Monday, January 16, 2012

Shining Moments, or How I found Love in Petaluma

Catching up on email this morning, I found an announcement about this year’s Butter and Egg Days, “Petaluma’s Shining Moments.” I went to the Petaluma Downtown Association website, to check out the event and reminisced about my first Butter and Egg Day.

By 2001, I’d had it with Marvelous Marin. Between the gridlock and oblivious drivers, I battled every time I went out, and the all-pervasive “Me” attitude of my neighbors, my county had become a hostile, foreign place. I wanted a slower paced life—a garden, birdsong, quiet.

Why not Petaluma? I remembered Petaluma from the seventies, when we piled into someone’s car to attend movies at the Mystic, and later, to Rock ‘n Roll the night away. My mom owned a store in the Great Petaluma Mill when it first converted to retail. I hitched a ride through Nicasio to work for her twice a week and fell in love with stately D Street. In those days, the area was more farmland than suburbs, and chickens still lived in chicken coops, but by the beginning of the new millennium, Petaluma had more going for it than my town. Mine didn’t even have a bookstore.

“I mean, how many times can you be run off the road by a cell phone-wielding soccer mom in a Hummer? I’m moving to Sonoma County,” I announced to my best friend over our biscuits and gravy at the Two Niner Diner. “And I’m starting by hooking up with that guy I met on-line.”

 “You’re crazy! He might be a serial killer.”

“He sounded nice. Anyway, we’ll meet somewhere in public. It’ll be a great opportunity to get to know the area.”

David-from-Petaluma called me on Monday night to arrange our first date the following Saturday. “That’s Butter and Egg Day. The town will be mobbed. Let’s meet after the parade.”

An old-fashioned hometown parade? Oh, boy! But I agreed that it would be too hard to meet a blind date in a crowd. He suggested the Tea Room Café on Western.

What does one wear to a tearoom? Hat and heels? I wanted to look hot—make an impression. Saturday dawned overcast and I tossed aside the sundress and sorted through my closet in hopes of finding something to wear that would keep me warm without looking like I was on winter expedition. I settled on the old standard, jeans—I was going to a western town, wasn’t I?

As David had said, Petaluma was jammed with people. I found parking near City Hall and wandered toward Kentucky through streams of folk (also wearing jeans, I was relieved to note) leaving the parade route. I wasn’t exactly sure where the restaurant was located, but I noticed a crowd relaxing at tables on the sidewalk across the street from where I stood and saw the sign: Tea Room Cafe.

I started to cross the street. Anxiety instantly attacked my stomach. What on earth was I doing? Me, a middle-aged woman dolled up in tight jeans and cute shoes to impress some strange David-from-Petaluma who was probably a serial killer!

Run away. Run away! My mind admonished me, but the patrons of the Tea Room appeared to be in high spirits. The place looked fun. The waitress was laughing and relaxed. The coffee smelled delicious. I stepped up onto the curb.

You’ll never find him. Go home, that recreant voice in my head shouted. I shifted my weight to turn back toward my car.


A pleasant-looking, bearded man smiled and held out a metal bistro chair at his table. I liked his wavy chestnut-colored hair, flowing down his back, and the way his skin crinkled around his eyes.

“Hi, David,” I said and sat down. “How are you?”

“Happy to be in the world.”

Serial killers aren’t happy, I told the petty-spirited voice, still nattering behind my consciousness.

“So what’s Butter and Egg Day about?” I asked.

Petaluma might not spread the news of David-from-Petaluma and my attendance as one of its shining butter-and-egg moments, but Butter and Egg Day 2001 shines in our lives. Three years later, we celebrated our marriage with a country barbeque on our own gopher field (flat shoes only) in the shadow of Sonoma Mountain.