Mama’s First Flight At Age 84 — and California Dreamin’

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Our California trip in 2009 would not have been complete without visiting the home of the Jelly Belly. It was back-to- back eye-popping color, and art created entirely with Jelly Belly jelly beans.

Mama and I had been talking about California for years —  a trip to see her brother Marrell and family. Well, all plans came together in 2009, with the addition of one wayfarer cousin, Joan (mama’s niece). And, man, we had a ball !! My California aunt and cousins met us at the airport in a limousine — another first for mama — and took us home in style. It was after dark when we arrived, and Uncle had supper cooked. It was a great reunion.

But, wait!! I have pictures. It began at the Birmingham airport. Mama had never been to an airport, so we watched planes as we waited for ours.Here’s Mama and Joan at the Birmingham airport watching planes. I’m there, too, I’m just watching them through the camera. Joan is a childhood playmate. She has kept up with all of us through the years. She doesn’t forget birthdays, and certainly never forgot her Aunt Bessie’s. Mama loved cards and kept them all.

Picture 003Joan watching mama watching airplanes, and me watching them

 ————————————————————————-pilot and ma————————————————  If mama had known flying was this much fun, she would have become a frequent flyer. Now time for the pilot to get back to work.

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Later, Mama gets a “tour” of the cockpit.


— We are now in California and playing tourist — 

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Here we are at Jelly Belly’s, the jelly beans that President Ronald Reagan made famous. Talk about a blast of color! And the jelly beans weren’t bad, either.

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Now we go into wine country with our California aunt and cousins

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I’ve lost some weight since then, thank you very much. Mama and Aunt Bev arm in arm in background. Those wine barrels back there are BIG. And the grounds here are gorgeous. But that’s a post for a later time.

Napa Valley

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Touring the Wineries

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Cousin Pam does her Vanna impressionPicture 336


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Going to San Francisco

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Queueing up for the ferry 

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Mama was given a front row seat on the ferry. She had never seen the ocean. The San Francisco Bay was beyond anything she could ever imagine. “Is ALL that WATER??” she asked. She couldn’t believe her eyes.

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View from the ferry

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It’s cold in San Francisco in the summertime. Mama didn’t believe it till she got off the boat. Cousin Pat helps her on with her coat. Mark Twain once said that the coldest winter he ever lived was the summer he spent in San Francisco.

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So where we going from here?

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Visual wonderland of Pier 39; walking through the looking glassPicture 794


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 Restaurant overlooking San Francisco Bay from Pier 39

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View framed by restaurant window.

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A view of Alcatraz and sailing boats seen from our window. Do you see the irony of the unfettered freedom in the foreground as opposed to the prison rock in the background?

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The sea lions of Pier 39’s K-dock

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On the return trip back across the bay, Joan watches Alcatraz recede through cloud and mist.

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The whole crew together as the day draws to a close

Thank you Aunt Bev, and Pat and Pam, for some wonderful memories. Mom passed away two years ago today, July 30, 2011. Her brother Marrell followed a year later. Back in 2009, we said our goodbyes in his driveway. As he hugged us he asked for a picture together, because, he said, we’ll never meet this way again.

Thank you also to my precious daughter-in-law Tammy, who gave me this song to finish up our memories, a song that asks for a brief moment of time in a place more beautiful than California.


8 thoughts on “Mama’s First Flight At Age 84 — and California Dreamin’

  1. A wonderful trip down memory lane for you. What a wonderful trip to take your mom on! My Mom is 83. For her 80th birthday, my sister and I took Mom on a three-week trip around Utah, western Colorado, and the Grand Canyon, We had a fantastic time.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Mike and I “traveled” with you and your mom and sister on your tour. I couldn’t get over how your mom could get around. I’m 65 and barely creeping around. Of course, I’ve had a few setbacks to contend with, but I hope I’ll have ’em licked before Mike retires in a year and a half. We plan to do what you’re doing, God willing. Mike reads all the travel logs and workcamping blogs and brings me up to date on them. I’m so glad you and your mom and sister got to share those experiences. And thank YOU for sharing your story.

  2. Oh, I LOVED this story and the photos. How wonderful that you took your mother on this trip. And what a wonderful trip it was.

