One afternoon not long after high school graduation, the Ya-Yas (Cindy and Amy) and I went on a drive. Our destination does not matter (it has since been forgotten, mostly because we never reached it anyway). The point is that Amy had donated a CD to our mini-adventure: Jerry Seinfeld LIVE.
Now, all three of us had enjoyed his show in the past, but I had never experienced his stand-up comedy. Let me tell you, I've never laughed that hard in my life. That's not a bad thing. I'm sure Jerry would be proud. But the problem was that I was driving at the time.
Yessirree. My 2001 green Honda Civic, the "Ya-Ya-mobile", had only one pilot. Me. (Cindy moved it from one spot to another in the church parking lot once, as a joke. Ha. Ha. Ha.) Anyway, I was driving, on the freeway no less. And in the midst of it all I had a coniption because Jerry had begun his diatribe about the elderly living in Florida.
And then of course he wanted to talk about the unnecessarily high maintainence of leather:
"Water ruins leather? Aren't cows outdoors a lot of the time? When it starts to rain do they all run up to the barn yellin', 'Let me in, man! I'm suede!'" Ohhhhh the three of us girls are lucky I maintained the wherewithall to take the nearest exit before doubling over.
So why am I thinking of suede? Well, I've never owned anything suede before. And today I changed all that. Thanks to my new job at Banana Republic in the local mall, and thanks to an OCD patient who bought and then returned a perfectly beautiful jacket (with a teensy little hole in the inner lining), I am now the proud owner of a lovely tan suede jacket! So soft, so classy.
It's not that nothing interesting happened to me today. At work I met a woman with hair that fell to just above her knees! I got whistled at by a guy at the mall. I had lunch with my mom at Red Robin (where they have the BEST banana milkshakes!). And I picked up my first paycheck in a really long time! Again, I did interesting stuff, but the suede jacket was the highlight.
Jon and me on a hike in Yosemite, February 2005.
Thankfully my parents were big fans of camping. They took me on my first camping trip when I was less than a year old. There are some great pictures of my dad with me in one of those little carry-the-baby-everywhere contraptions, pitching the tent. I'm smiling.
So when I married Jon, I was prepared for the outdoor adventures. While I can't seem to workup an unbridled desire to climb the highest mountains, I still enjoy the little things that camping involves. The campfires, the s'mores, the chilly mountain air, the bacon crisping on the camp stove.
Our favorite place is Yosemite, naturally. The first time we ascended Half Dome was a mere 5 months after we began dating. I'll admit right now that I agreed to the challenge simply to make my new boyfriend proud of me. In the end, having reached the top and come all the way back down successfully and safely, I'd never been more proud of myself.
Half Dome is still the hardest thing I've ever done. And now we're planning to do it again. I'm looking forward to it, actually. I do love camping. (Now that I'm a Camp, technically everything I do is "Camping", eh?)
Being married is beautiful (99% of the time anyway). A while ago I wrote this poem after one of the first times I woke up next to Jon. And it's still true. I hope it always will be (99% of the time anyway).
Morning in Love
Opening my eyes to early morning
A breathing, blue-eyed miracle
With sloping shadowy shoulders
Rising from beneath the blankets
And a strong square jaw
I hold my own breath so as not to wake him
My angel wrapped in sheets
I move towards him
Drawn by the warmth and the rhythm
Of my sleeping love
Oh, I wish I could hold him every morning
Nestled in the crook of his arm
Ear to his heart
Basking in the sigh of early dawn
And kissing his fingertips
Because he is precious to me
In his sleeping entirety
He opens his eyes to me
And we share a smooth, silky moment
Of morning in love
A few of the classics...
It may come as no surprise (after all, I am an English major) that over my lifetime I've been influenced by many, many books. I remembered a couple of my favorite childhood stories today. So I thought I would take a second to recall a few of them (not all, don't worry).
