My husband and I got dressed and lathered up with sunscreen for a bike ride, but when he went to retrive his bicycle it had a flat. So he decided to run laps at the high school and I headed off on my own.
I took a familiar route, one of several Dan and I have frequented over the 17 years we’ve lived in our house, which is located near Tatum and Shea Boulevards. About three miles into the ride (which is about how far it takes me these days to warm up and stop feeling old), I reached the shady, tree-lined path running east on Doubletree Ranch Road. I passed Rotary Park and was slammed by an emotional response so powerful it took my breath away.
We gathered at the park for a goodbye party for my friend whose family was moving out of town. We ordered pizza and watched the kids play in the sand. Then we perched our laughing preschoolers — my two sons, her son and daughter–on the bench of a picnic table and snapped a photo. My friend’s son is now dead at the age of 24, the apparent victim of a drug overdose. The picnic ramada where we photographed our children is still standing. Why is is that her beloved child is not?
A right turn on the path took me past several man-made lakes and out onto McCormick-Stillman Parkway. There is a McDonald’s where the parkway intersects with Hayden.
My son David and I decided to ride our bikes to McDonald’s for breakfast. I had to drag him out of bed so we could leave before the day’s heat set in. It was the longest ride he’d ever attempted, this small child who had barely left his training wheels behind. But he made it. And never has an Egg McMuffin tasted better.
Heading south on Hayden, I pass a dad and his son riding together. We exchange smiles. I stop at the light at Indian Bend Road, noticing that the road to McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park has reopened after months of construction. The path south meanders through a public golf course before it dips under a bridge at McDonald. My dentist of nearly 20 years, Kathi Mansell, has an office just a block or so over.
The hygienist had finished cleaning my teeth when Kathi came in to do a quick check. When she was done, she asked about my in-laws, who became Kathi’s patients when they retired to the Valley. She was concerned about my father-in-law, whose health was deteriorating. When Tom died, I called her office to share the news — hoping to spare her staff, and my mother-in-law, the awkwardness of a phone-call reminder for an appointment no longer needed. The receptionist was genuinely troubled by the news. “We loved Tom!” she exclaimed.
“On your left!” I shouted as I approached a young couple walking ahead of me. “Thanks!” I sped past them, approaching the right turn at Jackrabbit. Just a few blocks later, I reached the canal, which forced me south to Chaparral, where I turned west.
Nancy Melvin had a condominium near here. She was a Ph.D.-level professor in the nursing school at ASU and somehow she found out about our magazine, which was not yet even a year old. She called me one day to tell me about research she was doing on child temperament. It was amazing. She had developed tools to help parents understand why their child responded to particular situations based on inherent temperamental characteristics. Understanding the “why” helped her team develop strategies for supportive parenting, so parents would know, for example, how to help a slow-to-warm child who had trouble developing friendships. Lisa Sorg-Friedman wrote a fascinating three-part series for the magazine and for several years I maintained a friendship with Dr. Melvin, meeting her occasionally for breakfast or lunch. She was always deeply interested in the magazine’s progress. Eventually, we lost touch. And a few years ago, I heard that she had died. ASU endowed a professorship in her name called the Nancy Melvin Professorship in Pediatric Nursing. In reading more about her, I learned that she educated the first pediatric nurse practitioners in the Valley. I don’t remember if I knew that. What I do remember is that she loved working with children but never had any of her own.
My chain slipped as a crossed the busy intersection at Scottsdale Road. Embarrassed, I propelled the bike forward by pushing off with my left leg. Thankfully, the momentum righted the problem.
A talented architect lived near here. I met him while serving on a committee I dubbed H.I.K.E.R.S. (Hikers Intent on Keeping Everyone’s Rights Secure). The group formed in response to a neighborhood’s effort to prevent hikers from accessing the Cholla Trail up the back side of Camelback Mountain. For weeks, we attended city council meetings and passed out flyers at Mountain Preserve trailheads to educate the public ab0ut the situation, eventually winning a compromise on parking restrictions that pacified the homeowners. One of the key spokespersons for our effort was Phil Richards. His ex-wife, Frankie Mae, recently joined the sales staff at Raising Arizona Kids.
I wasn’t planning to ride any hills but found myself pulled toward the winding roads and distraction factor of mansions along the winding roads in the tony neighborhoods sandwiched between Camelback Mountain’s north side and McDonald Road. This decision forced a steep climb as a street called Starlight veers higher toward what was once John Gardiner’s Tennis Ranch and is now Sanctuary Camelback Resort & Spa. At the very top of the hill, where Starlight intersects with Dragoon, a modern-architecture home is tucked against the slope.
Dan’s parents had rented a beautiful house for more weeks than they could use it, so we started spending our weekends there. The house had a pool and splendid views and escaping to it was like taking a vacation. One night, as we pulled into the driveway, we thought we saw something jumping off the roof. A coyote? A cacomistle? When we got inside, we saw a pillowcase in the hallway, and a sickening realization dawned. We’d been robbed!
The original house, of course, is no longer there–this new, much larger, home stands in its place.
The whoosh and freedom of the downhill is worth every bit of sweat equity invested going up. I paused briefly at McDonald before heading west to 54th Place and north to Lincoln. Waiting for the light to change at the entrace to Camelback Inn, I remembered that it was my first choice for a wedding reception.
After various family members weighed in, the location was changed, but I always wondered what it would have been like to get married at sunset on the grass at the center of this glorious resort. Decades later, I found out, when our former babysitter married her longtime sweetheart in exactly the type of service on the lawn that I’d imagined for myself.
Older and wiser, I realize it is the marriage–not the wedding–that matters. And yet I wonder. Why I gave in. Why I gave up. I wouldn’t do it now.
The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves, they find their own order… — Eudora Welty