My first job as a car hop was at the Country Kitchen on Fifth and King when I was in high school. I wore glasses then, and my hair was in a shoulder length flip.
A big responsibility when I wasn’t busy was taking the tops off the strawberries to be used in the restaurant’s famous strawberry pies, although in the 1960s this was often the busiest place in town and there wasn’t a lot of free time. I loved working there.
One fortuitous day just after high school, Jim roared into town with California plates on his ’58 Chevy and, after seeing me at my senior party would come to the Country Kitchen every day. The girls that I worked with would say, “He’s here for you, Linda, you go wait on him “
We hadn’t met yet, but we would meet soon after his arrival and seven months later, elope over the Mississippi Bridge to La Crescent where we could legally marry as teenagers.
Today, 56 years later, Jim and I live in Los Angeles. I come back often to La Crosse to visit my older Sister, Mary Lea, and drive by my favorite haunts.
So when I sip coffee at The Cabin looking out onto Fourth and Jay, the memories come flooding back.
The older I get, the busier I am. I’ve been a flight attendant, trained as a marriage/family therapist and today I’m a life coach with a passion for women and aging. I love keeping women (and men) enthused, motivated and reaching for their dreams at all stages of life. Often I hear, “why bother now,” or “what’s the use at this age?”
I teach women the tools to believe in themselves, and not give their power away to society’s belief that limitations occur after a “certain age.” Our hearts do not recognize this message.
Women of many different ages can feel threatened by a looming deadline approaching when they begin to think, “It’s too late.”
Occasionally, it helps to get out of my busy head and go to a spa. Jim and I lived in Palm Springs for many years and day spas were plentiful. They offer a peaceful reminder that a return to mindfulness restores energy to an overly excited life.
But nothing compares to my sister’s spa in La Crosse. My friends and a few of my clients have heard about it. I was the baby in the family and she told me I was her little doll when I was born. At 75, I suspect I still am.
When I arrived from the airport last week, I immediately took Honey, her black toy poodle, just freshly clipped for my arrival with a purple bow in her hair for a walk. It had been a long challenging day because I barely made the connection in Minneapolis to La Crosse, activating the stress response further than it needed to go.
But now, safely home, my walk with Honey was greeted by the pungent fragrance of fallen leaves, a symphony of crickets, and a still-warm breeze touched my cheek in welcome. I felt like I could walk for hours.
I could tell the spa experience was already beginning, acting as a brake, telling my body it’s OK to slow down. A deep relaxing sigh escaped and I hadn’t even changed out of my traveling clothes.
From Mary Lea’s point of view:
When my sister, Linda, steps off of the plane for a visit from her home in California she can smell the air that nurtured her first 18 years. Leaving with all her ducks in order for two weeks gives her the satisfaction of enjoying space of her own.
I hand her the car keys when she gets in at the airport. She likes to drive and can find my house in the darkest of night.
As we enter the house she can smell the essential oils coming from a diffuser in “her room.” A new night shirt lays on the bed. Small twinkle lights shine from a night stand. Her favorite edible treats are tempting alongside a beautiful bouquet of flowers. She rubs lavender on the bottoms of her feet and she puts on the new socks I have for her to sleep in.
One of her favorite inspirational authors, Dr. Deepok Chopra, recommends sleeping in these lavender-infused socks for healing and peace.
In the morning light she peers out the window to see Grandad Bluff. The smell of coffee follows a knock on the door and I enter with breakfast fit for the queen that she is.
After she heads for town or out to meet friends, we meet up later for a tour of the town we know so well. Little has changed and much changed. We stop by the house we grew up in, which has a new color from her last visit.
She’s back to my house for her first nap. In an instant her body and soul connect. This is her time and she owns it.
As for me, her big sister, I’m around, gathering space of my own.
From Tribune files: Life in the La Crosse area in the 1950s
Michael Paul Williams — a columnist with the Richmond Times-Dispatch — won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Commentary "for penetrating and historically insightful columns that guided Richmond, a former capital of the Confederacy, through the painful and complicated process of dismantling the city's monuments to white supremacy."