Dawns book, p.4
“And we can go to a basketball game in Madison Square Garden,” Jeff added. “That’s even better than a dude ranch.”
“Hold it, kids,” my dad said. “Two things. First of all, you are thinking of things you’d like to do instead of what Granny and Pop-Pop might like to do. Secondly, since they live near New York City they’ve been going there on special occasions all their lives.”
I realized then that Granny’s and Pop-Pop’s anniversary vacation would take some serious thinking and planning. After dinner I scooted upstairs and found my atlas. We were studying the map of the United States and talking about all the places we might go to when a horrible thought came to me. “What if Granny and Pop-Pop have already planned something for their anniversary?” I asked.
A look of panic crossed my mother’s face. “We’d better reserve that weekend right now,” she said. “We’ll call them. But Jeff and Dawn, let me tell them, okay?” We each went to an extension phone so everybody could talk.
Granny and Pop-Pop asked us lots of questions about school and what we’d been doing. They told us how lousy the February weather was in Stoneybrook and we told them how great the weather was in Palo City. Jeff kept interrupting to ask stupid knock-knock jokes. With Jeff and me yakking away to our grandparents, my mother couldn’t fit a word in edgewise.
Suddenly Mom shouted, “Knock knock.”
Everyone laughed because my mother hates knock-knock jokes.
“Who’s there?” we all replied.
“Fiftieth,” Mom answered.
“Fiftieth wedding anniversary and we’re all going to celebrate it together,” she announced.
Granny and Pop-Pop laughed.
“That’s not a joke, Mom,” Jeff complained.
“It isn’t a joke,” my mother agreed. “It’s an invitation.” Then my mother told Granny and Pop-Pop to keep their wedding anniversary weekend open because they were going to spend it with us.
“Oh, you’re coming here, dear,” Granny said. “That’s wonderful.”
“No, we’re not,” Jeff said. “You’re going to meet us someplace, but we don’t know where yet.”
“Further details will come in the mail,” my mom said.
When we’d hung up the phones and met back in the kitchen Mom was singing, “ ‘San Francisco, open your Golden Gate …’ ”
“San Francisco!” my father exclaimed. “That’s perfect. The city of the Golden Gate Bridge for a golden wedding anniversary.”
“I’ll order the plane tickets tomorrow,” my mother said.
* * *
The next day my mom and I went to the bookstore and bought a book about San Francisco. Jeff and I poured through the book and made a list of what we wanted to do there. San Francisco was a great city! We were going to have a ball.
We showed the list to my mother. “A threemile hike along a promenade and a two-mile walk across the bridge!” she exclaimed. “The aquarium and the zoo. And what’s this? Filbert!” She looked at us and smiled patiently. “Have you forgotten that your grandparents are elderly? I expect they’ll be a lot frailer than the last time we saw them.”
“Can’t we do any of these things?” I asked plaintively.
“Of course you can,” she answered. “But don’t plan anything too strenuous and leave time for Granny and Pop-Pop to take naps in the afternoon.”
Even though I was disappointed, I made up my mind that we’d still have fun. With my mother’s help, Jeff and I cut down our list of San Francisco tourist activities by quite a bit. For example, we’d skip climbing down the cliffs to the beach and instead of walking across the Golden Gate Bridge we’d take a bus.
A few weeks later we boarded a plane for San Francisco. I thought I was going to burst I was so excited. During the flight my mother said, “Granny and Pop-Pop’s plane is scheduled to land half an hour after ours.” She sighed. “Poor things. I hope they’re not too wiped out by the long plane ride.”
As soon as we got off our plane we checked arrivals and departures for United flight #567 from Connecticut. While we waited at Gate 12, I imagined my old, frail grandparents tottering off the plane. I thought, I’ll have to take especially good care of them. I’ll make sure they hold on to me when they walk through the airport. I didn’t want them knocked over by rushing travelers.
My dad pointed and waved. “Look, kids,” he said. “There they are!”
“Mom, Dad!” my mother called. “Over here.”
Granny and Pop-Pop broke away from the stream of people rushing through the gate and ran to us.
