I’m 30,000 feet above the Earth as I’m beginning this week’s story, on my way home to Sacramento. My visit was a quick-in, quick-out trip to help celebrate the 80th birthday for my wife’s mom. Although it was a quick visit, it was a productive visit, a lot was accomplished.
For one, I got to satisfy a couple of culinary addictions. Namely:
Frisch’s Big Boy – #2 son had made the trip in from PA with my grandson and Corey, (#2 son), always loved going out to their breakfast buffet bar when we lived in Ohio. Before I departed for the Dayton Airport, I also got to enjoy their Big Boy sandwich, (I prefer mine with extra pickle and sauce), as well as a bowl of their chili (yummy).
Milillo’s Pizza – how can a Hamiltuckian not partake of their wonderful pizza when in town? I ask you! One of the first missions I accomplished in Sacramento was to find the pizza joint whose taste reminded me most of Milillo’s. Just in case my body starts to go into spasms from a lack of their taste, I always know I can drive to nearby Carmichael to a place called Roma’s.
Penn Station – and lastly, yeah I know it’s a Philly chain sandwich joint, but my wife and I both go crazy over their artichoke sandwich. Can you tell I’m really hungry right now as I’m watching the airplane’s snack cart get closer and closer to me all the way back here in row 38?!
Side note: Row 38 is the very last row in the plane for this 4 hour flight. As with most things, there are positives and negatives associated with the last row. For one, there is no lean-back function in this row so if you plan on booking a seat here, just remember that you won’t get to enjoy that extra 2 millimeters of luxurious reclining. Of course a big positive to sitting way back in Row 38, (especially an aisle seat), is that you will have a constant eye on that tiny little green “vacancy” sign on the outside of the restroom locking mechanism. No need to count the visitors walking back and forth to the restroom in your quest to make a trek back without having to stand in the aisle, waiting for a vacancy – no, you’ll get a birds’ eye view and can hop up at your leisure. Naturally there’s a negative back here too and that is the occasional wafting of the aroma. No Glade room deodorizers back here. On the flip side however, if by chance you had happened to have chili for lunch, (like I did), there’s no need to hold in a potential bout of body gases and no fear of being singled out or pointed at – it’s the restroom’s fault!
I also had an opportunity to visit family. On my side, a few of us siblings were able to meet on short notice at a local dinner establishment. I hadn’t seen a couple of them for a number of years. Of the original nine, five of us siblings had been free. My niece April and my son Corey had made it there as well as a few of the kids’ kids. Afterwards, we gave Corey the night off so he could go spend the night with his best friend from high school. This ended up being fortuitous in that it reminded us of how we were glad to be at this stage of life without little ones in the house, (our grandson was taking the opportunity to throw a bit of a tantrum). The following morning Kim and I took a trip with Bryce, (our grandson), out to my mom’s condominium for a short visit.The family visiting part of the trip climaxed that evening with Kim’s side of the family all getting together at her mom’s favorite Italian restaurant, (Buca di beppo). At first we thought we were going to spend dinner in the ‘Pope Room’ but it turned out to be far too tiny for our group of 18 so we moved next door to a much more open seating arrangement. Twist my arm for Italian because it is my favorite ethnic food. I am a sucker for good marinara sauce. The evening got pulled off without a major hitch, (other than my son’s playing with a coffee creamer – he found out what happens when you attempt to perform a packaging stress test while the package is full of cream). Fortunately, he ended up getting the majority of the dairy product on his face and not mine….apropos given he works in the dairy industry.
And at this point I guess that would bring me to the whole point of this story anyway. On this departure day, I had a six pm flight so earlier in the day, Kim and I took a walk around our old stomping grounds; Brookwood subdivision, where Kim’s parents live and where we lived in the very first non rental house. It was a beautiful day – sunny, moderate 55 degrees and slightly breezy. Kim and I used to take quite a few walks there while pushing Corey in the stroller, Mitch leading the way on his bicycle.
How many walks together have Kim and I taken together in our 40 years? A thousand? Ten thousand? These days I have to protect my left knee so I will often lean towards a bike ride, (prescribed by my orthopedic doctor), but I never get tired of the warm feeling I get when I’m walking with Kim. Most times I’m very quiet and I’m sure she might wonder at times what I’m thinking about in my personal solace. Well if you’re reading this baby, 9 times out of 10 I’m likely just savoring the moment, thanking the gods for giving us so much quality time together. The other one out of ten times I’m probably just mentally singing a tune to myself, one stuck in my head (you know how I love music).
Anyway, the subdivision hadn’t changed much at all, at least in the past 30 years since we’d been there. Pace Park was still there. The creek was still there. That house on N. Washington near the park, the one we once looked at and decided we could not afford, still looked the same. Even our little house at 217 Brookwood was still yellow, still the only yellow house on the street. The only difference we spotted was that a number of houses had temporary handicap access ramps. This reinforced for us that quite a lot of people there were ‘dug in’, lifelong residents. Some lawns and sidewalks were well manicured and many were not, but all in all, it still looks like a comfortable place to live.
