I’m Going to California

When I Come Back I’ll Be Tired

I’m going to California
When I come back, we’ll be married
What do you want me to bring you?
She answered:
A hat with a crooked crown,
A pair of high-heeled shoes…

Those are the opening lines to Kaleponi Hula by Bina Mossman, one of the great hula writers of the early 20th century, words which were forever imprinted into my memory by my junior high school gym teacher, Miss Karp, many years ago.

For reasons unknown to me and I am sure unknown to the dozens of other half-formed girls clad in white bloomers more befitting the 1930s, right down to the names we were forced to embroider over the breast pockets, we were required to learn this hula down to the last hand gesture in the confines of the basement gymnasium of Grover Cleveland Junior High School in Caldwell, N.J. To achieve the proper island spirit, we removed our regulation footwear and performed in our regulation athletic socks. The effect was dramatic, I am sure. I do not recall the Board of Education supplying grass skirts.

I do have a point, and I will get to it, but I intend to make you suffer through my story first.

Once we had sashayed through the hula for a few weeks, rather than moving on to basketball (which in those days was restricted to three dribbles before we were forced to pass the ball, and no crossing the center line—really!) we switched over to a unit on square dancing, all of which I have forgotten, except for one horrible day where we practiced a gigantic round of galloping around the gym with a partner, linked arm-in-arm in some sort of two-step pattern. I don’t recall who my partner was, but let’s call her Barbara, mostly because I had a very nice friend named Barbara who very well could be reading this, and why not bring a slight blush to her cheeks right now.

In this gymnasium there was some sort of semi-permanent metal contraption for doing chin-ups attached to the floor smack-dab at 90 degrees along one of the side walls, which they probably removed for the boys’ basketball games, but not for the silly girls’ gym classes, and we had to gallop/square dance around it at full speed in a long column. Miss Karp carefully blasted her whistle at us full throttle every time before we started to remind us about it, but once you got galloping and thumping, caution was thrown to the wind and I just plumb forgot about those guy wires holding up the contraption and cracked into it, spilling Barbara and me to the floor in a rather artless way, causing many full-throttled whistles and a large pile-up behind us. If the light is just right, I can still find the scar on my shin from the incident, and I believe I had “an excuse” from gym class for three days because of it.

Grover Cleveland Junior High School still stands in Caldwell, N.J., renamed today Grover Cleveland Middle School, its third name. It started out as Grover Cleveland High School, three-quarters of a mile from where the former president was born.

I’ve always been amused that I studied more about the hula than I did Grover Cleveland when I was in junior high, and that’s why I can recite those opening lines to Kaleponi Hula, while CF, who was born in Hawaii and graduated from high school in Hawaii, has never heard of it. (In her defense, she didn’t live there very much in between those two events.)

But the words came crashing back to me—and congratulations, you’ve read far enough to reach my point—because I’m going to California, and when I come back, I’ll be tired. (I’m already married.)

My whole family is going to California because (cue trumpets) (gee, we had snare drum and cymbals not too long ago. what’s going on?) (anyway, cue trumpets) NF’s baseball team WON THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP!!!! Yes, they are the BEST 13-year-old Pony baseball team in Washington state! The way Pony Baseball works is you compete locally, then at district, regional, zone, and national levels. So his team has worked its way through local, district, and regional (undefeated!) levels, Washington being its own region. Thirteen western states make up the western zone, based in California. So it’s off to California for the Western Zone Championship starting July 21, with Washington vs. Hawaii, of all states, in Game #1 at 9 AM.

Pony BaseballHe is very excited, as you might imagine, because not only does he get to play baseball in a very cool way, he gets to go to California with a dozen of his best friends AND stay in a hotel WITH a pool AND get room service AND ignore his parents AND spend all of his money AND go to a major league ball game AND go to Disneyland where he knows his parents will never take him AND buy crappy food from vending machines AND tell the chaperones that we allow him to drink all the caffeine soda he wants AND generally have a great time. Without us. As he should.

CF and I, on the other hand, will find the cheapest flights we can, the cheapest hotel we can, the cheapest meals we can. Not from vending machines. We want NF to know that we are in the stands cheering for him, but we are spending all the dollars on him, not on us.

And that’s just fine. No matter how fancy or plain the hotel, no matter how quick or slow the trip, no matter how long we linger here or there, when we come back, I’ll be tired. Fact o’ life. Anytime I step out of my usual routine, I end up tired beyond belief.

I know I’ve written about this before, and you are probably, well, tired of hearing about it. But you are going to have to read another version of metaphors. Or you can quit here.

Here goes: Your plane leaves in 10 minutes. You’re at the bottom of a long, crowded escalator with a heavy suitcase, wearing a winter coat. It’s a “down” escalator. You need to go “up.” There’s no “up” escalator in sight. No staircase, no elevator, either. You have no choice except to plow into the people on the “down” escalator and fight your way to the top. Did I mention the pulsing lights and the Caroline Karp/Bina Mossman arrangement of Hawaiian favorite melodies playing on the loudspeaker system?

This is what the fatigue is like. It is without a doubt the worst part of this whole stroke/M.S. afterlife. But if you get to watch your son win a state championship, it’s worth it.

And this has been one long blog entry mostly about nothing to do with strokes or M.S. or anything but my old gym experiences and NF’s baseball experiences but we’ll get back to normalcy next week or thereabouts and I thank you for your indulgence this week. As you might imagine it has been a bit fuddling around here, what with winning a state championship and Peggy going home and everything.

P.S. Any of my junior high classmates are encouraged to join me in dancing the hula at 9 A.M. Pacific time to urge on NF’s team. He will be properly mortified.

Grover Cleveland Junior High School

Grover Cleveland Junior High School


7 thoughts on “I’m Going to California

  1. I’m going to California
    When I come back, we’ll be married
    What do you want me to bring you?
    She asked shyly.

    A hat with a crooked crown,
    A pair of high-heeled shoes…
    A petticoat with ____________,
    A short, tight, dress!

    Dance away. Go team!

    • Hi Joan!
      What recall you have. I had to crib the words from the Internet because I could only remember the first four lines. I think I sense a group performance at our next reunion.


  2. I loved that post! I can picture your gym class as if I were there watching right now. At my jr. high, we wore blue bloomers with our name stitched on them. We never hula danced, but I did participate in a modern dance set to the song “We’ve only just begun.” Urggh.

    Big congratulations to NF and his proud parents. That is beyond cool. Totally, completely awesome. Here’s looking forward to more celebrating after the games there!

    • Tournament didn’t go so well. They were out in two games, but they are happily riding the rides at Universal and Disneyland. We’re back in Olyland, letting him spend our money. NF did however get the BEST hit against the team from Hawaii (one of only three hits his team got against them, I might add), a hard hit right up the center over 2nd base.

  3. Wow oh Wow–HOW do you remember all that stuff about 7th grade gym, including Miss Karp’s name. I am so totally impressed! (And flattered to be named in your story, though I suspect it wasn’t me as i have no memory of it, but then again I couldn’t have come up with Miss Karp’s name, soo, maybe it was me…) Super congrats to your son and his team. I’ll be rooting for them from far away Ohio!!! Love to you,

  4. Pingback: A Shoulder To Cry On | Who stole my brain?

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