The first "chapter book" I remember reading and finishing on my own is E.B. White's Stewart Little. I sat in my room and read all about the little mouse who dressed like a tiny man, carried a cane, made tin-foil nickels in order to ride the bus, and helped the family out by diving into the sink drain to retrieve his "mom's" ring. Following in that vein was The Littles. Itty bitty family, entirely human except for their dog-like tails, living in the walls of a house. Where did my imagination come from?
Beverly Cleary wrote many books, including the entire Ramona Quimby series that I loved so much! But my favorite of all her books was one called Mitch and Amy. Twins, brother and sister, make it through the fourth grade, taking on all the sweet, everyday adventures that happen often when one is ten years old.
And then there was Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls. A beautiful story about a young boy in rural Oklahoma whose peaceful (or boring) life is interrupted when a troup of circus monkies escapes. He takes on the job of trapping them an returning them to the circus for a profit, of course. Along the way he learns a lot about life and what is truly important.
Katherine Paterson's Jacob Have I Loved is another twin tale, this time about twins who aren't as close. Divided by differences in health, interests and expectations, Louisa and Caroline can't seem to get along in wartime Maine. Louisa, the narrator, discovers herself by accident as she battles inferiority, bitterness and, well, being Esau.
I won't deny that I spent time with the Sweet Valley Twins, Boxcar Children... I worshipped Nancy Drew. But these few are the children's books that impacted me the most. They helped to mold me and my imagination. And here I am today.
Seven months after tying the knot with my wonderful husband, I finally got around to changing my name. Officially according to the Social Security office I am Audrey Jean Camp. And, as of 9:30 this morning, I am able to sign everything that way, too (new driver's license is on the way).
Now I just need to decide what to do with Audrey Jean Pancoast. The girl who was me for almost 21 and a half years has been replaced. Where does she go? I cannot simply cast her off entirely. But she can no longer take credit for the things I do. No, any and all success achieved from here on out belongs to Audrey Camp. Audrey Camp will be the one to graduate from college, begin a career, have a family, publish countless best-sellers.
But Audrey Pancoast isn't dead either. She did a lot, now that I think back. And, if I do say so myself, she was a pretty good person. That shouldn't end with a legal name change. And it doesn't.
I never understood why women made such a fuss about taking their husband's name. It's a symbol of unity. And I know that Jon doesn't care precisely under which banner we do unify... as long as it happens. So we chose his (easier to spell). Hyphenation would have made my name too corporate. I'm Mrs. Camp. Do I sound old? At some point I will be old. Then, perhaps, it will suit me better.
My signature will require a lot of tender love and care. I used to flourish my pen through all eight letters of Pancoast. Now I must learn to handle Camp in all its monosyllabic glory. Is there a way to make a capital C pretty? I sure hope so!
For now the remnants of Audrey Pancoast are still tangled up in me. Hopefully she can remind me to maintain childlike faith, a sense of fun and the importance of context when it comes to handling life. She'll most likely never leave me completely, and I'm all right with that. I liked her a lot.
Suddenly my blog has a name. It was Jon's idea first, I admit. And I love it. Accuracy is important here, especially since the only readers right now are Jon and me, and we can tell if we're not being completely honest. So why did I choose this name? It all began with an old house and the eccentric folks who lived there...
Anyone who has met my parents understands that they are complicated, intriguing people. But they certainly aren't stodgy or boring. Yes, Dad can go on for hours about glacial movement and erosion, or Manifest Destiny, or even the defining characteristics of fabrics. And yes, Mom deals with insurance. Yet they collectively have a charm about them that allows for knee-jerk understanding on the part of us all when they do things we otherwise might find odd, even crazy.
Case in point: The Advent of the Red Door
After finally being able to move the family to Livermore, CA and out of a rapidly decining area in Newark, CA, my folks were beside themselves with joy at the idea of owning their first house. And the house itself was perfect. Large and roomy, lots of wall space, a dining room that we ate in all of three times because the kitchen eating area was much more convenient, a big back yard with full-grown trees and a rose garden, an in-ground pool, a master suite. The list goes on.