    My mother saw both oceans a few times, but she never flew. She’d been to airports pretty often though to pick me up when I’d fly home to Ohio from NYC. But she saw A LOT of the country by car. My step-father was a high tension line expert and would go all over the USA as a trouble shooter for various utility companies. They had a big, powerful Mercury and pulled a really nice Airstream everywhere they went. That’s how I ended up being rainsed by my material grandparetns. Life on the road wouldn’t have been a proper life for a kid who needed to be in school. I’d have been changing schools every couple of months throughout my childhood.

    Here’s my mother’s high school graduation photo in 1929..

    And here’s her older sister’s, Josephine, for whom I’m named, in 1918.

    I think they both look much older than high school seniors do today.

    And yours truly, age 6. You gotta love those little Chicklet teeth. LOL

    I have my SYTYCD notes ready whenever your post about this week is ready.

    • My Goodness!! Your mom was drop-dead gorgeous!!! I love these old pictures!! Your mom’s sister was pretty, too. My mom’s brothers and sisters were so good-looking that when I was talking to one of their schoolmates a few years ago, she said how all the girls, including herself, were madly in love with the boys. Unfortunately, those genes didn’t come my way. But they were passed on to my children and grandchildren. Too much McDaniel in mine. Yes. I have a few grammar school pictures with those chicklet teeth. I’m not showing you those. Yours looks better.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the “trip” down memory lane with the photos. I had over nine hundred pictures from that trip. I had them pared down to 400 by noon that day, and then the process became excruciatingly slow as I tried to choose which ones to include. It’s a wonder I got it done in one day. But I did have my topic focus — which was mom and the things she saw and experienced. There were some gorgeous ones of the gardens and landscaping in different places, and the quaint shops and buildings in some of those tourist towns in Napa Valley. But since those were not the subject of the post I had to sweep past them.

      Oh, your step-dad and mom’s life sounds so exciting. That’s what Mike and I planned to do years ago when Mike worked in telecommunications. We were supposed to be sent all over the country. It’s what the company in Atlanta promised. But NONE of their promises, including the raises, ever materialized. Mike finally got disgusted with them and quit. We’ve been trying to get “on the road” ever since, but haven’t quite made it, yet. Mike retires in a year and a half, so, God willing, maybe then.

      My cousin Joan who went with us to California, was mostly raised (along with her sister), by our grandparents. Joan’s is an interesting story of pulling herself up by her bootstraps and overcoming odds. She has agreed to let me tell her story when I can get it altogether.

      I haven’t been back to the computer in a couple of days. Had out-of-town friends and Mike has been doing technical stuff on the computer, which means I’ve had to read in the meantime. But the book wasn’t satisfactory. However, Mike had to leave early this morning and now I’ve got the computer to myself — at least until my kids come by later. Will try to get SYTYCD done, if I can get back in the mode.

      Have a good one.

  3. Yes, Mom was pretty, but Aunt Jo was GORGEOUS. Mom had jet black hair, skin like snow and brilliant Paul-Newman-blue eyes…a stunning combination. Jo had an almost angelic delicacy about her even as an adult. Old pics of her make me think of a Jane Austen character. She was still beautiful in her 80s. I’ve always loved this pic of Jo at age 7. My grandmother made all her children’s clothes, including hand tatted lace. She was an awesome seamstress and taught me to sew when I was quite young.

    Frank’s family deserves mention. Here’s his mother’s engagement photo.

    And Frank as a youngster. age 7, I think.

    And at age 5 with his mother. He was already tall like his father. His mother was only 5′ 1″.

    Lordy! I can’t even imagine going through 900 photos. I guess it was a labor of love though.

    I’m looking forward to Joan’s story. Having both been raised by grandparents, we have something in common already.

    • Well, there went another reply down the drain. Here’s to writing it again. Sigh.

      As I was saying . . . I loved the angelic Aunt Jo and paid particular attention to the beautiful ruffled dress. Don’t you wish they dressed little girls like that these days? Mike’s mother made clothes for all five of her children, including the boys, even their suits for church. Later on, one of her daughters made her early living by being a seamstress. Made band uniforms and cheerleader outfits. But Mike can’t remember if his mom did tatting, which is a terribly difficult and painstaking art, though absolutely gorgeous. (As you can see, your shared memories inspired quite a dialogue between us, causing us to dig deep for forgotten memories).

      I also have an Aunt Jo who made her home in South Carolina. Married a SMITH. And my daughter married a smith. So I tip my hat to familial confusion, as if there’s not enough of it in the genealogy.

