A Heat Wave of Memories in Gnashville

It is around 110 degrees today in Nashville.

My brain is not working well in this heat, but my mind keeps taking me to the beach.

A cold beach, with cold drinks, a good book and a big umbrella.

The Gulf of Mexico is only a day’s drive from Nashville. My dad’s family is from that area and we’ve spent many vacations frolicking in the waters there.

I was only three, but I remember the first time I saw the ocean. My brothers and Dad took turns tossing me in the air and catching me as the waves came in around us. I clung to their necks and everyone laughed.

Well, Mom didn’t laugh so much. She was bobbing around in the water and fussing at the boys to stop playing “football” with me.

Vacations should be all about laughter and fun.

And respite.

Vacation- a time of respite

Respite- a short period of rest or relief

In the summer of 1968, things were crazy in America with rioting and protesting, the war in Vietnam and a general feeling of unrest.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy had been assassinated that spring.

While I was living my little kid life, my brothers were teenagers and I could sense their anger and confusion. It was a dark cloud that hung not only over our household, but over our country.

My parents decided we needed respite.

They packed up the old station wagon and we drove 65 miles south to Henry Horton State Park where we spent one of the last vacations we took as a family of five. We stayed in a cabin and shared a full week of time together. We had no phone, no TV and no air conditioning.

John and Libby Lu – sib’s

We fished, explored the park on foot, sketched pictures, read books and just sat around and did a lot of nothing.

Underwood Deviled Ham, peanut butter, and bologna salad sandwiches were the meals of choice that week. For a treat, Mom had packed Devil’s Food Squares, Oreos and Fig Newtons.

My Dad loves Fig Newtons.

We drank Nehi Grape Soda and, much to my mother’s dismay, my brothers had extreme belching contests. (Gary was usually the champ.)

Every night after dinner we played Yahtzee or Hollywood Rummy at the kitchen table as we passed around the popcorn bowl.

What a simple reprieve in the middle of a tumultuous era. For seven days we forgot the world.

That was forty-four years ago, but that vacation is etched so deeply in my memory.

 It is mind-boggling to think of what has gone on in the years since. I could go off on the serious stuff; the friends my brother’s lost in the war, the drug era, the broken lives, but I will not.

Instead, I’m going to stick with vacations.

Respite is the key. Everyone needs a break every now and then, even if it’s just for a day.

This week I took a vacation day while our friends, Dana and Frank were visiting from Texas. I refer to them as Alli’s Texas parents now.

Dana and I go way back, although we have never really spent much time together. I’ll fill you in…

Her parents and my Dad lived in the same boarding house together. It was named A Happy Home so it would have first listing in the yellow pages under the A’s. My dad was in photography school, and one of his boarding house friends introduced him to Mom, whom he married five months later. Anyway, all of these couples hung out together in the early days of their marriages and remained friends over the years.

So, on my day off we got to know Dana and Frank better.

We attended the Sophie Shines Benefit Concert where they got to meet some of our other fun-loving, crazy friends and hear some great music. The highlight was having Sophie sitting right next to our table. Her energy is strong, her smile is radiant, and the love in that room was huge.  (See A Cold Call While Waiting – March 8, 2012) It is clear that Sophie’s life changing stroke and recovery has been life changing for all of us. She was rightly referred to by her father as Nashville’s Daughter. Very true.

Larry, Frank, Dana, Libby Lu and Alli at the benefit concert

We explored our great city with our friends, laughed nonstop and shared lots of stories. Most of them were funny, of course.

What a great mini-vacation.

Between this horrendous heat wave and having a day off, I just keep having flash backs of grand vacations and of stories about other’s vacations.

Before I was born, my parents and some of these same friends from Texas went to the lake for a weekend. On the way, my brother proceeded to stick a potato stick up his nose.

On the way to the emergency room back the other way, miles and miles around country roads, John sneezed. The potato stick was an instant projectile, and the rest is history.

Welcome, The Potato Stick Story to the Leverett Family Archives.

One vacation story my parents love to tell on me is from when I was twelve years old. We were traveling to Mexico via Texas, visiting all the families mentioned above. At every restaurant along the way I ordered the same thing; tacos and a chocolate malt milkshake.

Mom and Dad kept telling me I was going to make myself sick.

Well…

It happened in the middle of a very crowded restaurant.

There was no time to run.

I barely got, “I think I’m going to be sick.” out of my mouth before I tossed a week’s worth of groceries in my plate.

Yes, in my plate.

I can still see the faces of those sitting around us. Forks stopped in mid-bite. People put down their utensils and soon, the area was clear.

Mom was laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes.

Dad looked humiliated.

He left an extra-large tip.

It was the end of my taco and malt phase.

Well friends, I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite vacation photos from our wee family’s vacation to Yosemite (We call it Yo-sa-mighty!) in California.

One of the best days, ever. Larry and Alli when we biked through Yosemite

Time for me to go imagine I’m at that cold beach.

