This scene from Her Daughter’s Dream is a longer version of one that appears in chapter 29 and would begin on p. 262. Carolyn and Dawn drive to Murietta to visit Oma Marta and have a brief conversation that sheds some light on Carolyn’s past.
Mom opened a California map and refolded it. “We’re here. Just follow the yellow highlighted roads. We’re going to head south on this little black line to Calistoga and meet up with Highway 29 through Yountville and Napa.” She traced the route with her finger. “We connect here with Highway 12 and then head east through Rio Vista.” She handed Dawn the map, pushed the overhead button to open the garage door, and started the car. “We’ll look for a café in Lodi before heading south. We’ll both be ready for breakfast by then. How does that sound?”
“Great.” Dawn tried to make sense of the map. “Have you gone this way before?”
“Yes, but you haven’t.”
“We could end up in Sacramento with me as guide.”
“You’ll be fine. Watch for signs. You’ll be sixteen in January and ready to get a driver’s license. You need to learn how to find your way around.”
Dawn had been to Sonoma on a school field trip, but she’d never been on the back roads of Napa Valley. Mom had taken Christopher to see the Calistoga Museum and he’d come home talking about Sam Brannan, Gold Rush entrepreneur who wanted to name the town the “Saratoga of California,” but was so drunk he got the words mixed up and called it “the Calistoga of Sarifornia” instead. The name stuck. Robert Louis Stevenson, ill with tuberculosis, had lived and done his writing in the area. Christopher brandished a copy of Treasure Island Mom bought. She read to him every night for the next week. Granny and Papa had been the ones to read books to Dawn when she was Christopher’s age. Granny and Papa had taken her to the Steinhardt Aquarium and San Francisco Zoo and Fisherman’s Wharf.
Mom had never taken her anywhere.
Christopher probably talked Mom’s ear off when they went on their excursions. Dawn didn’t feel much like talking. She kept thinking about Jason, trying to figure out a way to see him before school started. She looked out the window at the hedgerows of blooming roses. Mitch had rosebushes all around his vineyard too. He told her they drew bees for pollination, but they were sensitive to disease and gave vintners early warning so they could take preventative measures if necessary to save their vines.
“What town is this?” Mom asked.
A test, Dawn knew, and she watched for signs. She checked the map. “Yountville. Highway 12 will come up soon. Then we’ll make a left turn to get to Interstate 80.”
They fell into silence once more. Mom turned on the radio. Dawn felt uncomfortable with the silence. Mom seldom opened a conversation, but she seemed more than usually pensive this morning, her eyes fixed on the road ahead. Was this how the trip would be? Four to five hours of saying hardly anything at all? What, couldn’t they talk to one another? Dawn leaned her head back and looked out the window. Pine, alder, and oak trees covered hillsides that stood like fortress walls along the fertile valley striped with grapevines.
The road bypassed Napa and dropped them south of town onto Highway 12. Dawn watched for signs. “There’s the turnoff to Interstate 80.” The road snaked through the hills and curved onto the interstate. Dawn warned of the exit to Rio Vista.
“Are you sure?”
Dawn looked at the map and the sign. “Yes. I’m sure.”
Mom smiled as she took the off-ramp. “Good job.”
Dawn felt inordinately pleased. “Thanks.” She gave her mother a bright smile. “I can relax now, right? We’re on the road to Lodi.”
“Oh, Lord, stuck in Lodi again.”
Dawn looked at her, wondering what on earth her mother meant.
“It was a Credence Clearwater song.” Mom shrugged. “Way back when.”
“I wasn’t born yet?”
“It was another time. An eon ago.” Mom let out her breath and spoke in a dreamy voice. “I could have stopped and stayed and found a quiet hideaway.”
“Is that another song?”
Mom’s hands moved on the steering wheel as though making a correction. “Just thinking out loud.”
What other thoughts went on inside her mother’s head? “Did you ever write poetry?”
“Anything I would’ve written, I would’ve burned.”
“Words convict you.”
Who had been judging? Granny sometimes hinted that things had been difficult when Mom first came home. “People didn’t understand why she took off,” Granny told her. “Of course, we didn’t either. She doesn’t talk about it.”
Mom didn’t talk about a lot of things. In fact, Mom didn’t talk a lot. Period.