      Also, Frank’s mom reminded both Mike and me of my cousin Pam in some of the photos.

      If I find a better one without sunglasses I’ll send it. Pam’s mother is second generation Norwegian and they have those genes.

      Frank looks so earnestly young and handsome, like a little European lord. Loved all the photos. All of those 900+ I spoke of were all on computer, and some I could sweep past. And, yes, it was a labor of love.

      I hope you have your pictures in some form for posterity. They are priceless. I have so many from so many different lines, I’ve barely scratched the surface. And there are some which have been given to me from boxes of family photos no one remembers anymore. It hurts my heart when that happens.

      Have a good day, and lots of good memories.

      • What a bummer that you lost your reply to my comment. I either write long comments in Word then paste them in here, or copy every couple of paragraphs and paste them into an email that I send to myself before I hit “Post Comment.” I’m through letting WordPress eat my words.

        I was a cheerleader in high school and my grandmother made all our costumes, too, like Mike’s mother. She even made a tent for my grandfather. Now that was a challenge! Sewing canvas is NOT easy. She also made I don’t know how many dance costumes for me growing up and they were gorgeous. I’d like to learn to tat lace, but I have no idea how/where I’d find someone to teach me. It’s mostly a lost art. I’m not very good at needlework. I can’t crochet or knit, but I can do needlpoint and cross stich if I have a printed canvas/cloth. My Aunt Jo tried to teach me to knit several times, but it just never took.

        So you had an Aunt Jo Smith, too. My grandfather’s mother hated that when she married she acquired such a common last name. She compensated by giving her children unusual names: Rezin Dewit Smith (my gradfather), Percival Marius, Victor Linus, Minerva Victorianna, Rella Minerva and Ivy Louella. Everyone called my granfather Jack….probably because they couldn’t remember Rezin. LOL

        I have a cousin named Natalie Lillian West who married a man named Norman Lyle West so her name didn’t change and she and her husband had the same initials. I dated a fellow when I first went to NYC who had the same last name as my maiden name, but he was a bit of a jerk.

        I can see some resemblance between your cousin Pam and Frank’s mother. Frank’s father was a rich Boston snob lawyer (my description) who was determined to see that his only child was raised “right”. He was sent to private schools then Yale (like his father and grandfather before him), had ballroom dance classes as a child (which he hated and to this day I can’t get him on a dance floor.) Frank’s mother was French Canadian and met Frank’s father when she was working in a fancy gift shop in Boston. Frank’s paternal grandmother was an even bigger snob. For years she didn’t forgive her son for marrying a “shop girl.” The first thing she said to Frank’s mother upon meeting her was, “Well, at least you don’t wear a lot rouge and lipstick.” Frank refers to her as “The Lady Caroline.” Snork! Frank has occasional “snob” moments that are definitely a product of how he was raised and educated. I just laugh at them.

        I don’t have a scanner, but what I’ve done is photograph a lot of the old photo portraits of my family and uploaded them to the computer. I still have many more that should be photographed and uploaded though. .

      • Mike’s mother taught me how to sew and Mike bought me a machine. But my heart wasn’t in it. Too much irritation. Threads snarled, bobbins bobbin off, changing this little piece for that little piece. I can sit down and research family history for hours, plowing through old records, but sewing beat me. I can’t imagine sewing a tent. Did she have to have a special machine? The only sewing I enjoyed, and Mike’s mom taught me this, too, was embroidery. I don’t have the patience for crosstitch – too monotonous, but embroidery was like a jigsaw puzzle where if I put the right colors together in the proper order, I would be rewarded with a lovely picture. I haven’t done it in years. I’ve also wanted to get into scrapbooking, and even bought many of the items (that gets to be an expensive hobby), but haven’t just sat myself down to start it. I like company with that, getting input and bouncing ideas.

        That was interesting about the unusual first names. I’m kind of a name connoisseur, not only for beautiful, poetic names, but unusual ones. I did a story for the paper once on names like that just from our community. One was “Christmas Star”. One of the best ones I’ve found is “Nathan Navada Smith”. My what a ring that has to it.

        I know one or two people who seem to see themselves as lordly elite, whether they actually have the background or not. I met a real English lord once and he was courteous and kind without being condescending. He was interested in the book I was reading called “Sarum” by Edward Rutherford. He was surprised an American was familiar with the old name of that historical place in England. Now I can’t even remember his name. Gads, I hate memory loss.


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