Thursday, January 28, 2010
“Gladys, if you don’t get a move on, we’ll be late.”
“Jesus, Matthew, keep your damn shirt on. I’ve got everything packed. Where are the kids?”
“In the driveway. Looks like Junie’s strapping Luke in and Mark is putting the cooler in the back of the Suburban.”
“Well, then we better get out there.”
Gladys and Matthew Hansen checked the kitchen one last time before joining their son and daughter-in-law in the driveway on a foggy Friday morning in April on the Oregon Coast. Towering conifers moved overhead as the wind picked up, dripping drops of dew on the anxious family. A little bit of rainwater wouldn’t dampen their spirits. Not today.
When Luke saw them he started squealing. Even at three years old, he already knew he liked having Grandma and Grandpa around to spoil him rotten.
Up for a long weekend from the Bay Area, his parents were scouting out rentals in Portland in case his dad was offered that new job at Nike. But today was a family day. A play day. Daddy was skipping work and Grandma Glad made chocolate chip cookies. They were going to the beach.
“You guys ready?” Mark slammed the back door of the stuffed Suburban closed. The action set off one of Luke’s many favorite toys-that-make-noise in the back. “I can’t believe how much crap we need now for just a few days. It’s insane.”
“It was your brilliant idea to camp on the way up the coast, honey.” Junie laughed as she pulled a juice box and small bag of Cheerios out of her bag for Luke. He squealed again. Motherhood agreed with her, she thought, as she brushed a hand across his long, blond curls. She smiled into his huge blue eyes so like his daddy’s. Her baby was growing up too fast.
The Hansen family was headed for Harmony. An hour south of Alder Bay where the elder Hansens lived, the tiny town of Harmony was famous for its spectacular hiking trails along the bluffs perched over the Pacific Ocean.
They arrived at the trail head to Eagle Beach just before eight in the morning, but there were already people milling around, waking up, snapping pictures, getting a jump on the day.
“Oh, my gosh, it’s so beautiful!” Junie was from Ohio and still wasn’t used to living so close to the ocean. She pulled Luke out of the SUV, but he only had eyes for Grandpa Matthew. Hand in hand, grandpa and grandson walked to the bluff’s edge to check out the view.
The sun was working hard to burn off the last of the morning fog. “I’m running to the facilities, honey.” Mark ran off through the ocean spray blowing through the parking lot to a small building tucked in the trees. By the time he got back, the women were discussing their favorite thing in the world -- babies.
“I just don’t know, Glad. I know I want at least one more, but what if it’s another boy? I want a little girl, too.”
“Can’t choose these things, Junie, you know that. What does Mark here think? Ready to populate the world, son?”
“Not by a long shot, Mom.” Mark laughed and hugged his wife. “Let’s take it one kid at a time, okay, honey? Luke is still a baby. We’ve got time. All the time in the world. Enjoy Luke now; you know how long it took to conceive him. And we don’t even know if we’ll be able to have another.”
“I know.” Junie smiled sadly and looked toward her son standing with his grandpa. “It will be nice when we live closer, though. Just look at them. Two peas in a pod.”
It was easy to read from Luke's body language he was beside himself with excitement as he looked at the ocean below. He was jumping up and down, pointing, gesturing, swinging his grandpa’s hand back and forth. So much life in such a tiny package.
Mark, Junie and Gladys walked over to join Luke and Matthew at the first lookout at the top of the bluff.
The ocean was amazingly blue that morning, the waves full of the scents and secrets of Asia. The switchback trail broke off to the left and stopped about half-way down the bluff at a lookout deck. Some people might be squeamish, but the railing was secure and it was safe as long as no one bore their hiking partner any ill will.
Luke saw his parents and grandma approach, and jumped into Gladys’s open arms.
“I love you, bug,” Gladys said, before getting him comfortable on her hip.
“I love you too, Grandma Glad.”
“We’re heading down,” Mark said as he took his wife’s hand in his. Matthew smiled and ruffled Luke’s hair before following his son down the trail.
“Grandma, where are the whales? We saw whales last time!”
