We are having a family excursion, mainly to come to Southern California to attend a memorial service honoring my mother-in-law Beverly who died in February. Her passing was sudden, although not unexpected, and we have all found great comfort in knowing that she went exactly as she wanted to -- very quickly, with no pain. What more can one ask, really?
So. We headed south from our home and stopped about half-way, in San Luis Obispo. We stayed at an amazing and famous old hotel called The Madonna Inn. It's built in an over-the-top victorian style, and until recently the whole building was painted a vivid pink, with tons of white gingerbread trim. We were surprised to find that it is all white now, looking a touch more sedate than it used to. Each room has its own theme --we stayed in the China Flower room, which was decorated with a lot of (shall we say, tacky?) asian furniture and the walls and ceilings were painted gold. The heart of the place is its restaurant featuring steaks. The whole place was vivid, vivid, pink. Pink floral patterned carpets. Lush banquette seating upholstered in pepto-bismal pink naugahyde. Fake flowers and sparkly lights everywhere. A lot of pink food, in fact. We were fascinated by their Madonna Cake (which we couldn't bring ourselves to eat but boy, was it PINK) -- white cake with pink tinted bavarian cream inside, we were told. The restaurant was also full of old photographs from the place's hey-day-- John Wayne was apparently a business partner with the Madonna owner in the cattle business (hence the steak house, I guess) so his face was evident in lots of pictures. If you are passing along highway 101 in California and want a kitschy but fun stop, this is THE place.
So, now we are with Roger's siblings and going through those mixed emotions of dealing with my mother in law's house and belongings. Much laughter as old photos are found and stories are told, and of course tears as she is missed. I am hearing stories that I've never heard about her. This makes me think that we should have life celebrations for our loved ones while they are alive and can join in --- I've learned so many things about Beverly this week that I wish I'd known and could have talked to her about.
In the midst of this sad time, we are entertained by our new niece Buitumelo (from South Africa, you might recall). She is thriving and growing and her english is highly entertaining. She's quite insistent on shaking your hand and whispering "Pleased to meet you" each time you enter the room. Buitumelo came into the family just after a nephew died suddenly, and her presence at Christmas boosted everyone over what could have been a very hard holiday. Once again, her being here has given all of us a reason to laugh and chase balls around the backyard. You should of seen all of us run outside when we heard the tinkling music of the ice cream truck approaching up the street!
There is a definite strangeness to sorting through someone's belongings after they are gone. It makes me wonder what someone would think looking through my closets and drawers.
I think I'd better do some cleaning when I get home.