“Hey, hey,” Pop-Pop said as he lifted Jeff into the air. “There’s our boy.” He put Jeff down and wrapped me in a big bear hug. “And our girl. Dawn, I’ve missed you.”
My mother and grandmother were hugging like crazy. “Mother,” my mom cried, “I’ve missed you so much.”
“I know, I know,” Granny said. “I’ve missed you, too.” Granny and my mother were crying. And so was I. I noticed that my dad and Pop-Pop had tears in their eyes, too.
“Why’s everybody crying?” Jeff asked.
“Enough tears,” Pop-Pop said. He held up a guidebook to San Francisco. It was the one that Jeff and I had been using to make our lists! “There’s a whole bunch of things to do in this town and I intend to do them all, hills included. How about the rest of you?”
“Mom said you were too old to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge,” Jeff said.
“Tell your mother I’ll race her across the Golden Gate Bridge,” Pop-Pop replied.
We laughed and hugged all over again.
When we arrived at our hotel and were settled in our rooms on the seventeenth floor, my mom and dad suggested we have dinner in a nearby restaurant. They thought that would be best for Granny and Pop-Pop after their long flight. But Granny said, “Oh, let’s go to Chinatown instead. It’s supposed to be a great place to walk around. I could use some exercise after sitting all day on that plane.”
We had fun walking around Chinatown. We checked out the shops that spilled out onto the street and ate the most delicious Chinese food I’d ever had.
After dinner we walked back to the hotel. Mom and Dad were holding hands. I was surprised that Granny and Pop-Pop didn’t walk together, too. Instead Granny was walking with Jeff and Pop-Pop was walking with me.
The plan the next morning was to meet Granny and Pop-Pop in the hotel dining room for breakfast at eight o’clock. Since I was the first Schafer to be ready, I took the elevator to the lobby and went to the restaurant by myself. My grandparents were already there. They had spread maps of San Francisco and the guidebook on the table in front of them. They were so engrossed in making plans for the day that they didn’t notice me.
“Well, if you want to go look at fish, dear, you just go ahead and look at the fish,” Granny was saying. “This is my one opportunity to see the flowers at Golden Gate Park and I intend to see them and take photographs of them for my garden club.”
“After the aquarium I may just take me to the Ansel Adams Center and see some good photographs,” Pop-Pop said.
“Some people look at pictures and some people take them,” Granny shot back.
She looked up then and saw me. “ ’Morning, sweetie,” she said as she opened her arms for a good morning hug.
When we were all seated at the table and had ordered breakfast, Granny announced, “There’s so much to do in San Francisco I think that after we take the trolley car tour this morning we should split up.”
My mother agreed. “We could see a lot more that way. And we’ll be together tonight for dinner.”
“It’s going to be a special dinner,” Jeff said. I kicked him under the table. The special anniversary dinner we planned was supposed to be a surprise.
During breakfast Pop-Pop teased Granny about being stubborn, and she teased him about his interest in model boats. I was surprised that they were criticizing one another on their special anniversary
After a fantastic trolley tour that took us up and down some of the forty-two hills of San Francisco, we rode in a cab to Golden Gate Park. Granny and Mom were going to go to the Hall of Flowers and the Conservatory while Pop-Pop, Dad, Jeff, and I toured the California Academy of Sciences. “Let’s meet in front of the band shelter in two hours,” Pop-Pop said.
Our first stop at the Academy of Sciences was the Steinhart Aquarium. There were lots of things to see and do in the aquarium, but the part I liked best was the circular aquarium room. The glass walls formed one huge continuous aquarium that circled the room. When you stand in the middle of that room you see big and little fish (14,000 of them!) swimming in a circle around you. It made me feel as if I were under water with them. We walked up to the glass and looked big scary sharks in the eye. I’d never seen deep-sea fish so close up before. Or since.
When we left the aquarium we went to the Space and Earth Hall. The neatest thing there was the earthquake floor. If that’s what a real earthquake feels like I never want to be in one.
