Monday, June 18, 2007

Did you know?

Childhood memories, for any of us, are often full of people and memories that are sometimes evoked through tiny little nothings, or what would seem nothings to anyone else….but are very much something to us because of what they represent.

For example:

Driving home this weekend from San Francisco, I was insistent on stopping at the nearest fresh fruit stand, something that will always and forever remind me of Grandma Amaro, who used to show up in Reno with crates and crates of peaches, tomatoes, and cantelope that nobody liked or wished to eat. Did she know that this would forever ingrain in her little granddaughter a love of fresh produce, bell peppers, and tomatoes that now frequently fill my dinner fajitas? Did she know that although my mother was understandably frustrated by her constant ability to show up unannounced from Sacramento ready for a few overnight stays, there were a handful of toe headed heathen children excited at the prospect of a new tub of licorice and extra attention?

My Papa Dan, a jolly, horse riding eccentric character of a grandpa from all of my memories, will always return to my heart when the apples on the farm trees come into season, or whenever I smell Albertson’s fried chicken. Did he know how much we loved his frequent visits to the farm with all of his Big Red chewing gum? Did he know how fun it was to visit Scott Roofing and run into his office where he would proceed to tickle us and give us Fuji kisses?

This Father’s Day I want to tell my Dad of the things I hope he’ll know about us, his children…or about me especially….that I don’t wish to someday be reminiscing on when he is gone. I’d rather tell you now, Dad…all the things I hope you know:

Did you know that I was always convinced I was the prettiest girl during my elementary school years…and my middle school years….okay, okay AND my high school years because you always told me so? Looking back on giant, hair spray matted bangs and crooked teeth, later followed by monstrous braces should have led any girl to settle with the reality that a cocker spaniel had more appeal, and yet I was blindingly unaware because the most important man in my life was convinced it didn’t get better than me. When arriving home with the latest class picture, you would scan over everyone and say, “Very nice, you’re the prettiest though.”

Did you know that I love Nevada? I love the “sage and the pine” of the song I used to sing as a child. I love the lizards and the horny toads, when examined from a distance. I love arrowheads. I love Indian paintbrush. I love the peaceful quiet that settles after hiking far away from home and sitting on a rock overlooking the valley where our little farm is. I love it because you always loved it. I love it because you taught me to love it by always pointing out all the various and ever so interesting botany of the ironically barren deserts. We may have rolled our eyes when you constantly pointed out this and that shrub, but we couldn’t escape the respect that was slowing creeping in and taking over for our Nevada.

Did you know that anytime a political discussion arises in a class or personal discussion, I always wonder what my Dad would think, and am anxious to get your opinion? Did you know that 9 out of 10 times after speaking to you I would then return to this class or personal discussion and repeat verbatim what you had told me and claim it as my own wisdom?

Did you know that hamburger and rice/or potatoes with brown gravy will always make me think of you? And homemade French fries and greasy breakfasts- courtesy of Dad (especially when mom had just had a baby).

Did you know we all love your high pitched laugh, kind of girly sounding and excessively contagious- coming from such a rugged trapper?

Did you know I will always remember the fine, soft feeling of your hair (before you shaved what was left completely off) when Sarah and I would get a cup of water and comb and tell you to lay down because we were going to “do your hair”, something you always acquiesced to as we would tie pony tails and stick your hair straight up while giggling like the 9 and 5 year olds we were? I can see you now lying surrounded by these squealing little girls, with potatoe chips (without the napkin) sitting in a pile on your chest, intently reading a fascinating book on the original roads of Nevada in the year 1867.

Did you know that my image of you growing up will always be of Cabela's lace up brown leather boots, a Slakey Brother's hat, and dirty jeans as you would arrive home in the big white plumbing van. The van that used to drive us to school as the pipes would cling to the point of deafness as we rode with the man who spent so much time dirtying those jeans and installing those pipes to provide us with education and bikes and barbie dolls and cupcakes....cupcakes for my kindergarten birthday party that were tragically thrown toward the windshield and ruined when he braked too hard at a stop sign.

Did you know that your approval was always the thing that seemed to matter the most to me? From all outward appearances, it may seem that I scoff at your beaver hat wearing, bob cat urine/bait trapping lifestyle, your secluded love of curling up with a book and sunflower seeds, your complete disregard for social status or money and even at times social grace, but secretly I often think you are right and if anything: an admirable example of being true blue- through and through. You always reminded me that having Larissa was much better than driving a new car, the government is not responsible for ruling our lives, I better speak respectfully to my mother, and you never cheat in business- even if you can get away with it and make it seem like you're not cheating.

