Captain's Log, Stardate 02.02.2009
RV There Yet?
Life's a journey. Midlife's an adventure. But two weeks in a RV with the hot-flash sisters could drive anyone over the hill.
Dede signed on for this cross-country RV trip selflessly, for Millie and Lydia's sakes. Besides, she needed to get her mind off a love gone wrong and a demanding gourmet chocolates business. And it's for a good cause--sprucing up the old summer camp in Colorado to save it from closing. It will be a fun, memorable last hurrah before she turns fifty. Right?
But Dede's more of a luxury hotel kind of girl. She likes mints on plumped pillows and room service. Bunking with friends in a motor home the size of a phone booth is not her style. And with the mysterious biker gang and a stalking ex-boyfriend, the RV seems to be shrinking.
Still, with friends, a boutiful supply of truffles, and a boy from her past who has aged very well, this trip might be the best vacation ever!
A hilarious story that celebrates the life in midlife--even the occasional moose and mosquitoes--and the surprising grace of God.
Excerpt of chapter one:
Remind me again. I left a shop full of chocolates behind, why?
Okay, that's lame. I mean, as a chocolatier I'm surrounded by chocolates every day. Truffles, caramel pecan patties, cherry cordials, chocolate-covered pretzels, mints. A myriad of textures and tastes. One would think I'd be sick of the rich, decadent scent that greets me every morning and causes me to drool like an old lady after a George Clooney sighting. Truth be told, I could use a break. Besides, friends mean more than chocolate.
And why is that again?
When I see Lydia Brady running out of her house dressed in jean shorts and a plain pink pullover, the breeze blowing her wavy, shoulder-length hair away from her green eyes and flour-speckled face, I remember.
Chocolate comforts me for a moment, but friends encourage me for a lifetime. Close friends. Friends like Lydia Brady and Millie Carter.
We've stayed in touch since our camp days over thirty-some years ago. It's true that at one point we dwindled down to a Christmas card, but we reconnected at the camp reunion six years ago and have stayed in touch through phone calls and e-mail ever since.
Since Lydia's husband, Greg, died last November, our bond has been even tighter. We're determined to see one another through the worst and the best of life. In the last six years, our friendship has seen us through divorce, job changes, kids, and now death. Nothing can separate us.
Well, except maybe this RV thing.
After paying the cabdriver, I push open the taxi door, causing it to squawk in protest. Lydia rushes to my side and hugs me fiercely.
"Oh, sorry," she says with a laugh, "I got flour on your pretty silk blouse."
"No problem," I say, brushing it off.
"Silver looks great on you, DeDe, makes your dark eyes stand out. Looks nice with those black pants too." Lydia looks down at her own top, then touches her hair. "I should have dressed better to meet you girls."
"You look wonderful," I say, giving her one more hug.
In spite of all she's been through, Lydia does look good. She's put on a little weight since the last time we were together, but then, haven't we all? It surprises me to see that she's let her hair go gray, but she still looks pretty. Older, but pretty.
'Course, who am I to talk? I have a few more wrinkles-er, uh, laugh lines-than I did in November. But, hey, I laugh a lot.
My luggage rollers squeak as I pull them over a sidewalk bumpy with age and littered with stubborn weeds that have pushed through the cracks.
"Millie should be here shortly," Lydia says, her words coming out in short bursts of air. "I can hardly believe it's been a month already since we talked about this, and here we are."
"Speaking of which, are we sure we want to do this? Could I entice you with a little gourmet chocolate, perhaps, to give up the idea?" Our gazes collide. "I'm teasing here, but then again, maybe not. You, me, Millie, packed in an RV. For endless days?"
Picture sardines in a can. Speaking of which, I've never appreciated sardines. Yet here I am feeling sorry for them. All crammed together in those little metal cans.
"You don't mind, do you, DeDe? I mean, you want to do this, right?" We step inside Lydia's home, and I set the luggage aside. The wrinkles between her eyebrows deepen at the question.
My heart constricts. Lydia, ever the peacemaker. "Of course I want to do this. Would I miss the chance to get together with my best friends?" Well, maybe I considered it, but she doesn't need to know that. And just for the record, David, Tony, Ralph, and George had nothing to do with it. Well, okay, maybe Tony, but only a little.
Her face softens. "I was afraid, you know, because of the RV and all."
"What? Just because my idea of roughing it consists of a hotel room without a view?"
Lydia laughs and leads the way toward the kitchen. "That would be it."
When we step close to the room, we are greeted by a glorious aroma. "Something smells delicious and vaguely familiar."
"I'm not surprised. There's chocolate in the air," Lydia says with a chuckle. "Cappuccino cheesecake with fudge sauce. We'll have some after dinner."
