While we were living in Oregon I noticed an announcement in the newspaper that the local community college was going to offer an adult education class on “Folk Guitar for Beginners.” I had bought a rather cheap classical guitar and an instruction book before we left California but had not made very much progress in teaching myself how to play it, so I signed up for this class.
The class went well, overall. I inherited my mother’s short, stumpy fingers, which are something of a drawback when trying to make some of the chords on a guitar, so although the F chord was elusive, I managed to lean how to play the rest of chords that were taught.
One evening Richard was not able to take care of Nathaniel and so I took him to the class. He was about 3 years old at this time, and not long after we walked into the classroom, he spotted the fire alarm button and before I could stop him, he had raced over to it and pressed it. The alarm began ringing throughout all of the buildings on the campus. Nobody seemed to pay much attention to it and it was quickly shut off. Fortunately.
At the end of the class, we were asked to learn a song and present it to the others with the words and the chords. I learned to play Joni Mitchell’s song The Circle Game…
And the seasons they go 'round and 'roundAnd the painted ponies go up and downWe're captive on the carousel of timeWe can't return we can only look behindFrom where we cameAnd go round and round and roundIn the circle game
Today is the day in 1977 that the seasons began going round and round for our son as he made his way into the world, in the usual way. The carousel of time he was riding made 33 revolutions before it stopped, on January 13, 2011, almost exactly 1 month before the 34th turn. So he will forever be 33 years old.
And we can’t return, we can only look behind. In thinking back over the 33 birthdays we celebrated with him, I remember very few of them. One was very much like another as the years passed.
The warehouse in Orange (near Disneyland) where our newspaper office was located was right next to train tracks. And it seemed almost inevitable that every day when I brought him, as an in infant, to the office to see Richard, that a train would pass by, and we would rush out to see it. Thus it is not surprising that he became obsessed with trains very early. I think the first sentence he spoke was “Go bye bye car. Train?”
We moved to Oregon when he was about 18 months old, and as it happened, we lived near train tracks there too. I remember making at least one “train cake” for him for a birthday. I baked a flat sheet cake and cut it in various shapes to resemble cars in a train, mixed different colors of icing for each car, used pieces of licorice to couple them together, and used cookies for the wheels. It was a mess, of course, because I am not skilled in this sort of thing, but he didn’t care. He loved it.
That might have been the year I took him for a train ride on his birthday. It was either his third or fourth birthday, but I am not sure which. We got on at the depot in Albany...
and rode to Salem, and then got off and waited in the depot for another train to take us back to Albany. It was one of the best birthday presents ever.
In later years, one of his favorite things to do on his birthday was go have pizza. There is a restaurant in town – not a franchise – that serves very good pizza. And today we will have lunch there and remember…