The Tijuana Inn, Gardena, California, early 1960s

Writing 101: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!

Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you. Wow, this prompt opens up so many possibilities for me, since I feel like I have lived my whole life around food, usually not in a very good or happy way.

Fortunately, the prompt gave me leeway to talk about any (or all) aspects of a meal that has deep roots in my memory from the food I ate to a description of the place I was when I ate it.  More importantly, I get to include the people who were there AND a reminder from one of my new-found favorite authors, Anne Lamott, who wrote in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life: “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

Nostalgia Photo Challenge

Warning – This post does not contain any photos, just copied evocative velvet art!

The Tijuana Inn, Gardena, California, early 1960s

This was my family’s go-to dining-out spot. I don’t remember much about the Mexican food they served, but I gleefully recall the pats of butter that came to the table with the tortillas. I have been told that I refused to eat as a baby. Healthy eating habits were not a concern for elementary school kids in those days, so what I looked forward to the most when my family of four (Mom, Dad and little Sis) sat down at one of the tables was licking the sweet creamy butter off those little soft cardboard squares, one after the other, and bring me some more, please!

Like the food, the restaurant’s décor has not remained clear in memory, either. I’m pretty sure there were many booths, maybe some of them were round. I think the upholstery was orange pleather, the kind that leaves lines on your thighs after you have peeled them from your seat. I googled the Tijuana Inn, which I knew no longer existed, and found that the old place had gone into bankruptcy before it burned down last century. The entry also provided its location, which brought to mind a memory of a bank of plate glass windows across the front, facing dear old Gardena (or was it Redondo Beach?) Boulevard. Like many family dining establishments, they featured painted-on decorations in December, maybe even “Feliz Navidad” or “Feliz Año Nuevo.”

There is, however, one aspect of the décor that I remember made a big impression on me as a child: a couple of large, almost wall size paintings, which I think were actually the kitschy but endearing velvet kind. One featured what I imagined was an Aztec god or warrior, cradling the limp form of a beautiful Latina in a pristine white dress, and I wondered what their location and relationship were. The other one was of a bullfighter in the ring with an angry bull, and I never wondered what their relationship or location was. I didn’t really want to think about it.

The last clear memory I have of eating there, and just about anywhere else we ate as a family while we all lived under the same roof, was how my parents liked to tease my sister by saying that she placed her orders “from the right side of the menu.” This meant that her selection was always the most expensive among us. Maybe that’s why, even now as a fifty-five-year-old twice-divorced single woman, she’s still looking for a “Sugar Daddy?”

tj inn velvet artbullfighter velvet art

Some good things about AARP

As a retired Old Fart, I now have the time to do a lot of reading, including AARP The Magazine, from cover to cover.  I found an article in the December 2014/January 2015 issue that I thought would do for Old Fart Friday.  It was written by Anne LaMott, whose writing is summarized in Wikipedia as self-deprecating humor and openness and covering such subjects as alcoholism, single-motherhood, depression, and Christianity.

I am not an alcoholic, single mother or Christian, but enjoyed parts of her article inaptly titled “Have a Little Faith” but aptly subtitled “How getting older deepened my belief in goodness … and in myself” which I have excerpted below. Although I do believe in goodness, I’m not sure that getting older has deepened my belief in it.  I agree with Ms Lamott, however, that getting older has deepened my belief in myself.

I was hanging out at the library with two old friends (who know that) sometimes the safety-deposit drawers at the memory bank get jammed. Our backs ache, and nothing has become higher, or firmer, in the past few decades (and) we laughed until the cranky young librarian glared at us.  Getting older has given me more comfort in not knowing the answers. I throw up my hands more often now; I shake my head in wonder at how inscrutable life is. I have finally figured out that “Figure it out” is not a great slogan. My new slogan is “Who knows?”— which leads quite easily to “Who cares?

My vision has blessedly blurred. This is a great advantage when you’re trying to live more spiritually, more expansively, more like Zorba the Greek and less like the Church Lady. For instance, when I sit on my bed now writing on my iPad, the top roll of tummy sometimes creeps over onto the screen and starts typing away. In the old days, upon noticing this unsought collaboration, I would have decided to start a new diet, or to end it all. Now I think, “Who knows? Maybe it’s got something interesting to add.”

I thought when I was younger that faith was about the confidence to say the great Yes to my own deepest desires, and that is true, as far as it goes. But a deepening faith has also shown me that it’s OK to say No. Plus, it has shown me that the word “No” is a complete sentence. This realization led to the single most important life lesson of all: No one over age 55 ever needs to help anyone move again if they don’t want to. Our job now is to help younger movers, with their strong backs and SUVs, by bringing over sandwiches and Cokes. Period.

I have grown better at recognizing when I’m the one in need of forgiveness. Most surprisingly, though, I have finally learned to forgive myself for most of my disappointing character traits and iffier decisions.

Laughter leads to more loving feelings. And as we age, we laugh at ourselves more sweetly. Yesterday, for instance, my left eye suddenly began to hurt for no reason. I instantly assumed I had inherited my mother’s glaucoma, or ocular shingles, and that it most certainly would lead to a glass eye and a guide dog. And this was all in the 40 seconds before my eye just as suddenly stopped hurting. I sighed. Then I patted myself gently, as I would a friend, and said, “There, there,” and went to make myself a cup of tea.