When I wasn’t chatting with Kim about what we were seeing, I was thinking about our many hikes, especially the hikes taken together as young teens. Hamilton has a few creeks here and there running through the town. If you drive through the town, you’d never know this. But if you grew up here, as we did, then the local creeks were a very important part of your childhood and teen years. In some ways, I guess you could say the creeks were one of us kids’ social medias. If you went creeking, (hiking in and around the creeks – this should be a real word Webster), often you’d run into another group of kids doing the same thing. Sometimes we’d stop to maybe ‘post on their walls’ and other times maybe we’d just stalk – look at them without chatting.
There wasn’t really that many different activities while creeking. You had your rock skipping. You had your boulder tossing in the effort to make a big splash in a small puddle you found. You had your contest of walking through the creek only on the rocks, trying not to touch water and trying to avoid those rocks that could be ankle breakers. You had your occasional frog, tadpole and minnow catching contest. And of course there was always the crawdad catch contest. (Little did I know that years later they would become a favorite dish of mine while living in Louisiana).
But the creeking activities were really just ancillary. The big deal really was all about the journey itself – how far could we go and what would we see and do that day? Would we make any memories this day? Would someone fall in that day and become the butt of the day’s teasing? Would we see something unique that day? These questions were never posed to us, nor spoken out loud but they were instead, part of our DNA. Kids of our generation were all just natural explorers. Every day was an adventure.And we never got too old or too ‘grownup’ or too cool to go creeking or hiking. I’m sure I’m not alone in my fond memories of Hamilton hiking. If it wasn’t our creeks, maybe it was our rail lines. Every now and again we’d go “walk the tracks” to see where they led to, always knowing we could easily find our way back home simply by turning around and reversing course. No compass was needed for those trips.
I even saved the life of Kim’s sister once on one of these railroad hikes. Kim thinks I’m crazy or confusing my memories together, but I swear I have a memory of walking the tracks with Kim, her sister Traci and I want to say one or both of her brothers when a train came along and I had to hustle Traci off the tracks. We joked about Rob saving Traci’s life. There really was little danger, plenty of time to get across the short trestle we had been crossing, but Traci is world renown for her lack of blazing foot speed. Perhaps I am confusing this memory with some of my Prytania peeps, but it’s definitely a fond memory so I’m keeping it as it is.
Oh, and lest we forget the infamous activity – coin smashing? What? You never placed a coin on the tracks when you heard a train coming? Only on rare occasion would we waste a quarter on this activity, but nickels and pennies were always fair game. We’d try to place the coin as flat and centered on a rail as we possibly could. Coin on rail, train comes, train wheels run over and over and over the coin. If the coin hadn’t gotten flipped off of the rail, you ended up with a very thin piece of metal, perfectly smoothed by repeatedly being ran over by a cazillion pounds of railcar force. Every Hamilton rail hiker must have done this at least once and if we knew we were going hiking, you can bet at least one of us had a penny in his or her pocket, ‘just in case’.
And well, here I am….I can feel the plane beginning its many mile decent after flying over The Rockies and Tahoe. Soon the steward’s voice will come over the intercom, once again reminding us to lift our tables and to remove our comfy two millimeter reclining positions. (Ha! A chore I don’t have to perform in seat 38C).
Writing these little stories usually puts me in a cheerful, nostalgic place. Naturally there’s a piece of me missing those creeks, the wet tennis shoes and my girlfriend’s smile as she’s navigating her way through the creek’s obstacles. But mostly, I’m feeling gratitude; gratitude for being one of the fortunate few couples to have found each other at such a young age. For here we are, together, healthy (for now), with a special shared history and still in love. Every now and then, life CAN be a gift. Hopefully it keeps on giving.
I leave you with this beautiful piece a good childhood friend once sent me:
“And when we grow to be men and live under other laws, what remains of that park filled with the shadows of childhood, magical, freezing, burning? What do we learn when we return to it and stroll with a sort of despair along the outside of its little wall of gray stone, marveling that within a space so small we should have founded a kingdom that had seemed to us infinite – what do we learn except that in this infinity we shall never again set foot, and that it is into the game and not the park that we have lost the power to enter.”
I received these comments in Facebook. It would appear my memory ain’t that shabby after all!
, and praying she made it off in time because the last thing I had seen while sliding down the snowy hillside was the train locomotive bearing down on her and her just not moving and scampering the way everyone else was. Great read this was.
Like · Reply · 1 · November 27 at 11:47am
Kim Pike Wyatt
Kim Pike Wyatt I don’t remember it being close.. but do remember Traci not getting off tracks. You and I were on the same side and Rob and Traci was on the other side of the tracks.
Like · Reply · 1 · November 27 at 5:22pm
Scott Pike It was to close to call seriously.