The one drawback to the house was its being a "track home" (as almost ever house in Livermore is). My parents wanted some uniqueness, a touch of character in their first house. First they tackled the inside. The family room almost buckled under a deep outdoorsman theme. Wall-to-wall flyfishing paper, Wild Wings paintings, a creel and rod, dark green couches and, to top it all off, the head of a deer mounted above the brick fireplace (we named him Cal, by the way).
And so my mother moved her wallpapering frenzy methodically through the house, putting personal touches in each kid's room, the kitchen, the laundry room, bathrooms, hallways. But walking up to the big gray-blue house at the end of the typical suburban court, no one could tell our house from the zillions of others.
Dad bought the red paint with Mom's blessing. By noon the next day our front door, clearly visible from the street, was a vibrant tomato red. It shouted our originality into the neighborhood.
That's what gave me this idea. Because, after all, people were still getting to know me at the time. I was a sophomore in high school, defined by my place on the volleyball team, my participation in my honors English class, and the fact that I was "the girl who lives in the house with the red door". Simple.
Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I like to think that my association with the red door carried some sense of mystery. Who is she? Where is she from? What can she do? Perhaps I was extraordinary.
Now, though, the red door symbolizes so much more than that. Behind it lies my destiny, my path, my potential. Red is my favorite color because it seems to indicate life:
Blood running through veins, blushing in the face of flattery and pride, the sin of Adam and Eve, the nail polish I wore on my wedding day, the ribbons I wore during D.A.R.E. week when I was eleven years old, strawberries in the summertime, the bricks in stately old buildings, the cotton-rich earth of Tara, the flag flapping at an old bull to induce a charge, firetrucks, stoplights, roses given to me by Jonathan on Valentine's Day, Christmas, Disneyland, sticking my tongue out at my little brother behind my dad's back, ketchup on hot dogs and the reason Hester Prynne was forced to wear the letter A.
To junior prom I wore a beautiful red silk dress. From that moment on red became a color I was associated with by friends and family. I like it that way. When Jon and I were registering for gifts for the wedding, I carefully chose all red kitchen accessories. For some people red is terrifying, a step outside their comfort zones, too noticeable to be relaxing. But red soothes me.
And so I choose the red door as a symbol of the vivacity I hope to embody the rest of my life. I am many things, some of which I don't yet know of, let alone understand. But for now I will continue to be the girl behind the red door.
The dawn of my virtual diary.
For many years I've claimed to be a writer. And, while I've never lacked ideas or inspirations, I do lack the discipline to write daily. My husband, the self-proclaimed "code monkey", has suggested that I blog as a way to solve the problem. We'll see.
So here I sit, in the home I now share with my husband and our two cats. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind swirls a land more complex and exotic, more adventurous and erotic, than anyone can possibly tell. That includes me. I have more going around in my imagination, fueled by the daily grind and the soul-penetrating events of my past, my history, than even I know what to do with. Hopefully this will become my outlet. Some of this steam needs to go!
As I am not one to release cosmic questions out into the void, nor am I one to pose public questions to my God (because the theatrics minimalize the sincerity, in my opinion), all ponderances will be strictly streams of consciousness. I like this idea.
In all honesty, I have blogged once before. The endeavor lasted all of a week. But in the end I emerged a little healthier, a little less tense. It's a good thing, too. The world, especially the smallish sphere of my good friends and family, was the better for it. This time around my goal is one solid month of routine writing sessions. And boy I hope that statement doesn't come back to bite me.
Now it's time for a long overdue dose of my favorite comedian of all time: Bob Hope. Great man, funny guy. Lucky Jon gets to experience "Road to Zanzibar" with me (the second of seven "road pictures" he made with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour...). And so I'll leave my first entry with this classic Hope-moment:
Bob Hope: What's a zombie?
Reply: They are the living dead. They walk around blindly with dead eyes, not knowing what they're doing and not caring.
Bob Hope: You mean like democrats?
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. We'll be here all week!