A page from my parents wedding album given to me by my aunt who visited last week. Mom and Dad were 23!
A strange thing happened during my aunt’s visit. I glanced over at the sofa and Olive the cat was sitting next to my aunt licking her fingers! Now this is a first. Olive has never let a guest touch her or vice versa. Olive does sleep with my daughter, but that doesn’t count because she was my daughter’s cat until college took my daughter away.
My aunt and I did most of the things on my list and we found ourselves very compatible. We both got hungry at the same time, wanted quiet time in the afternoons to ourselves and went to bed early to read. Having a house guest doesn’t get much better than that!
It cooled down considerably, we lit the outdoor fireplace and cooked s’mores. We hiked in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. We went to the farmer’s market in Carefree and explored consignment stores in Cave Creek. We had some delicious lunches and dinners out, plus I cooked. We visited the Musical Instrument Museum and to my delight, they changed up a few exhibits so there were new things for me to enjoy.
You might wonder what would be exciting about visiting a museum of musical instruments.
From the MIM, here’s the Artists’s Gallery experience:
Celebrate music’s most influential artists.
In every time and place, there are musicians whose art deeply touches the lives of many. MIM’s Artist Gallery highlights these personalities with ever-changing exhibits that span sound, style, and era. Through generous partnerships, MIM features historic instruments owned, played, and loved by the musicians who have created a shared soundtrack to our lives for generations.
Nearly 40 displays showcase instruments and artifacts from some of the greatest musicians in the world. See and hear instruments played by icons such as Elvis Presley®, Tito Puente, the Carter Family and Johnny Cash, Roberta Flack, Glen Campbell, Joan Baez, Maroon 5, and many others.
The exhibits not only have the artists’s grammy awards, gold records, costumes and instruments, they have a large screen that plays selections of their songs on the headsets you wear. I think my favorite was “Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison. On display is his hand written lyrics on a yellow legal pad. So not only do you get to sing along with Roy, you get to see how he wrote it, along with a photo of him and his pretty woman. There are many other galleries from all over the world. I haven’t touched the whole of MIM yet.
Here are a few photos from my aunt’s visit:
What is your idea of a perfect house guest? What do you like to do when entertaining company?
Two pages about Mom from my aunt’s scrapbook. My mom is on the right with her little sister, my aunt.
Today we pick up my aunt from the airport. She’s coming to visit us for the first time in Arizona. I have all sorts of fun things planned including visiting the MIM, the Musical Instrument Museum, where they have an Elvis exhibit (My aunt is a big Elvis fan.) We’ll have time to sit and talk. Also, go out to lunch, drive to the nearby lake and explore the tiny towns close to where I live. I’m also hoping it will be cool enough at night to light the outdoor fireplace and make s’mores. I’ve been all set since my kids visited a few weeks ago, but we had a heat wave!
Here they are years later in 2015 at our family reunion at our riverfront property in Robe, Washington. The fireplace in the background is what remains of our cabin that my parents built more than 65 years ago.
I am so looking forward to spending a few days with my aunt. It certainly helps that she’s my closest connection to Mom, who passed away from COVID this year. Also, that she is the kindest, sweetest person I know.
Sunday, I was getting the house ready for guests. As I was cleaning out my paperwork and assorted crap I squirreled away in drawers and cupboards in the Casita, I thought about what fun things we could do with our guests without leaving home.
Our guests asked us to quarantine starting today before their arrival. Would you quarantine for upcoming guests?
You would if it was our guests — my son and his bride. Also, our daughter and Buff’s brother, to help with the drive (who are in the quarantine pod.) They will be here between chemo infusions, if they get the okay from her doctor after a blood test to determine her immunity level.
In case you missed the story of their wedding and cancer diagnosis, you can read it HERE.
I looked outside and glanced at the fireplace. Now that the weather is a bit cooler at night, I envisioned us sitting around the fireplace. Then my mind raced to marshmallows and s’mores!
Whatever happened to the telescopic marshmallow roasting sticks we bought 20 years ago? Did they make the move from California to Arizona?
The last time I remembered seeing them was in photos camping at Carpinteria State Beach when the kids were young. AND on our RV.
I had a light-blue, rectangular plastic storage box with camping kitchen necessities, including matches, that I pictured in my mind. That’s where they were. I’d bet on it. That box made it from tent days to RV days, to somewhere in our garage, unless it got thrown out when we moved.
If you want to read about our lack of RV skills, please read my story about our mishaps HERE. We were NOT happy campers.
In the garage I found a cardboard bankers box that said RV on the side. I unpacked it and found plastic plates, bowls and glasses that will be perfect poolside in our backyard. Next, I found the plastic storage box with more goodies like the matches, spices, knives, a can and wine opener and our red-and-white checked tablecloth.
No marshmallow roasters.
Before I turned to Amazon for help, I got the brilliant idea to look in my kitchen drawers. Voila! I have two out of the four. I must have given my kids the other two because they both loved camping during college and the shut down.
I found two out of four marshmallow roasters I bought 20 years ago. We will be s’more ready and can enjoy evenings in the backyard, without leaving the house.
What are your thoughts about camping? Are you a tent person or an RVer and why?
Do you think my quest for 20-year-marshmallow roasters is quest for memories past and easier times?
We got Angus from Guide Dogs of the Desert after being on a waiting list for several years for one of their “rejects.” I’ll never forget driving to pick him up with my husband, first-grade son and toddler daughter.
Angus appeared, wagging his tail with a stuffed sheep in his mouth.
My husband immediately fell in love. After Angus was in the car with the family, I ran back into Guide Dogs’ office.
“If he doesn’t work out after a few days, can we bring him back?” I asked.
