That was 45 years ago. That freckle-faced red-head and her munchkin in the back seat became my wife and son about a month later. I changed my name to Chispa Flores. Gert insisted I change my name. Time came we all went by Flores. As the boy grew, he wanted to go by “Will.” Even Gert had to admit times change, but to her, he’d always be Wildfish.
Gert and Will hung around Santa Cruz for the most part, and I kept traveling the roads and rails, working odd jobs when work was to be found. I made a point to always circle back to Santa Cruz, staying for as long as I could, but when Gert got pregnant with the twins, Taiyang and Chunji (Gert took up Eastern philosophy and medicine by then), I gave up my wandering ways. We moved into a place near Salinas, an old homestead we found one day on a hike. The land belonged to a generations-old farming family. We convinced them to rent the place to us and let us fix it up. Gert opened a Yoga studio in town and went to school to become an acupuncturist. We plopped all the kids in school—which was a big change for ol’ Will, but he managed—and I went to work as a conductor for Amtrak. Every summer we held a whiskey barrel tapping party for our friends. Sent everyone home with jars of the stuff. Some men’s wives make pies and cakes, but my Gert’s always had a knack for makin’ booze. She eventually sold the Yoga studio and joined friends in on a small winery, but she kept on with the acupuncture. She loves making people healthy. We had one more kid, named him Bob, after my father. Good guy, my dad. Lived with us the last two years his life. Glad we got that time with him.
Tomorrow’s my last day at Amtrak. Bob’s off to college, if you can believe that, and the other kids’ are scattered all over the world. Will’s in Panama (we think, hard to know with him sometimes), Taiyang’s married, expecting our first grandkid, and loves living in Ketchikan, and Chunji sends emails almost every day about Beijing. She said folks there get a kick out her name. She’s loving teaching English and Spanish.
Anyway, Gert and I figure, with the kids grown and gone, we’ll sublet the old homestead and get a mobile home and head out on the road trip we started 45 years ago but never finished. Plan is to head up to Alaska to meet the grandkid and then maybe drive across Canada. I’ve always wanted to see Nova Scotia. Beyond that, who knows.
Maybe I’ll publish a book with all those stories about all those people I met along the way. My kids’ are always reminding me I’ve always liked to write.