At one o’clock we met Granny and Mom in front of the band shelter. We sat on the grass and drank lemonade and talked about what we wanted to do at our next stop, Fisherman’s Wharf. Mom and I were interested in shopping at the great malls on the wharf, such as Pier 39, the Cannery, and Ghirardelli Square. The guidebook said that these places were not only great for the stores and restaurants, but they were also very interesting buildings architecturally. “Let’s have lunch at the vegetarian restaurant in Ghirardelli Square,” my mom suggested. “It got a good write-up in the guidebook.”
“Vegetables?” Pop-Pop said. “No broccoli and carrots for me! I want to eat fish at one of those outdoor spots on the pier. And I’m not going into any stores when it’s so beautiful out.”
“It looks like it’s time to split up again,” Granny said in a huff.
By the time we reached Fisherman’s Wharf we’d decided that Granny, Mom, and I would have lunch at Ghirardelli Square and spend the rest of the afternoon in the malls. The guys would eat fish on the pier and go to the Maritime Museum.
At the wharf Mom reminded us, “Don’t forget that we’re eating at the Equinox restaurant tonight. It’s at the top of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Let’s meet in the main lobby at seven-thirty.” She winked at me. We had the most wonderful anniversary dinner planned for Granny and Pop-Pop.
Mom and Dad kissed good-bye then, but not Granny and Pop-Pop. They were still sniping at one another. Pop-Pop said, “Watch your step, old lady, and don’t spend all your money in one place.”
Granny told him, “Don’t expect me to take care of you if you get sick from eating raw oysters.”
I hated hearing them talk like that. Weren’t they supposed to be the happy fiftieth-wedding-anniversary couple?
My mother didn’t seem to notice. As we walked down the street together she put one arm around me and the other around Granny. “The two women I love most in the world,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Before we went into Ghirardelli Square we walked along the wharf. Hundreds of sea lions had taken over two piers. It wasn’t a zoo, just a natural occurrence. The sea lions were cute, loud, and funny. Granny took my picture near them.
The restaurant Mom picked for us served fabulous vegetarian food. I ordered a cheese burrito, guacamole, and a salad with about ten different kinds of lettuce in it. Our table was on a terrace overlooking the bay. Granny couldn’t get over the fact that she was eating outdoors in March.
After lunch we shopped. I bought bookends (wooden) for Sunny that were shaped and painted like rainbows. Mom bought me a T-shirt with a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on the front and I ♥ San Francisco on the back. Then we helped Granny pick out a dress. She tried on several. But we agreed that a royal blue silk dress looked best on her. “It’s beautiful, Mother,” my mom told Granny. “You should buy it and wear it to dinner tonight.”
“I will,” Granny said. “I’ll call it my anniversary dress. Fifty years married to Charlie, I deserve something.”
Mom laughed at that. But I thought it was sad. I’d always thought my grandparents were happily married. But then, since I live in California and they live in Connecticut, I don’t spend much time with them. I knew that I loved them both very much. What I hadn’t known was that they didn’t love one another. And they’d spent fifty years together, five times my whole life. How awful to spend fifty years with someone you didn’t love!
As we walked away from Fisherman’s Wharf and up another one of the forty-two hills, I compared Granny and Pop-Pop to my parents. I remembered the way my mother and father had walked hand in hand the night before. How they kissed good-bye when we broke into two groups at the Fisherman’s Wharf. I just knew that my parents would still be madly in love when they celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
Granny, Mom, and I returned to our hotel rooms to dress for dinner. While Mom and I were alone in our rooms, she telephoned the restaurant to be sure our table was set up just the way we wanted it.
Granny looked beautiful in her new dress. I had a feeling she guessed that we were planning a surprise. As we were leaving our hotel we met Dad and Jeff coming in. They’d decided to freshen up and change for the special dinner, too.
“Where’s Dad?” my mother asked.
“He didn’t want to bother coming back to the hotel,” my father answered.
“He’s walking,” Jeff added. “He likes hills. He’s going to meet us at the restaurant.”
“Charlie has always loved wandering around alone in strange cities,” Granny said.
