Reflections on Journey to Sedona

To Say Goodbye to My Grandmother, Elfrieda Ball

By Seth Bauer

March 28, 2010

We are en route to Phoenix, Sky Harbor Airport.  The first airport I remember flying out of in either 1977 or 8 I can’t recall (and we Bauers are always such sticklers for dates!)  Indeed, I apparently flew from San Francisco to DC as a baby and once before earlier to Sedona in 1974 just in time to celebrate President Nixon’s resignation but the time I remember best was when my grandmother and grandfather took me to the airport for the long flight back to DC, all alone.  I was returning to a happy home but I was leaving one that had been new to me and during that summer came to be one I adored.  I can still see my grandmother on the gateway waving a handkerchief at me in tears.  Grandpa waving his cowboy hat.  I’m sitting on the right side of the plane looking out the window at them.  It takes 10, 15, 20 minutes for the plane to leave and they stood waving me off the entire time.  I could tell my grandma was crying or maybe it’s because I was.  Didn’t they know this was making the farewell harder.  

Years later when seeing old films of characters embarking on steamship voyages I would see crowds gathered on the old slips bidding long extended farewells to their loved ones.  Did they wonder if they would ever see each other again?

I have come to this place many times during the past 39 years though this is my first time arriving in this place when my grandmother won’t be there to greet me.  (I confess once having stopped through Sedona from Vegas with Ron Russell on the sly without notifying Grandma back in 1996 where she lay blissfully ignorant 100 miles south of our stealthy vacation.)

Though I hope and pray to come back to this place, part of me fears I never will.  Not that we couldn’t or that Sedona is somehow closed to us – the question is would we come?  I’m running out of ink and the irony is not lost on me.

(A new pen for a different time.)  I think I feel as if a return to Sedona will somehow never be quite the same.  And even though it has been different the last 20 years since they sold the house on Skyline Drive – her presence kept the memory alive.  And I think in my life as someone who has lived in some 10 states and 20 homes, Grandma and Sedona were always places and people to come home to.  I am undoubtedly a man who needs to return somewhere.  Just as we returned to the Kleinpeters (little Peter for me) in their home on BernhardStrasse again and again – somehow a bigger nicer apartment didn’t suit us as well.  Even the gorgeous luxurious manses we have rented in Sedona have paled to compare with the comfort of the darkened wood paneled 3 bedroom ranch house called Isola de Cielo.  Nothing is ever the same when sameness is all that will satisfy this craving for an earlier simpler time of doted upon childhood.  My memories on Sky Mountain are as in a wonderfully languid game of ping pong between the warm embraces of both grandparents.


“Reflections on the Plane Ride To Say Goodbye to My Grandmother Elfrieda Ball”  was written by Seth Bauer.

Seth Bauer is a playwright, screenwriter, father to Simon and new husband to a Elysa. He lives in New York City and Yardley, Pennsylvania.

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