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The Noisy Party
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At our family gatherings, we were the noisy party.

I still remember celebrating birthdays, holidays, or just sometimes get together with my three grown kids and little Megan. We’d meet at various houses in the San Francisco Bay Area, maybe my apartment in Mountain View which I shared with Megan who was still a teenager back then, or at Melissa’s house which she rented with roommates in San Francisco with the amazing view. That was the funky house that slid down the hill up in Twin Peaks after she had to move out because it was “red tagged.” Or Jeremy’s pad in San Jose, or Steive and LIezl’s in Richmond. Stevie and his girlfriend did not live in the “good” part of Richmond, CA, which is in the east bay of San Francisco. They lived in one of those areas where you don’t want to stop to pick up anything at the local liquor stores at night, and even stopping for gas seemed dubious.

Our family gatherings were always loud and fun, with all of us talking over the music that always blasted — sometimes Grateful Dead because that’s what my sons loved, sometimes I’d get in there with the Beatles and my favorite classic rock tunes. Luckily, everyone dug Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, the Doors and Jimi Hendrix, etc. Yes, and the Beatles, though all my kids would say they had to choice but to love the Beatles because they grew up with that music. Sometimes Jeremy would get out his guitar and I’d get out my ukulele and the boys would laugh and cringe because, hahaha, ukulele. Hey, I still play the ukulele all the time to this day. I picked it up about 10 years ago. I used to play guitar and still know how, but I’m totally hooked on ukulele.

I remember the Christmas when my son brought over his game system because he had “Beatles Rock Band” complete with a computerized guitar and even a drum set, and of course microphones for singing in. We spent hours and hours playing and singing songs with the Beatles and all the cool effects. The game would tell you if you were singing off key too, and someone would actually yell, “That sucked!” or “You rocked!” I usually just sang because I never could get the guitar thingie to work right, though I could play real guitar and ukulele. Maybe a little mandolin, but I only know four chords on it. We lived in an apartment then on the second floor in Mountain View, and our downstairs neighbors did not like us much I’m sure.

I invited my entire Creative Writing class over to our place when we lived at a townhouse in Sunnyvale. Yes, I moved so much back then to dodge the high rents. I worked in Mountain View all those years and tried to stay as close as possible for as long as I could. But it seemed we always had to move. The most stable place for me at that time was where I worked, at a law firm on the 7th floor of a building that looked like a cruise ship near the border of Palo Alto on El Camino Real. It was like my home away from home, a place I could always count on, unlike our living situation. My grown kids got creative and figured out ways to survive as well. That’s why Stevie and LIezl moved to Richmond, but man that was not a good neighborhood. Jeremy rented a house in South San Jose with his girlfriend, and Melissa always found places with roommates. It’s like we all managed to be creative and survive — still a close-knit family figuring it all out. We’re all still close to this day.

But those parties. Ah, such fun and wonderful memories of our family gatherings when we all lived within close proximity to one another. Those were truly the days and years I treasure now that I sit here in Eugene, Oregon not even able to travel to California to visit my kids and my grandkids, most of whom still live down there and manage to survive. Megan moved to LA and my oldest, Stevie, lives up here in Eugene as well. We’re all still on the west coast, so close yet so far away. I remember surprise birthdays parties, like for Stevie’s 33rd birthday when we lived in the “house on the hill” in Union City — I shared the split level house with Jeremy, Jen and my grandson Baby J. I danced with all the kids. We were all close friends having fun…it wasn’t like they were just my kids. Sure, I have friends whom I hung out with as well, but there’s something special about dancing with your kids.

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