"I hate to admit it," my mother said as we were approaching the turnoff to her house, "but I really had a good day today."
She was, of course, kidding. Pretending she didn't want to give us the satisfaction of letting us know she had enjoyed herself on our day-long jaunt back into her past.
Several years ago, before my aunt Barb got her diagnosis of Alzheimers and when Peach was still fairly new at genealogy, she decided that we should all take a trip to Valley Springs, the small town near Lodi where my mother had lived from the time she was about 3 until she was in the 5th grade, when the family moved into the larger city of Galt.
We found the old house without difficulty on that trip. It was deserted, dilapidated and for sale, but we were able to explore it and my mother and Barb took a great trip down memory lane explaining to us who had slept where, showing where many of the well-known family stories took place, and where the infamous "can pile" (a story for another day) had been located.
Since that trip, the house has been torn down and Peach has made several unsuccessful attempts back to Valley Springs trying to find where the property is. She has been wanting to make this trip with my mother for more than a year.
So after breakfast, early this morning, we got in the car (without playing cards first!!!) and headed for Valley Springs. It's about 120 miles from here and Bruce, on my GPS, directed us through the back roads, which were so beautifully green.
I just loved the idea that some town had of planting rose bushes around a lot of the poles along the highway. We must have passed dozens of them, all in bloom and so gorgeous!
The last time we had been to Valley Springs, we had eaten at a coffee shop called "Chubby's" (because that is my mother's nickname). The place has changed hands and it's now called "Campbell Country" (Campbell was her uncle's name).
We had a good lunch--Peach and I had what I would say was one of the best patty melts I've ever had. My mother had a hot dog. And we talked with the proprietor who, after being suitably shocked to discover that my mother was 91 years old, explained that she had lived in Valley Springs for 35 years, so she knew a lot of the places that my mother remembered. The central point of reference was a store that used to be called Plilers Market, and my mother's fondest memory was of buying her first pair of patent leather shoes there. Apparently it was "the" town store and you went there for everything. The building is still there, with the name just barely still visible.
Then, following directions from Plilers, we started driving up the family road. There is a big factory-looking building where my mother thought her house stood and we all got out to take pictures.
She was disappointed not to recognize more landscapes, but picked out the hill she thought the house had stood on and pointed to a big tree that had been in the back yard.
When the photos were taken, I went up the road a ways to find a place to turn around and my mother asked me to drive a little farther just to make sure we had found the right place. All of a sudden she shouted "THERE IT IS!" and even I recognized it from having been there before.
The old barn is still standing up by that telephone pole on the left, but the house is gone. But we took lots of pictures for reference, so Peach can show her kids and grandkids where their great grandparents used to live.
After we had thoroughly explored, we got back in the car and started home again, excited about all the things we had seen. I had brought a couple of playlists of music from the 40s and the 50s and though my mother had seemed a bit irritated when I first started a playlist, leaving her house, it was "her" kind of music and the three of us sang all through the round trip. Some of my fondest childhood memories are singing this kind of music with my mother, so it was the perfect accompaniment to the trip for me.
We got back to San Rafael around 5, I guess, and immediately set up the card game. My mother was going into withdrawal. The ingredients Peach had brought for drinks yesterday were mostly gone, so I created a new drink using vodka, chocolate liqueur, raspberry syrup and cream. We were trying to figure out what to call it and I decided to call it a Gazeen, in honor of our trip today, remembering the time when my mother's younger brother stood on the porch of their house, having to pee, and said "I have to go so bad, I could pee all the way over to Gazeen's," the name of the neighbors across the road.
So we ended the night with Gazeens and lasagna and cards and now, bed.
(My mother really liked them!!!)