I was disappointed that Pop-Pop wasn’t going to dress up for his anniversary dinner. When I whispered that to my mom, she reminded me that Pop-Pop didn’t know it was a special dinner.
We waited for Jeff and my dad to dress and then we took a cab to the Hyatt Regency Hotel. We arrived there at seven-thirty on the dot. “Charlie’s probably waiting for us,” Granny said as we walked into the hotel lobby. “One thing I can say for him, he’s punctual.”
But Pop-Pop wasn’t waiting for us. Mom went up to the restaurant in case he was waiting for us there. The rest of us sat on a couch and a couple of chairs with a view of the front entrance to the hotel. When Mom returned Pop-Pop wasn’t with her.
Jeff, Mom, Dad, and I talked about what we’d done during the afternoon. But Granny didn’t say anything. She concentrated on watching the front doors for Pop-Pop. During the next ten minutes they opened several times. But no Pop-Pop.
Finally Granny said something. “How many oysters did he eat?” she asked my dad.
“Two dozen. But so did I.”
“Two dozen!” Granny repeated. “Mercy. He must have gotten sick. And all by himself in a strange city.” Her eyes filled with tears.
My mother told Granny that she was sure Pop-Pop was okay. That he probably was distracted by some interesting tourist attraction. Or maybe he was a little lost. “But he’ll show up here sooner or later,” she assured Granny. “Pop knows how to take care of himself.”
“You don’t understand,” Granny said. “When your father and I travel we often split up. As we did today. Then we meet for dinner. Also as we did today. But not once in fifty years of marriage has Charlie Porter been late for one of those meetings. In fact, he’s always at the restaurant when I arrive. He doesn’t want me to worry.”
“Maybe he went to the wrong restaurant,” I said. I looked through our trusty travel guide to see if there was another restaurant called Equinox, or anything that sounded like it. There wasn’t. Meanwhile Mom phoned our hotel to see if Pop-Pop was there or had been. He hadn’t.
At 7:50 I heard Granny whisper to my mother, “At eight o’clock we’ll call the police and check the hospitals.”
But she didn’t have to. The next time the lobby doors opened, Pop-Pop walked in. Jeff shouted, “There he is!” Everyone in the lobby stared at us. Boy, did we ever give them a show! We ran to Pop-Pop. “What
“Oh, my darling,” he said in a voice that was both sad and frightened. “What is it? What’s wrong?” He enveloped her in his arms and she whispered into his ear. It was such a private, beautiful moment that the rest of us backed away a little.
After comforting Granny, Pop-Pop finally looked at us. “Which one of you told me dinner was at eight?” he asked.
“Uh-oh,” Jeff said. He glanced at me. “Dawn, you said we’d have a special dinner at eight. You did.”
“I also said that we were meeting at seven-thirty, goofy,” I told him.
“Don’t worry about it, Jeff,” Pop-Pop said. “Just a little mix-up.”
“Well, it’s eight o’clock now,” Dad said. He stood tall and said in a formal voice, “Ladies and gentlemen, please follow me.”
We took the express elevator to the eighteenth floor. Mom told the reservation clerk that we were the Schafer party. A maître d’ in a black tuxedo approached our group and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, please follow me.” I had to hold my breath to keep from laughing out loud.
As we followed the maître d’ into the fancy dining room I noticed that my grandparents were holding hands.
Our big round table was absolutely gorgeous. A low boquet of Granny’s favorite flowers was in the middle. A balloon was tied to the back of each of our chairs. The dishes, white with gold trim, looked like clouds on the soft blue tablecloth. At each place was a fancy printed menu. I read: “Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary Dinner Honoring Rita and Charles Porter.” The four courses of our extra-special dinner were listed underneath. We had a choice of three dishes for each course.
We’d barely sat down when Jeff grabbed the table and whispered hoarsely, “The room’s moving. It’s an earthquake!”
We all laughed. I put my arm around him. “It’s not an earthquake. This is a revolving dining room.” I explained. “The room turns so we can see all of San Francisco through the windows while we’re eating. It happens so slowly that you can hardly feel it.”