Chapter 2: RANCHO BERNARDO, CALIFORNIA (Part 5)
We’re farther inland here than we are at home, so the day breaks bright and sunny; a bit tan, but still bright. The sun peeks through the small crack separating the two sections of curtain. The slant of ochre yellow falls directly on my face. It’s like something from a dumb sci-fi movie, a weird invention designed to gently awaken people but so ill conceived people despise it as a nuisance.
I rise, shower, and dress, all quietly. Everybody is sleeping blissfully when I leave the room for the all-purpose restaurant off the lobby. I order a coffee and carry it to a bench under the porte-cochere. It’s six and cool. I lean back, sip, and watch the traffic coursing Ball Street. Everyday life begins early in Southern California. That I learned our first week, when Richard rose an hour before he usually had in Cranbury, and the girls’ school bus arrived a half-hour earlier. The streets of Rancho Bernardo bustled for an hour with joggers and bikers and school kids and commuters; and then, suddenly, the world turned quiet and peaceful around eight.
I watch the cars whiz past. Ball Street is a misnomer, I’m thinking, more highway than street, like every other so-called street in the state.
The sky is peculiar this morning. I know morning skies, rising early at home to rouse the girls for school, to fix their lunches and their breakfasts, and to steal a little time for myself and sit on the patio; morning skies are palettes of purples and violets and reds. But this Anaheim sky is dusty blue, a palpable ceiling. And the cars, instead of humming, they thump, thump, and occasionally whoosh.
Those cars, they grab my attention. One person, one car. Occasionally, two; though never more than two. Lots of women driving alone. I wonder what they are leaving and where they are bound. Are their husbands like Richard, or have they snared themselves better specimens? Are their jobs interesting, fulfilling, positions their husbands respect, that make an important contribution to the support of the family? I’m wondering why I’m not one of them; and that I could be.
When I return to the room, the girls are up, sitting cross-legged in front of the television, like little campers around a fire enthralled by the storyteller’s tale. They watch too much television, hours spent absorbing images that encourage them to crave things; that inculcate them with the idea things are good and the objective of life. Richard, sprawled over the bed, sleeping soundly, probably pleased I’ve vacated the premises, agrees with the messages broadcast by advertisers; he’s an accumulator, a man who judges people by their possessions.
“All right, girls,” I say, “let’s get ready, so when Daddy wakes up he can have the bathroom.”
Samantha and Emily whine that the cartoon images flashing on the screen are their favorite movie. I glance and see it’s a Disney epic. Disney owns the kid world and we’re at the center of the Disney vortex, the singularity where it all began, emanating an irresistible gravitational attraction. I’m laughing lightly and distract the attention of the girls, who are probably puzzled that I seem to find the plight of Bambi—that’s what has captivated them, I see when I look closely—humorous.
The commotion wakes Richard. He shuffles back, leans against the backboard, and stretches.
I ask, “How about I take the girls down for breakfast while you get ready?” I’m sure he won’t mind, and maybe even prefer time alone. It’s how he lives his life these days, by himself. But Samantha and Emily protest.
He thrusts off the bed. “I’ll be ready two shakes,” he bellows, allowing his wrists to go limp and shaking them as he skips into the bathroom. Samantha and Emily giggle and glance at me for my reaction. My smile is as limp as Richard’s wrists. They are satisfied. Inside, I’m fuming at Richard’s uncharacteristic cooperation, his newfound family man behavior. What has me seething is that he is Superdad spending a super weekend with his family showing off his super income and demonstrating he is an all around superman.
Breakfast is a buffet, a whirlwind of eating at the insistence of Richard who likes getting his money’s worth. I fear the girls are overdoing it and the entire affair will come to roost in the middle of Fantasyland. I urge caution to no avail and earn a scowl from Richard: what a party pooper.
Thankfully, the girls are fine in the park. If anything, their breakfast has energized them, and Richard, too. I, the sensible eater, the person who consumes healthful fruit and the prescribed minuscule cup of dry cereal and skim milk, I am depleted in an hour and weeping inside for the sun to set, for the agony to end, for live to revert to normal, however abnormal it might be. Finally, in the early afternoon, it is I who throws up her hands and begs for the mercy of a quiet, air-conditioned room. The girls frown and groan and fuss, until Richard deposits me at a table in a café, buys me a drink, and takes the girls off for more fun. They retrieve me an hour later, welcome my return to the fun fold, and off we frolic, until Disneyland closes, and we’re all sick of it and happy to be leaving, me hoping never to return again.