My mouth waters. Closing my eyes, I lift my nose in the air, take a deep breath, then practically start to purr. It's my natural Pavlovian response to chocolate. "I owe you my firstborn," I say.
"You don't have a firstborn," she says with a laugh.
"Well, if I ever get one, you're down for first dibs."
"No, wait. At my age if I ever get one, medical science will want first dibs."
"Oh, you!" Lydia playfully hits my arm. "That's why you're so good at running your business, you know. You're passionate about chocolate."
"How pathetic is that, Lydia? I mean, some people are passionate about world peace, some want to rid the world of poverty,
others strive to wipe out disease. Me? My life is devoted to chocolate."
Lydia grabs some glasses from the cupboard, fills them with ice cubes and tea. "There's a place in this world for chocolate connoisseurs."
"Yeah, it's called a kitchen." The wooden chair at the table scrapes against the ceramic-tiled floor as I pull it out and sit down.
Lydia laughs and shakes her head.
"All kidding aside, chocolate is a serious business," I say in defense of my profession. "Why, did you know that the Aztecs and Mayans were the first to discover the value of the cocoa plant? That's only because I wasn't born yet, mind you, but still."
Lydia chuckles, and I hurry on.
"It was brought into the United States in the 1700s. So it's been around for a while. Lucky for me, or I'd be out of a job." I'm totally enjoying my little wealth of knowledge until I notice that Lydia isn't really paying attention to me. With a glance out her kitchen window, she points.
"You can see Waldo from here," she says.
I walk over to the window to see my new home for the next few weeks. One glance and I suddenly understand that "bucket of bolts" concept. Her RV looks tired. It could spring a leak. It needs assisted living. The tan-colored motor home has taupe and blue horizontal stripes around its midsection. Can we say stretch marks?
Maybe I'll just visit a day or two and go home.
"I know he doesn't look like much," Lydia says, seeming to read my mind. "He is, after all, fifteen years old, but, hey, I'm no spring chicken and I do okay," she says with a laugh. We both look out the window once more.
It surprises me to see Lydia's RV sitting in a pile of weeds. Her lawn would normally qualify for a magazine photo shoot.
"I need to work on the lawn," she says. "Just haven't had the time."
I'm wondering what she does with all her time now that the boys are out of the house and her husband is gone.
Lydia picks up a glass and hands it to me. Then she grabs one for herself. "Let's sit down at the table."
The wooden chairs creak as we settle into them at the bare oak dining room table that used to be laden with tablecloths and candles.
"You doing okay, Lydia?"
Her eyes lock with mine. "I'm fine, really. Greg has provided well for me. My church activities and friends keep me busy. Oh, and did I tell you I joined the Red Hat Society?"
"Is that one of those groups where the ladies are fifty and up and they wear red hats?" I ask.
"That's the one." Lydia laughs. "I'm telling you, those girls know how to party! They even go on cruises together."
"Sounds enticing, but since I'm only forty-nine, I'm not eligible," I say with a wink.
Lydia's left eyebrow arches. "Not a problem. They accept women younger than fifty, but instead of red hats, they wear pink ones."
"Well, there you are," I say, thumping back against my seat. "Won't happen. Pink washes me out."
"You don't know what you're missing." Lydia says the words like a jingle for a commercial.
"Actually, there is a group near my area that I've been thinking of joining. They buy a lot of chocolate from my store. That tells me they're a fun group with good taste. By the time I get back, I'll be fifty, and I can wear a red hat."
"That's right. You were always the birthday girl at camp."
I nod, and we grow quiet, each sipping our iced tea, remembering. The ticking clock on the wall echoes through the room. Lydia studies the cuticle on her index finger. "I still miss him, you know." She lifts a hesitant smile. "Things are so different now."
"I'm sure that's something one never gets over. I mean, losing the one you love."
She waits a moment, as though she's had to mentally pull herself up by the bootstraps. "Well, one thing I know for sure--Greg would want me to do this trip. He always wanted me to go out with my girlfriends." Her eyes take on a faraway look. "Sometimes I wonder if he knew I would have to go on without him one day." She glances toward me, eyes shining again. "You remember Greg. He continually fussed over me. Like he thought I was too fragile or something." She goes to the refrigerator for the pitcher and adds more tea to her almost-full glass.
My heart aches for Lydia. She and Greg had a wonderful marriage, a model family. Now she's alone. True, I live alone, but then, that's all I've ever known. You don't miss what you've never had. Oh, there was the dream of that once . . .
The doorbell rings.
"It's Millie!" Lydia says, barely sitting down before she hops up again. We both rush for the front door. Once it opens, a bright flash greets us.
We're stunned with blindness for a moment.
"Sorry, but I wanted to get your expressions on our first meeting of this trip," Millie says, clicking off the camera that's dangling from her neck.