Did you know that your praise, although sometimes few and far between because you aren’t the “mushy” type, has meant more to me and stuck with me more than anyone else’s? Even the praise that has traveled and arrived at our ears through Mom’s sly delivery…when she says, “Did you know the other day your Dad said this about you…?” Your kids may smile and toss their head, but the self esteem barometer shoots about two miles upwards and your words deposit into their Who- I -Am book forever.

Did you know that you actually ARE the “mushy” type? In fact, with older eyes, I now see more frequently the instances of your pure mushdom as you play with my Lily, get upset over your children leaving the house, write Jacob letters, and frequently invite us to come by the house for dinner or to hang out. Or as you phrase it, “Why don’t you come by the house and steal all of our food like you always do?” or "Hey, Mallory and Larissa are home, you and Lily should stop by..." I know you really mean, “I like it when you are here.” You don’t have me fooled. I also know this whole post will probably embarrass you with all its sticky sentiment, and that you probably won't mention it until Mom insists, "Ira Hansen! You better say something to your daughter!" But that's okay, I know you like me. I know you love me. You are both complex and so easy to read sometimes...and although you've never been the fully expressive "I love you I love you I love you" Dad, your actions have always spoken blaringly louder than your words.

Did you know I love you? And not just the forever I am bonded to you through blood and therefore must love you kind of love. It's the self chosen kind after years and years of observation and interaction. I love you Dad, and I really hope you know that above all.


Thursday, June 7, 2007


Tyler said to me the other day,

Ty: "Rae, why don't we start working on the closests this weekend?" (We are California closeting the house- ourselves-we can't afford the California part)

Me: "Naaah, I prefer to wait until my nesting phase to do that."


Ty: "Rae, why don't we get the office set up as a playroom this weekend?"

Me: "Naah, I prefer to wait until my nesting phase to do that."

Even more later, after viewing the Mount Everest pile of clean laundry covering our bedroom floor.....

Ty: "Rae, lets fold the laundry together tonight, I'll even watch Anne of Green Gables with you."

Me: "Naaah, I'm waiting till my nesting phase to do that."

Ty: "Rae, we can't wait until October to do the laundry."

Me: "Why do you have to be so insensitive?"

Sunday, June 3, 2007


It is June. I realize this, but there is so much about the month of May that I missed discussing and I can’t pass up the urge to elaborate on dear “Mother May”. I have coined it as such because Mother’s Day is in May, my mother’s birthday is also in May, I am a mother –and boy am I ever feeling like one- in May, and I think about all mothers in May.

Mother Mother Mother Mother May.

Reflecting on this meaningful month, I had time while lying on the couch for what seems like the last decade to ponder the life lessons of the greatest teacher I have ever known.
I have decided to share a few of this teacher’s pearls of wisdom acquired over my lifetime. If you are under the age of eighteen I strongly advise you to click the little red X button in your top right hand screen: as the female anatomy may unfortunately be mentioned.

Enjoy the 5 Life 101 lessons provided courtesy of Alexis Margaret Ann Lloyd Hansen, my mother:

1. It’s called “Having a sense of propriety.”
Arriving home at the end of a long day, I would frequently plop myself on the nearest sofa, and lift one leg over the high sofa arm while watching the tube. My mother would enter the room, and upon viewing the 15 yard distance between my feet as I relaxed, would say,
“Rachel, please sit properly.”
“Why? I’m comfortable like this…”
“It’s called having a sense of propriety.”

When displeased with the latest whateverwasgoingoninmylife I would say, “This is a bunch of crap. I’m pissed.”
“Rachel, we don’t say crap or pissed.”
“I don’t care what we say! What’s the big deal?”
“It’s called having a sense of propriety.”

At the current social gathering we attended, my mother would always insist we immediately go and politely either introduce ourselves or greet the main hostess/host, or even more uncomfortable: befriend the awkward toothless person in the corner standing alone.
“Rachel, go say hello to Sally Suzie.”
“No, I feel dumb. I don’t know what to say!”
“I don’t care, you’re a bright and beautiful girl, just say hello. It’s called having a sense of propriety.”