“Well, hang on. . .let’s look. We have some time.”
Grandma Glad and Luke made a game out of looking for the whales, when Gladys realized she’d forgotten her camera in the car. “Luke, baby, sit here on this bench for two seconds while I run back to the car. Grandma forgot her camera.”
“But you need your camera to take pictures of the whales, Grandma.”
“I know, pumpkin. I’ll be right back; the car is right there.” She pointed behind them at their vehicles.
“Okay. I’ll stay here and look for the whales.”
Gladys ran over to their station wagon, which was parked behind the Suburban. Of course, Gladys thought, Matthew moved my bag. After digging first through the back seat, then the back compartment of the wagon, she found her camera case. She walked around the Suburban, waited for a car to pass, and ran back to the bench where she’d left Luke watching for whales. Except he wasn’t on the bench.
She peered over the edge of the bluff and was startled when a small flock of crows took flight, cackling at her as they flew past her head. Gladys noticed dark clouds moving in from the north, then felt the first raindrops dotting her nose. The day was not turning out as planned.
“That little stinker. Can’t wait for Grandma for five minutes? Just like the rest of the men in this family.” Gladys clucked her tongue and headed down the trail.
Matthew, Mark and Junie were at the next lookout. They had spotted a pod of whales, and Junie was trying to time her photos to the exact moment a tail popped out of the ocean.
“Hey. Where’s Luke?” Gladys wasn’t out of breath from running down the trail, but she felt her chest tighten with confusion when she looked around the lookout deck and didn’t see Luke. Ocean spray mixed with rain swirled through her hair and soaked her shirt, adding to the chills creeping up her back.
“He was with you, Mom, at the top of the trail.”
“Right. We were sitting on the bench at the top and I went to get the camera out of the car, but he wasn’t there when I came back, so I assumed he came down to find you guys. He’s not here?”
“No. Oh, my God, let’s go back. He must be up on top exploring somewhere.” Mark stomped up the trail, pissed, thinking Luke went walking off on his own and got lost.
Junie was on his heels, torn between worrying about her son’s whereabouts and her husband’s cloudy mood. Why are mothers always the peacemakers? She could swear that wasn’t in the job description. “Someone probably came by with a dog, Mark. You know how much he loves them.”
“I don’t give a shit, Junie, when is he going to start paying attention?”
“He’s three, Mark! Please!”
“God, and you want another one?”
“That is not fair!” Junie was now pissed at her husband, his insensitive nature always rearing its ugly head at the worst possible moment.
They reached the top of the trail, and while there were plenty of other small, blond boys running around, there was no sign of Luke.
Junie began calling her son’s name. “Luke? Luke! Where are you?”
The waves crashed below them and the trees danced overhead, watching the family call for the youngest Hansen. The adults spread out, into the parking lot, into the small stand of trees next to the parking lot, running, each calling for Luke, their desperation increasing.
But the family’s cries were met only with silence and blank stares from other hikers heading for the ocean trail.
Luke was gone.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Bottom layer: chocolate fudge, middle layer: white with strawberry filling, top layer: white with lemon filling. All made from scratch, all super-deelish.... I made the snowflakes from royal icing, with the larger ones taking nearly an hour to finish. The snow bride and groom were from the photo of the inspirational cake the bride had found, and I re-created them out of fondant and clay. They should be able to keep them for years as keepsakes.
On the heels of the wedding, I met a little girl who has now spent the last week coming to our house in the afternoons as a babysitting client, as well as creating two more birthday cakes for a double birthday on the 23rd:
And of course, when you have leftover cake, fondant and icing... you have to make a melting soccer ball mosaic bubble cake:
But I am back in the saddle again. My social networks are going on the back burner and my manuscripts are back on the front burners... as it should be. I have missed Elliot and Sky and have thought of so many new aspects to E's personality I haven't yet made shiny, and every Brown Coat knows, Shiny is best.
Happy reading... happy writing... kiss and hug your family tight and be thankful you are not living in a tent, spending your days standing in line for water and MREs.