Since it’s Valentine’s Day in a few hours, I thought I’d share a favorite memory with my late husband. This is also an expert from the current draft of my book. Happy Valentine’s day to you and yours.
February 13-15, 2009
For our first official Valentine’s Day, at my suggestion, we go camping in Joshua Tree National Park even though I’ve never been camping before. Since it’s my idea and I’ve organized the whole trip, I’m the only one who receives the instructions for the tent. Once we arrive and unpack, Kaz watches me circle the tarp a few times.
“You okay?” he asks.
“Yup.” I turn my back to him and silently bite my lip. I have no idea what I’m doing. Why did I even suggest a camping trip? What will happen if I can’t remember the instructions?
“Why don’t you try telling me how it’s supposed to go?” I hear him say gently behind me. “It might help you remember.”
I start talking out loud, and he’s right. The instructions slowly come back to me. I begin to place certain pegs in certain holes, then bend the tent’s spine and stretch the fabric. We finish pitching it together, after which I’m practically giddy with relief and gratitude.
We celebrate by going for a walk in a nearby field of rocks. “Have you ever been here before?” I ask. “Yes, with my ex,” he answers. I nod and look down at the ground. He puts an arm around my shoulder. “But I’m very happy to be here again with you.”
We take a series of pictures. In one, he stands on a boulder, his hands spread wide, his feet straddling a large crevice running up the middle.
“Because he’s a crack man!” I yell as I take it.
As we walk back, he picks up a long, straight branch, which we immediately dub his Moses stick.
After dinner, which I manage to make without utensils (because I forgot those too), we sit in our borrowed camping chairs by the fire and pass a flask of Jack Daniels back and forth. Other than the fire, our entertainment is the star-filled sky and a small transistor radio which doubles as a flashlight (a Christmas gift from his mother). Tonight the only channel we can get clearly is a classical one with a DJ who speaks in Japanese.
We talk about our families again. I tell him how my mother was an artist and did art throughout her life, even when she was sick. That she loved music, especially jazz and reggae, and she spoke in a whisper due to multiple tracheotomies and open heart surgeries. I describe to him the moment my brother informed me of her death, 17 years prior. “It was and still is the biggest thing that has ever happened to me.”
In the flickering light of our campfire, Kaz tells me the closest he can relate is losing his paternal grandmother, who had helped raise him as a child. He describes the vegetable garden in the back of her house, the strawberry patch where he used to help her pick strawberries. He had been very fond of her.
“By the way, you can never go wrong making me something with strawberries in it, or berries in general,” he adds.
“Noted,” I laugh.
Later, he points out a couple of constellations and explains that because of the time it takes for the light to travel from the stars to us, some of the stars might actually be dead planets.
I look up at the sky. “That’s disappointing.”
“Sorry to burst your bubble,” he chuckles.
“You haven’t. I choose to believe the stars I’m looking at are alive,” I smirk. He laughs.
The next day, we visit Skull Rock where, to our surprise, it’s snowing. When he discovers both the heat and defrost don’t work in my car, we have a mini-spat, later to be referred to as Incident at Skull Rock.
We quickly take pictures before hurrying back to my car, where he jumps behind the wheel. A few miles and minutes away, we’re in the low desert and it’s sunny and warm.
“Oh my G-d,” I squeal. “Look at that!” I point over his left shoulder at a full rainbow arched over the plain, end to end, like something out of a movie. “Can we stop to take pictures, pleeease?” I plead. He pulls over and I jump out to photograph the rainbow, which, coupled with the fact that it’s Valentine’s Day weekend, feels like a divine symbol of love and hope.
February 14, 2013 at 2:53 am
The photos tell a HUGE story in themselves! Thank you for sharing. I hope tomorrow is not to hard on you.
February 14, 2013 at 6:01 pm
Thanks, Rose. xo
February 15, 2013 at 5:12 am
February 17, 2013 at 1:37 pm
How lovely. You really are a gifted writer. When is your book coming out? I will be proud to buy a copy.
February 18, 2013 at 8:57 pm
Thank you for this kind comment. I really appreciate it! I don’t have a publisher yet, so not sure when book is coming out. I’m contemplating the option of sharing it online for free. Basically, blogging the book. Will post my thoughts about it soon.
April 11, 2013 at 3:18 pm
I know its not february anymore. But i came upon this and I am so grateful that you are writing all of this. It is wonderful. You are going to be just fine. I know and believe this. I think your book will be beautiful.
April 12, 2013 at 4:50 pm
Thanks Jill. For your kind words and for stopping by.
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