The woman at the counter looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. She said, “Here’s his shot and birth records.”
“Oh!” I said stunned. Angus shared my son’s birthday.
When we brought Angus home, he was seven-months old, had some guide dog training, but failed because he was pretty wild. He did make it on the cover of Guide Dog’s brochure, though, because he was so handsome.
Our daughter spent the next few months living on countertops, the coffee table and sofa so she didn’t get tumbled by the wagging tail.
We soon learned that Angus was trained to open the fridge to help a blind person find their OJ or other items.
Angus thought our fridge was a self-service appliance for butter. Counter shopping got him treats like a loaf of bread and once while cooking dinner, I turned around to find a steak missing.
I’d walk by the kitchen to see Angus on his hind legs counter shopping and he’d quickly drop to the floor. “Who me?!”
One day, I couldn’t find the large kitchen trash can. I eventually found it behind a tree in the backyard.
Often, I came home to find the bathroom trash which was wicker with a wrought iron leaf pattern around the top — connected to Angus’s collar. Again, the look of “Who me?”
Angus on the wide chaise lounge. We spent many nights sitting together watching stars.
Angus was a working dog. It was his joy to pick up our newspapers in the morning. He’d go out the kitchen door, through the garage, to the street to pick up our two papers. Sometimes, when he was feeling extra, we’d get the neighbors’ papers, too. The newspaper job evolved to Angus leaving payment for papers.
Driving the kids to school, I’d see my husband’s tighty whities out on the street — in exchange for the newspapers.
We lived one block from downtown Palm Springs. Across the street was a hotel. I can’t tell you how many times we’d get a call from a hotel employee telling us Angus was working the pool guests for snacks.
You have to understand that Angus wasn’t allowed to roam wild. We had a walled-in yard with a gate. But Angus knew how to get out.
Once we were downtown walking with friends from Seattle. We returned after dark to see cops and strangers outside our house. The strangers said Angus was downtown barking like Lassie, trying to get someone to follow him. They did and ended up at our house, afraid because the lights were all on, with the gate and French doors open wide.
They called the police, because they were afraid maybe something deadly had happened. Everyone including the cops were relieved we were okay. An officer threatened to write up Angus for a ticket, but that didn’t happen.
For my son’s second grade birthday party, we held it at the city pool and he asked for donations for Guide Dogs of the Desert. He raised more than $1,000. I wrote a story about it that was published in the Los Angeles Times. You can read my story HERE.
Angus was with us until after he was 15 years old. We knew it was time when he’d get lost in the garage trying to pick up newspapers. He also fell into the pool several times. He had trouble standing up.
Why were we keeping Angus alive? It wasn’t for him, that’s for sure.
My husband said he’d take Angus to the vet. Then my daughter, who was a senior in high school, said she’d go. That left me feeling like a coward. I had to go, too.
Once in the examining room, we all petted and loved on Angus. The vet took a needle and injected it into his front leg. The syringe broke in half and the medicine sprayed all over the room.
We finally said good-bye to Angus. A nurse came in with a baggie of his hair and asked if we wanted it.
After ten years of being with the love of his life, our son made the big step called commitment.
The risk of losing Buff was right before his eyes. She was diagnosed with colon cancer and was facing surgery. They decided to get married before surgery.
We were on vacation in Santa Barbara. They had originally taken time off work to spend a week with us.
The wedding was scheduled in Berkeley at the courthouse. No way were we going to miss it. We booked flights from Santa Barbara to Oakland. The day before their wedding we got one of many calls.
“We both tested positive for COVID,” our son said.
Surgery was scheduled 10 days out, so thankfully Buff’s surgery wasn’t delayed. In the meantime, our son ended up in ER with COVID.
Surgery turned out much better than we anticipated. Big sigh of relief. I wrote about those days HERE and HERE. They said the longer the surgery took, the better the outcome. I was literally praying hour by hour. It was more than six hours, which was the best outcome possible.
Post surgery, they waited one week for pathology reports. We were sure everything was fine because surgery went so well.
My son called us — trying not to break down — that pathology was not good. Stage 3 C, which is a step up or down from Stage 4 (depending on how you look at it.) She has a 40% chance of being cured. Don’t want to talk about the 60%.
They had a window between surgery and chemo to get married. They kept the wedding small outside the Mendocino County Courthouse with their “pod.” We stayed home and I was weepy during their marriage. The next day I was filled with love and hope for them.
They got married with some of Buff’s family, our daughter and a few of their closest friends.
California-style, they had their wedding dinner outside at In-N-Out.
They spent their wedding night in Medocino County in a gorgeous VRBO on a river.
A painting of our son’s girlfriend Catherine (Buff) by Jamie Stoneman, her friend and art major.
Our future daughter-in-law Buff is having surgery today. I’m asking for prayers for a successful surgery for stage three colon cancer, without complications.
Buff is an amazing person and a beautiful poet who has been published in numerous literary and poetry publications. We love her like our own daughter.
Here’s one of her poems:
Coal Oil Point Tonight the sky with its plummy texture Is especially dear to me, and the small purple Flowers shuddering in the sand. Tonight the wind curls soft and salty against My bare arms with that strange lively mourning. You let me look at you and understand that Nobody has ever had eyes like yours, fringed with Red-gold lashes, and nobody will again. I look up at the stars and pity them: The more they burn the faster they die. How I burn makes me live beyond myself.
Catherine Simpson is a cellist who lives in Berkeley. She has been previously published in Big River Poetry Review, Right Hand Pointing, Spectrum, Step Away Magazine, Into the Teeth of the Wind, Poydras Review, and Splash of Red.