Monday, February 21, 2011

Valentine's Day Memories, by Bonnie Mansell

On Valentine’s Day Steve and I drove down to Balboa to have dinner at BJ’s. We parked on Park Avenue, next to the alley that runs behind the old Island Rooms Motel, where I used to stay as a child with my mom, her sisters, and Grandma & Grandpa, along with all the cousins.

Steve and I walked down that well-lit alley and I showed him the tiny house in the back that we used to rent. Tiny as it was, we only rented half of it. I can hardly believe how many people we got into that little space.

We walked down to the ferry and rode it across the bay to the peninsula. We were the only pedestrians on the ferry on this calm cold night - a contrast to the bustling crowds drawn to this spot in the long, warm evenings of spring and summer.

The quiet atmosphere and clear sky encouraged both romance and nostalgia. We reminisced about crossing on the ferry with our children when they were little, about my own childhood memories of that same crossing, and about my parents as they enjoyed grandparenting our children.

The ferris wheel was turning, but only a few brave souls were riding it on this windy night. We were not even tempted. As we walked through the fun zone, we remembered my mom riding the merry-go-round and ferris wheel with our kids, while my dad watched. We passed the bakery and I remembered the doughnut holes that Grandpa used to buy for us.

When we got to BJ’s we found to our relief that it wasn’t crowded. This was the BJ’s where we took the kids to celebrate their birthdays, so our memories were filled with the chaotic joy of those days. We used to sit in a booth, crowding in as many people as possible and putting high chairs at the end.

It was here that my mom showed the kids how to tear off one end of a straw wrapper, blow through the straw, and “shoot” the wrapper across the table at each other. She also showed them how to scrunch the wrapper, accordion style, into a teeny ball, drop small amounts of water on it from the straw, and watch it “grow” and wriggle like a worm.

After dinner, we took the ferry back to the island. We walked around the island before going back to the car, another tradition full of memories. I could see that Steve’s hip was hurting, but this is part of the way he gives himself to me. He knows how much I love walking, so he walks with me, even though it hurts.

As we walked, we talked of simple pleasures – Balboa Bars, kids walking on the retaining wall, the changes that time brings. I am grateful for places like this in my life – places I couldn’t afford to live, yet completely accessible for pleasant evening walks, places of beauty and wonder, where the memories are free.


  1. I remember doing those simple silly things with my children like crinkling the paper on the straw and blowing at each other. Such fun. This was a charming story of reminiscence. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. This walk down memory lane took you back to your own childhood as well as that of your own children. It covered many years and as wonderful as those memories were to visualize during this walk it reminds me of how fast life does pass before us changing even the way we are able to walk.

  3. Sweetheart,

    The most important part of those memories was creating them with you.

    Love you,

  4. now don't we all just love Steve!!!

  5. From Kacie:

    Oh Bonnie,
    I just loved your story! I rode on that ferry a couple years ago with some family members and it was lovely. But I think it makes for a great Valentine day. We have to remember that "these" are the good ole days...
    Thanks for sharing
    God bless, Kacie

  6. Bonnie, your sweet story shows the " Magic of an Ordinary Day" -when viewed through the eyes of love never fades.

  7. Bonnie, I'm delighted to have found this blog and have shared it with participants of the memoir class in San Bernardino. Hopefully, a few of them will also become followers. You've inspired us to create a blog of our own. Thank you.