thrill of riding in my grandfather’s green mustang and how he always kept a steady supply of mini candy bars in his trunk.  Or the bags of used tennis balls he’d give us and how my brother and I would have tennis ball wars in the darkened hallway of our house.  My sister swinging me around her hips when I was four or five.  My grandmother taking me to buy my first pair of Levi 501’s from Dick Bruhns in Salinas and meeting Mr. Bruhn who later gave me my first job at 13.  Giving my sister my weekly allowance to buy candy and the great taste of chewy coke bottle gummy bears.  The very first day of T-ball practice down at the middle school lower fields and never hitting a home run but being good enough to make the All-Stars team my final year.  The thrill of sneaking over the school fence and rushing over to the Mission Ranch general store in order to buy Fun Dip packets and ice cold Coca Cola in a bottle.  Exploring the tidal pools down at the Carmel Beach and hearing my mother screaming to stay away from the edge.  The driftwood bonfires with smores, popping seaweed, fireworks on the Fourth of July and the way the white sand would bark when you walked on it barefoot.  The smell of pine and the pollen that would coat the cars in yellow dust every spring.   The day my brother started building me a fort in the oak tree behind our rear patio and how that simple structure later became my castle.  The dozen cats that were always around; Mama, Moco, Angel just to name a few.  Going for hours long hikes in the woods surrounding my house and feeling totally free, alone and independent. Dreading going to school with kids that always seemed older than I.

Summer road trips to Mexico in the VW van, peeing in a Sprite bottle because dad “Had to get through to Guyamas before dark.” Spending hours in the hotel pool while dad got caught up on his sleep.  My parents portable suitcase bar complete with cork screw, jigger, cocktail shaker and strainer.  The excitement of reach my grandparents house in Guadalajara.  Eating refried beans, conchas and freshly made hot chocolate for breakfast.  Never drinking the water straight out of the tap and telling my parents (to their horror) that I wanted to shine shoes in the street for pocket money.  Real piñatas that you had to hit blind folded in order to get the candy and everyone enjoying 5 pm tequila shots with salted cucumber slices and peanuts.   The smell of Papi’s pipe tobacco and Mami’s warm hugs.

I remember middle school dances and trying to break dance.  My Levi jacket covered with pins from Def Leppard, Van Halen and AC/DC.  Cursing the purple corduroy bell bottom hand-me-downs I was forced to wear once a week and always scheduling P.E. as my first class so I could change into OP shorts even in the dead of winter. Playing Dungeons and Dragons until 5 am and falling in love with the girls from the local Presbyterian church.   Sleep away summer camp at Santa Clara and scoring my first kiss.  Losing my first fist fight but not my last.  Joining the water polo team and making a lifelong friend who called me today to say happy birthday. 

Of course I’ve many more great memories from the past 40 years but I’ll save those for another post.  Thank you to my wonderful wife, amazing kids, loving family and dedicated friends.  I appreciate all that you have meant to me.  Here’s to the next 40 years!     

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