Recently, I stood in line at the grocery store and was silently enraged at the mistreatment of a store clerk. The perpetrator of this crime hadn’t committed a truly heinous felony, rather she simply didn’t acknowledge the kind clerk’s presence, nor did she say thank you when finished. I’m not sure if the store clerk even cared, however I thanked him sincerely while checking out. Did it make a big difference? No. It’s called having a sense of propriety.

2. Cool is an attitude.

This was one of my mother’s key phrases as we would pull up to our private school in our beige 1985 Jeep Wagoneer with faux wood paneling and missing side window. We weren’t exactly your average private school children arriving in Lexus SUVs. Mom and Dad valued education for us more than a nice vehicle, and since both weren’t an option as we would pull into the school parking lot, my mother would bend down and find us ducking down on the car floor, hiding/hoping/praying not to be recognized. She would firmly proclaim that “Cool is an attitude you guys, not the car you drive!”
Pregnant and cheerful, she would pull away with the two babies in the car seats, after dropping off three children at school, to return home 25 miles away and onto the muddy 3 mile dirt road that led to our house. Nobody was/is/ever will be cooler than my mom.

3. “A vagina is a vagina is a vagina!!!”

These were the words that pierced through the night air of our hotel room in Las Vegas, where my 17 year old self and 4 other cheer-leading friends lie in bed during a cheer competition trip.
“After all girls, a vagina is just a vagina is just a vagina!”
I pulled myself deeper under the covers as I closed my eyes and prayed “God, if this is my time to go, I am okay with it. I have lived and heard all I ever need to hear again. Let me die now. I beg of you.”
This phrase was the culmination of a long tirade provoked from a very amusing tour down the strip. After confronting every pornography vendor on the street trying to pass out inappropriate flyers and giving them a piece of her mind, her concerns later turned to us impressionable, young girls. She, along with every other human with an ounce of moral clarity, could never understand the degradation and exploitation and fascination with the female anatomy.
The discussion on female virtue that night is one that I’m sure none of us will ever forget, and yet with all of its horrifyingly naked wisdom, each of us appreciated my mother’s attempt to “get real.”
And mom, thanks to that conversation, I am confident in attributing those wonderful words to what has kept us all off of the pole. After all, as you said, if you’re not going to value yourself as a woman - and as the soul of infinite worth that you are - then you really can be just another hopelessly ordinary vagina masked in a diamond thong atop bar counters.

4. Make-do

My mom grew up in a trailer park with her single mother who did best to make ends meet. Although she only had dirt for a front yard, she laughingly remembers that she still raked it. Raked dirt is better than ordinary dirt. Growing up, trying to raise 8 children on a single income had its trials. But I never would have known it. Our couch was handed down from Grandparents, the carpet in our basement was bright orange, and my mother didn’t buy herself lots of new clothes. But our couch always had cute throw pillows to accessorize its mustard yellow tweed, our orange carpet was always clean, and my mom always looked pretty. Even when much better financial times came, we still have to remind my mom that it is time for new pots and pans. She is improving with time, but is a forever reminder that there is nothing shameful in making-do with what you have- it is simply an extension of your gratitude for what life has already provided you with.

5. I’m your Mom first, but I’m your friend too.

This is the battle every parent confronts. Should I be the cool/friend parent, or the real parent? We have all witnessed the mother with the same bikini top on with shorts as her 16 year-old daughter. Not okay. We have witnessed the father who laughingly uses the same vulgar language as his pubescent and obnoxious 15 year-old son. Not okay.
We have also witnessed the mother so strict and unapproachable that her now adult daughter has cut all relations due to her awful memories of childhood. Is there a middle ground?
My Mom was always quick to remind me, no matter how shamefully I had behaved, that she still thought I was pretty great. A groundation period would always eventually return to lunch and movie dates together. Shopping for appropriate clothes was sometimes tense, but she still took me shopping. During particularly strained teen/parent times, we still could laugh at jokes and silly situations together. She retained her ability to scold, but never made me feel like she wouldn’t listen to what I had to say. After emerging from the teen years, this relationship has developed into much more of a friendship, the best friendship I have.

In summary, there simply is no summary of the pearls of wisdom from Ms. Alexis. I hope you feel enlightened. For every mother and daughter and friend, just remember: you can be as cool as you want to be when you’re living in a trailer park making due with avocado wallpaper as long as you sit properly and say thank you and never treat yourself as if you were just another ordinary vagina.