The Wild Ride Surrounding My Eighty-Fifth Birthday

Our first overnighter in Oceanside was to attend the high school graduation party of grandson Christopher and his close friend Stephen. The surprise was that the previous Monday Chris had come home to announce that he had, that day, driven to San Diego and joined the Marines. The celebration party was not only the two graduations and Father’s Day, but at five in the afternoon the Marine recruiter drove up, came in and joined the party, hung out while we took photos, and then drove away with Chris to San Diego where he would spend the night in a hotel and be delivered at six a.m. to Basic Training.

Saturday before the party I was shopping with my son Carl. I told him I wanted pictures of the celebration and needed to buy some film. “Film?” he asked. “What’s that? They don’t sell film any more.” He took me to Best Buy where we looked at and compared about a dozen digital cameras, and in less than an hour we came away with a Nikon with its half a pound of attachments. I had no clue how to take a picture. At the party I got one of Chris’ friends to take all the pictures I wanted, with my new camera.

Sunday, when we got home the next day, in the mailbox was a digital voice recorder, a gift from my oldest son who I had told I wanted hand-held tape recorder. It weighed about three ounces, had a dozen buttons, and I hadn’t a clue how to use it. The instructions were written so small I needed a magnifying glass to read them, and there were lots of words I didn’t understand. It looks like I have no choice. Carolyn is turning digital.

On Monday Holly and I loaded our gear in the car and headed north for Orcutt where Sheila, my close friend of seventy years, has lived since World War II. We relived old times, reminding ourselves of when we met Errol Flynn and Duke Kahanomoku on Waikiki beach early one morning and the Duke wanted us all to go riding up University Avenue in my convertible Model A touring car, and wave to everybody. Sheila said no, she wanted to go to class. She has regretted that decision ever since.

Tuesday we stopped at Silicon Valley at the home of long-time traveling companions, Lew and Melissa, where we spent the evening watching their slides from the Amazon, where they had just spent two weeks. We have traveled together through Bulgaria, Turkey, and many times to Hawaii. Over the years I spent countless Thanksgivings with them at their family ranch in Gustine, en route the San Francisco Kolo Dance Festivals.

After another six hours driving on Wednesday, we arrived at our destination—deep in the redwoods, twelve miles inland from the little town of Mendocino—the Mendocino Woodlands. Folklore Camp, the first week, devoted itself to multi-cultural activities, including live music and dance. This week they started with mythical beings: elves, ogres, and unicorns on the first day, then Croation, American Rock ‘n Roll, Cajun, Hungarian, and Old Time Radio with 1930 commercials. I sang, “Pepsi Cola hits the spot, Twelve whole ounces, that’s a lot. Twice as much for a nickel, too, Pepsi Cola is the Drink for you. Nickel, nickel, nickel, nickel; Trickle, trickle trickle, trickle.”

Singing Old Time Radio at  Folklore Camp
Singing Old Time Radio at
Folklore Camp

One Croation afternoon I found myself with a flower garland wreath festooned with long colored ribbons down the back, indicating I was a virgin. We girls dyed and colored hard boiled eggs, and when the men approached our table in Pinsker Grove I gave one of them an egg, and he, according to custom, sprayed cold water on me. The food was exceptionally fine, each day reflecting that day’s designated culture.

The following week was Balkan Music and Dance Camp—emphasis on Bulgarian, but included Yugoslav, Romanian, Greek, Macedonian, Turkish, and the entire Balkan peninsula. I have been coming to this camp regularly since 1983, playing music on my clarinet, taking big tupan drum lessons, small hand-held doumbek lessons, singing techniques, and of course, dancing. This year I used my new digital voice recorder to get the biographies of friends who have lived amazing lives, plus spending time with a charming gentleman who stuck near me all week because he thought I was fun. I thought he was fun, also.

Finally we drove east to Mariposa, where I had lived for twenty-four years. We moved in with friends Barry and Phyllis—except Phyllis was away taking care of her ill father and she didn’t get home until the following Sunday. Usually on Sunday mornings we have a two hour meditation period, but this day was the last of a Baha’i Holy Day. Holly baked a turkey, roasted fresh organic vegetables, made several salads, while Barry brought ice cream and sherbet for dessert. Twenty-three people showed up, all friends to see us.


Mendocino Balkan Music and Dance Camp
Mendocino Balkan Music and Dance Camp

We were delighted, especially at the mix of ages and cultures. Five were from Calcutta, India, three were from South Africa, and the rest of us were from the USA. We all had stories to share and memories to relive. Also present were Little and Lucky, small dogs that own the property, and Morley the cat who owns the lap of whomever is his current choice. The rest of the week there were plenty of leftovers for dinners, and the week was busy with friends, meetings, and discussion groups.

Saturday was my actual eighty-fifth birthday, and my cell phone was busy most of the day with calls from my three sons and several grandchildren. Holly invited a few of my closest friends to lunch, so it evolved into another celebration. Eighty-five. Do I have enough money to last until I die? I put some deep thought into that question, and figured out my answer. Yes, I have enough to last fifteen years. So I am telling my children, “I can support myself until I’m one hundred. If I’m still alive, I’m going to depend on you the rest of my life.


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