"At least, it wasn't Simone," Sherrill kept saying, as I yanked out the thorns.
At Death Valley, we detoured along a dramatically narrow canyon road between steep orange cliffs. When we reached the end, we found a sign warning about the danger of flash floods in the canyon, but there had been no sign at the end where we'd started. As we drove back onto the main park road, Sherrill noticed that something was wrong with the tires. We limped to the nearest service station.
"All four tires have been shredded by rocks," the mechanic told us. "They all need to be replaced."
Luckily, Sherrill had brought her one and only credit card. It was a learning experience we told each other, but weren't entirely sure what we'd learned--other than to avoid golden cholla and rock-covered roads.
After a few months back home, we decided it was time to take Simone to Hawaii to meet Sherrill's mother, who had moved there a few years before. Nervous about flying with a child not even two years old, we elected to sail both ways on the aging Matson liner, the Lurline.
The voyage from San Francisco started quietly enough, Simone in a crib on the floor of our room. When we took her on deck, we put her in a leash designed specifically for toddlers, so she wouldn't slide under a railing into the Pacific. Sometimes, she wasn't too happy wearing that contraption, but most of the time trotted along contentedly.
One evening at dinner, we sat in a banquette facing out toward the dining room, Simone between us. We didn't notice that she was being unusually quiet . Then Sherrill realized that she was standing on the banquette seat, busily scooping handfuls of dirt from the planter behind us, building a pile by her toes. Years later, we told Simone about this.
"My love of gardening, " she replied, "started early."
Then, as we steamed into the Pacific, the floors began tilting. Dishes slid across tables. Water in the swimming pool sloshed from side to side, splashing over the deck. Passengers were begging for sea sickness medicine. The voyage turned out to be one of the worst crossings between the mainland and the islands ever. Simone in her crib may have been the only passenger not violently ill. One night, Sherrill and I lay writhing on the floor next to her—occasionally, as the ship rocked and tossed, reaching into the crib to pat her.
All was calm again before we arrived at Honolulu's Aloha Dock, where Pat, Sherrill's mom, was waiting in a flowery red and black muumuu with orchid leis for the three of us. Pat and little Simone quickly fell in love with each other. She asked Simone to call her Tutu, the Hawaiian name for grandmother. The child enjoyed saying that funny-sounding word over and over. Soon, we were off to the beach, where Simone discovered the joy of running with her naked feet in the surf. At the nearby zoo, she was astonished by the spindly-legged pink flamingos, even brighter than her own little pink muumuu.
The voyage back to San Francisco was calm, but we went through the usual drill, meeting on deck with our life jackets. Simone's miniature life jacket made her resemble a pint-sized Michelin Man. When she saw herself reflected in a glass door she decided that it was funny. Over all, she was easy to travel with and seemed to think that wherever the three of us were together was home.
To be continued....