Wednesday, October 17, 2012

First Hello - Part One: The Drive

There I stood at the Enterprise car rental counter with the last words of my architect brother ringing in my ears as he dropped me off.
"Get the Mustang convertible," he had shouted after me, the black sporty thing we spied in the parking lot.

So how much is it, I asked?

$$$ a day, the handsome shirt and tied young man replied.

I had reserved the Chevy Aveo which was

$ a day.

I could rent that black beauty for 2 days...but... I'm a frugal girl. Besides, I'm not trying to impress anyone. The last thing I want to do is appear pretentious; especially as a first impression.

Anything in between $ and $$$ I asked? He offered a Volkswagon whatever, which looked just like the Chevy Aveo.

A picture of my hair blowing in the wind on this perfect October California day, temperature climbing toward 80, making my way up the 405 for a long anticipated personal reunion, dissolved as common-sense won over and I acquiesed to accept the Chevy at $ a day. 

Silence, as he punched the register keys.

Tell you what, he said, (it was 1/2 hour till closing at noon), I'll give you the Mustang convertible for

 $$ a day.

Ok, I said.  For 20 dollars extra, I thought, I'll treat myself to experience the full glory of the semi arid, bright sunshiny California climate that I grew up in, that my current semi-tropical Florida life had shoved to the back of my mind. I was eager to re-live those West coast days.


I left my dear friend's church before the sermon ended the next summer-like morning, the pastor's last illustration was about the importance of a mother's unconditional love. Uncanny, a divine message? I thought, as I was about to drive to see my daughter I had adopted out 37 years ago, face to face, for the first time.

She must know, beyond a doubt,  that I love her. I need to make that clear to her. I hear that adopted people struggle with  feelings of abandonment- even into middle age. 

With that resolve, I said goodbye to my friend with a prayer on our lips, put the top down, twisted my hair into to tight bun and headed north on the 405.

405 Northbound through Huntington Beach

I could not wipe the smile off my face. I sang, I praised, I fairly exploded from happiness, tripping up the freeway. Passing familiar buildings through Newport Center made me feel at home.  Even the golden haze (smog) on the horizon further into OC was a comfortable sight.

Changing freeways, I entered the port area of Long Beach. There's the Queen Mary, where my husband and father of my current 5 children (7 years after this one) proposed to me after a date there over 35 yrs ago.  There are the docks, cranes, and stacked cartons that make-up the industrial port where overseas products end their voyage and begin their land trip into our markets.

Two tall bridges

Two tall bridges afforded fantastic views of it all. The sun high and hot beat down into the black interior of my car, my black jeans. Why hadn't I packed my cotton, gathered hippie skirt that would have been much cooler? The wind whipping my hair, strands stinging my face, brought me back to the reality of my near destination, my long awaited reunion, my first hello.


A little drive into town, older streets, lots of signals, a store parking lot stop to re-apply wind dried lipstick and turn my bun into a braid.

Right turn,

Left turn,

Right turn up a hill, (the whole city is a hill). I count house numbers, looking left. Not that one, closer, closer,

THERE!  The address I was looking for was a white 3 story house with multiple balconies.

I look to park. An empty spot on my right. I shimmy from drive to reverse, drive to reverse, direct the wheels to the curb because of the incline, put it in park, and pull the emergency brake. Key off.

Only to hear that bubbly lilting voice I've heard only on the phone, call out to me,

"Just so you know, you're parked in a red zone!" were her first words. I turn to see a curly dark haired slender, young woman leaning over her balcony, head tilted slightly. 'Nice Car!' she added.

AAAAUUGGG!!!!! I was certain the whole neighborhood heard my inner groan of embarrassment.

Exactly the impression I wanted to avoid! Add my stupidity of parking in a red zone and you've got a smashing good start to a first visit, part comic and tragic all at the same time.

"Oh, I couldn't see it over the sides of the car," I stammered on and  "Oh and the car's not me, really. I just got a good deal." No words of explanation could recover a moment-gone-wrong and dignity lost.  I swung the wheel to park around the corner by a curb that was not red.

Walking the brick steps to her front door, I consoled myself that the visit could only go uphill from there.......

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