Have a great week, and as we wrote in everyone’s yearbook in 1978, Stay Cool!

Love,

Libby Lu

Priscilla’s Gift

Our friendship feels much older than it is, and began on the first day of class when our children began Montessori school together.

Actually, we became friends while I was stuffing my foot in my mouth.

Priscilla was outside of a classroom with her 3 kids. They were adorable. Since she was Caucasian and the kids had a huge dose of Asian, I was just sure we shared a common thread through adoption. In an effort to connect, I blurted out,

“Three sons. How wonderful!”

She replied, “Toshi here is my only son. These two are my daughters.”

(Sorry, Mika and Hitomi. It must have been the uniform.)

Later, I learned that no, they were not an adoptive family.

Silly me. Yuji, Priscilla’s husband is from Japan.

She still brings up that huge faux pas, and thank goodness she laughs.

We rarely see each other now. Our children all went on to other schools. Life is busy and we don’t live close, but when we do communicate it’s like no time has passed. We pick up where we left off.

Alli and Toshi

When our children were little, we spent many afternoons together at the school playground and attended more than a few birthday parties together. As our friendship grew, we realized just how much we had in common. We joked about maybe being related.

One day in 2001, Priscilla called to chat. It was a normal conversation about what our kids had been up to and the weather, then she nonchalantly asked if we would like to attend the birth of her fifth child.

What?

It was so random that I thought she was joking.

She explained that although the three of us were a family formed through adoption, she knew we were not present at Alli’s birth and had never experienced birth together. She wanted to give this to us.

Why?

Because she could.

And because her heart is the size of Texas.

After discussing, we joyfully accepted this unusual invitation.

Alli was eight years old that summer and she was very excited about witnessing a human birth. We prepared her by supplying her with age appropriate books, by talking about what to expect, and by viewing a Lennart Nilsson film, Life’s Greatest Miracle. (The best I remember, Alli and Lars both fell asleep…)

When we told people about our plans to witness a friend’s delivery, some were shocked and let us know that it seemed odd.

I just smiled. I knew something that they didn’t know.

This was a selfless gift.

When the big day arrived, Priscilla called and suggested that we mosey on over to the hospital. Alli had slept in her clothes so she would be ready to go at moment’s notice. We were at the hospital within a half hour.

While waiting, the conversation ran from Sun Myung Moon, to parenting, to life on the Eastern Shore, to sushi, to baby names, and then back again.

The nurse explained things throughout the day. She showed Alli how the baby’s heart monitor was attached to its head, and how wires were placed inside the uterus to measure contractions.

The baby kept pushing its bottom upward under Priscilla’s ribs. She invited Alli feel the baby move. Our child was fascinated.

We were at the hospital for over eight hours before the baby came and Alli never once complained. Her attention span and patience were amazing.  She was so curious and glad to be taking part in the birth that she was totally consumed by it. The only fussing she did was when we’d take a break. She didn’t want to miss the birth.

When we returned from dinner, there was a quiet reverence in the room. It was time. The lights had been dimmed and Yuji stood beside Priscilla, their pinkies clasped. We three stood close by in silence, huddled together with our arms around each other. It was a sweet prelude to the major event.

The quiet room suddenly became busy with activity. The nurse ran around setting up the equipment needed for the delivery. She called the doctor to let him know that it was time. Another nurse was writing down information. The anesthesiologist came by to check on Priscilla’s pain level. The doctor arrived.

He looked suspiciously at our young daughter and asked if we were all comfortable with the situation. We were.

At five-forty-five the three of us were once again standing close together as one, only a few feet away from the doctor. We were looking at the baby’s head.

Tears welled up in my eyes. I felt Larry’s chest heave. I glanced at Allison’s little face. It was full of wonder and awe like I had never seen before.

It all happened so very fast. Priscilla gave one final push and there he was…a new human. As the doctor held him up, baby Yoshinori cried at the surprise change in environment.

I cried.

Larry cried.

Priscilla cried.

Allison gawked.

Yuji grinned.

It was priceless.

The doctor handed Yoshi to Priscilla, and the scissors to Yuji. We watched as he cut the cord. The nurse explained the protective skin coating. She showed us the three important arteries within the umbilical cord, and held up the placenta explaining its importance. The nurse then asked Alli to assist her in taking Yoshi’s footprints. ☺

Alli and Yoshi

I glanced up at the clock as Alli then took her turn to hold Yoshi. He was less than twenty minutes old and in the arms of his friend. Astounding!

Larry, Alli, Baby Yoshi, Priscilla and Yuji

I can’t really explain this adoptive mom’s heart. I’m not sure that other adoptive mothers who were not present for the birth of their children even feel the same things that I do. But I had a tiny sadness, a longing to participate in childbirth, a little hole in my heart for something I had missed with my child and my mate.

Priscilla, you knew this. I don’t know how, you fertile mother of five, but you did.

Thank you for giving the world your wonderful children, and for healing the hole in my heart.

Love,

Libby Lu