Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Gypsy & Birddog, Part II

Missoula, MT, 23 December 2007. I had a leisurely morning, still pensively contemplating that I was in the wrong place, still thinking, "I should just stick it out, I said I was going to be here..." But. I didn't want to go home either, and there was this tickling sensation in my mind that seemed to follow a whispered, "Nevada."

I talked to Rob about it and he fed right into my gypsy state of mind by hopping on the computer, mapping the route and checking weather conditions. I hit the road - one step ahead of the weather. It was noon by the time I left and I had a 13 hour drive ahead of me. What, me worry?!

I was already headed in the direction of Sparks, NV when I called my dear friend Nancy and said, "So, what would you and Jim think about me showing up on your doorstep for Christmas?" She merely laughed and said something like, "Yeah, right. Wouldn't that be nice..." So, I replied, "No, really. I'm on my way there, but I won't get to your place until 1 a.m." I think I heard a collective whoop from the Sherman clan at that point (she always puts me on speaker phone). "C'mon then! I'll keep a light on!!!" exclaimed a suddenly ecstatic Nancy (aka Nana, aka Tonto, if you ever read any of the comments on my blog).

Then I got to thinking, why stop at Sparks? I could go all the way to Las Vegas and have Christmas dinner with Timothy. So, I called him and said, "What would you do if I showed up for Christmas dinner." T-man sighed and said, "Yeah, wouldn't that be nice. I wish you could be there." I said, "I'm saying I will be there. I'm on my way to Sparks right now." I had a tough time convincing him that I was serious, but I finally did. So, the plan solidified into spending Christmas Eve with the Sherman clan and then heading on to Vegas (a 6.5 hour drive from Sparks) on Christmas morning.

I felt so damned good, and so incredibly free. I can't remember the last time I did something like that entirely on a whim. This is how I want my life to feel all the time... no ties, no boundaries, no binding schedule, and full of people waiting with open hearts and doors. Yeah, I blew my gas budget (well, my budget in general) to shit, but it was well worth it.

I made my way through the glorious Rocky Mountains, down through Idaho and into Nevada. It was a beautiful drive and the road gods were with me all the way. (Never once during any of this trip did I have to deal with inclement weather.) There was plenty of snow along the way, but none at all on the road. Still, it was an ambitious drive - by 9 p.m. I was more than ready to be off of the road, with four hours of driving yet to go. It helped that I was in Nevada at least and somewhat knew the terrain. I told Nancy that when I got to Fernley, I thought, "Yay, I'm almost there!" But, I tell ya, that last half hour drive from Fernley to Sparks took forever. I very nearly cried when I saw the exit for Vista Blvd.

True to her word, the light was on, the door was open, and my sidekick, Tonto was waiting up for me, faithful as ever. Let me just say, at the end of a very long road, this is the face you want to see. I know she's going to blush and say, "aw shucks," but I speak truth when I say my friend Nancy is one of the top ten most beautiful people in the world - and it shines from inside. I don't know when I've met anyone with a bigger heart. (I'll stop now, or she'll never let me come back!) The dogs, Maxie and Patches were exuberant as always at the prospect of a guest... of course, Maxie would just as soon knock ya down and lick ya to death as let you in the door.

Did I go straight to bed? No! We stayed up until 2:30, just shootin' the shit. Finally, I said, "I think I need a nap." I had been forewarned that I'd be sharing a room with Kyia (Nana's 18 year old granddaughter), and Kyia's pet rat, Izzy. (Oh, don't you dare shudder and say, "Ew!") I crept up the stairs, into the dark room, felt my way to the air mattress that had been so nicely prepared for me, and literally collapsed. I never even heard Kyia get up and get ready for work in the morning.

Most of Christmas Eve day, Nancy and I just spent yakking at each other - we're good for it. Poor Jim, he must stuff erasers in his ears when I'm there. What do we talk about? Gosh. Everything. Anything. Nothing. But we make each other laugh like nobody's business, and often do so through tears. Her daughter Mandy called from the Netherlands and I got to wish her a very merry (I got to meet Mandy when I went to Sparks for her 40th birthday party in August). I also got to visit for a bit with Brandi (Nancy's daughter and Kyia's mother) and her husband Dave, and their other daughter Katie. I very briefly got to see Becky (another daughter of Nancy's), and her daughter, Pauli. I got to spend a little bit of time with Robin (another granddaughter of Nancy's from yet another daughter, Dotty). Robin is a great friend of mine too - she calls me her crafting guru (You've learned well Grasshopper. Take the pebble already and run with it!). She stopped by and opened her mystery gift. The sign you see was made by Jim (great representation of his fine talent for decals).

It was a fantastic, fun, relaxing day. I put the finishing touches on it by offering to make a bit of a Hungarian feast for Nancy and Jim's Christmas Eve dinner. I made Paprikas Csirke, Gomboz, and Piros Kaposta. That particular dinner always brings back a sweet nostalgia for me. To make any kitchen smell like my Grandmother's is an honor. To be allowed to imbue the air with a scent that whisks me away to another country, is a rich gift.

Here I am, perhaps contemplating the luscious mystery of good paprika (the good stuff is way more than mere decoration for deviled eggs!)
...or maybe I'm just swearing in Hungarian.

The finished product.

A few other pictures to share...
Jim, getting his head washed by Maxie.
Cracks me up every time I see it happen.

Patches doing some deep inspection on a ski boot.

Nana and Kyia.

As Nancy said, her household is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're gonna get. I couldn't agree more, but would add that, like chocolate, it's always sweet, rich and nutty, often crammed full and very easy to love. The Sherman clan puts the FUN in dysfunctional.

To be continued...

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