I spent last Sunday running an errand I had been putting off. I didn't mind the errand but I had to go through Corona, California to do it and you have no idea how much I dislike Corona. It's made up of slightly more than 150,000 white people who have sprawled over about 2 million square miles of Riverside county in a wasted attempt to make themselves look like some sort of burgeoning urban metropolis, an oasis in the Inland Empire and a safe haven from all the undesirable folk who populate the city of Riverside, California, which, btw, is nowhere near a river.
The fine folks in Corona think that their (insert noun of your choice here) doesn't stink because they were smart enough to stay away from places like San Bernardino and Riverside which have areas populated by people who live in neighborhoods that look like neighborhoods and not Monopoly boards. I'll admit the people of Corona, and planned communities like it, think they're smarter than the rest of the denizens of the county and they may have something there. Because one really has to be alert at all times in order to distinguish one's own home from the 40 other homes on the block, all of which look JUST like yours right down to the Navajo White exteriors and the annuals planted in the matching flower beds nestled underneath the identical oversized picture windows in the cathedral-ceilinged formal living rooms. These powers of observation must take some skill. Sure, one can continually read the address and find one's home that way, but, after awhile, I would imagine one's neighbors would start laughing as one slows to a crawl and peers nearsightedly at the identical address plates looking for the ONE digit that makes your home stand out from all the others.
I was in a house like that once...you know, Plan B in the "Master Community"? The owner had attempted to inject some of her own personality to the interior, the only place she was able to decorate without getting a variance from the community board. She spent a lot of money (I imagine, I didn't check the bill) painting her rooms a sort of dusty green. Except for the walls she accented with a greyish purple. I think it was stylish at the time but I couldn't help thinking, every time I was alone in the guest bathroom (the one with the cat litter box in it) that the place resembled a bruise. Oh well, there's no accounting for taste, as my granny always said.
A corona, in case you didn't know, is the gaseous stuff that surrounds the sun, and stars. It's also a cigar, and yes, a beer. The people in Corona like the sun and stars analogy and ignore, en masse, any reference to the gaseous part, which, as far as I can tell, is pretty much what defines them. But I don't have to live there, more power to them. There's a Lowe's and several Applebee's and absolutely no charm anywhere and that is why I don't like having to do business in Corona. I'll take Riverside, thank you, even through there are a few neighborhoods you don't walk in at night. At least they LOOK like something. They have the Mission Inn and a lot of wonderful old California buildings that have been there since the late 1800s and they LOOK like Old California. I'll take San Bernardino, with its amazing train station and gravel roads. Of course, those places are populated by people whose native language was NOT English...and thus, the existence of Corona.
Well, I finished quickly and we stopped at the National Cemetery in Riverside and inspected my FIL's headstone (or grave marker, as he was cremated and how does one call it a "head" stone?) and left with mixed feelings. While his burial was handled better than my MILs was (she was cremated, my SIL held no services of any kind and then took the urn with the ashes and dumped my MIL off the side of a party boat on the Colorado River. You think I'm kidding? I'm not even exaggerating!) my FIL did have the aforementioned Memorial Mass and was then unceremoniously shipped to the VA cemetery where he was interred with no further thought. He rests in a newly excavated section (although I know grass WILL show up when it's full) under a standard G.I. marker. It bears no cross, which, I assume, would have cost, as opposed to the government freebie. Now, my FIL may not have been the most honest or ethical guy you ever met...but he was very Italian and very Catholic and his Italian immigrant parents are spinning like lathes at the lack of any religious notations. It's not like the government doesn't allow it, almost all of the stones there have a simple cross in a few styles, or Star of David, sometimes a crescent or the Masonic emblem (what is that? It's a tool, a carpenters level?) and every now and then, something that, while I can't quite describe it, is obviously the Angel Moroni.
So...no religious mark. And no tag line. You know "Beloved husband and father," "Have another drink," that kind of thing? Every time anyone asked him how he was he always answered "Never better" which would have been a very cool thing to put. I've got a hunch that would have cost extra too. In fact, I'm not sure anyone even specified what should have been on the marker, I don't think they gave it that much thought.
We made a stop at the Indian Casino and then headed for home. We decided to conserve precious money and just go straight home and eat late. And THIS is where my day got better. We made a stop for cat food and milk and I grabbed stuff for spaghetti and meatballs, which would cook up quickly.
No, there was no gourmet grinding of the Kobe beef meatballs, I did NOT make fresh pasta nor did I start roasting heirloom tomatoes with the fresh chervil I hadn't picked up at the Farmer's Market I hadn't bothered to go to because I was sitting on my sofa drinking a Sam Adams and watching the Notre Dame-Air Force game. We carried the bags up the back stairs directly into the kitchen. My sons started unpacking the few things. One grabbed the pasta pot and was filling it with water, the other one flipped on the oven to preheat and was dealing the frozen garlic bread slices on a cookie sheet like a poker dealer, someone passed the cat's dish over and I filled it. The three of us worked in a line in my tiny kitchen, grabbing, warming and in 15 minutes we sat down to fettuccine with pre-cooked turkey meatballs simmered in sauce from a jar served with pre-grated Parmesan, a Caesar salad from a kit and the garlic toast from the freezer section. It was hot, we were starving, we were all together, if only in the living room with our feet up, our plates in our laps while we watched a re-run of "Big Bang Theory" and waited for "Pan Am" to come on. It was wonderful.
I didn't ask anyone to help. My sons, both old enough to drink, did as they have done for years, they simply pitched in. They know their way around a kitchen and a grocery store. The fact that I wasn't alone in the kitchen, the fact that it never occurred to them to go in and open their laptops while I made what was a very simple supper but stayed to help suddenly made the entire day worth while. I realized with absolute certainty, that I had actually done SOMETHING right.
It's the small victories that mean the most.