Monday, June 14, 2010
A DECADE OF FIRSTS
When we retired, we knew our goal was not going to be something like traveling around the United States in a motor home. Starting in 1990 we had traveled and moved enough to last us the rest of our lives. But we also didn’t want to be stuck in an apartment looking at the boob tube, either. Somehow we had to figure out what would be fun and different. And we knew if we were creative, we could figure out some “different” things that would be “firsts.”
The first thing we did was to move to a new area, still in Southern California but not where we had spent the first 25 years of our married life. Then we came up with an idea: an alphabet lunch program. We decided to eat our way through the alphabet by finding towns starting with letters of the alphabet and where we had never lunched before. The first town would need to start with an “A” and the next with a “B” and so on. As the spirit moved, we would drive to the chosen town and find a place that looked like we might get a decent plate of food. The quality of food was not the determining factor; the town was. We didn’t try to critique the restaurant or the food. We were simply out for fun and for something different. We knew there would be a time – maybe at X and certainly with Z – where we would have to bend our “rules” but so what? We set the rules and we could change them.
Our alphabetized eating took the better part of a year. We were in no hurry to finish the alphabet so we slowly lunched our way through Southern California. There were three times we were in Northern California visiting our kids and we found ourselves in a town with the needed letter. We simply suspended the rule for having to be in Southern California.
Here’s where we ate: Azusa, Banning, Colton, Duarte, Eagle Rock, Fairfield, Garden Grove, Hemet, Idyllwild, Jackson, Kramer Junction, Lake Elsinore, Mira Loma, Nuevo, Orinda, Pearblossom, Quail Valley (no restaurant there but we counted it anyway because it was a long drive to make that discovery!), Rubidoux, San Jacinto, Torrance, Upland, Venice, Wrightwood and Yucaipa. We were right. X was impossible to find and Zzyzx was simply too far away.
We surely did have fun. We found delightful places, and wondered how on earth we could both grow up in Southern California and never have been in Eagle Rock. We really didn’t even know where it was. We met a few challenges: we had noticed a tiny town called Keene in the hills between Tehachapi and Bakersfield, so on our next drive up to visit our Northern California kids we scheduled our K lunch for Keene. Wouldn’t you know that when we arrived we found a sign on the door saying, “Closed Mondays.” So on our trip back home the following Monday, we put our contingency plan in place and drove instead to Kramer Junction out on the Mojave Desert at the junction of the 58 and 395. There we ate at a restaurant nestled between service stations and big semi’s being refueled! Another time we ate at a restaurant in Idyllwild that henceforth we referred to as the Fly Inn. We did not enjoy our meal because we had to eat with a flyswatter in hand.
The year of the alphabet lunch passed quickly. Both Jerry and I had found our retirement feet and we no longer needed to manufacture our fun. But I did have one funny episode in which three “firsts” happened on the same day: I went to Calimesa, a little town I had never even heard of before; I attended a Seventh Day Adventist Church, which was a first (it wasn’t strange, except knowing I was among a huge roomful of vegetarians was). And finally, I played the ukulele at a funeral there. Earlier I had joined a group of ukulele players at the Loma Linda Senior Center. About a year into the activity one of the older gents died and his wife wanted our group to play during the meal to be served in the church hall after his funeral service. We did, of course, but I think playing the uke at a funeral was about the strangest thing I’ve ever done – and certainly a first for me.
As time passed in our retirement mode, we found we no longer wondered if we should try sky diving or bungee jumping or surfing just because it would be a first. We have settled for computing and Net-Flix, volunteering for various organizations and visiting old friends, attending grandkids’ graduations, lots of reading and trying to keep ourselves healthy. We find it wonderful to get up when we want (which has turned out to be 5 a.m.) and go to bed when we feel like it (which is 9 p.m.) We have a master calendar affixed to the refrigerator where we post our upcoming commitments as well as notes to remind ourselves of obligations! Grass is not growing under our feet.
For me, this June is the 10th anniversary of my retirement. We are as busy as we want to be and no longer think in terms of finding things to do. But if anyone offered me a ride in the Goodyear Blimp, you can bet I’d sure turn that into a first!