Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is city editor of the Napa Valley Register.

Lucky Cheryl. All three of her children made the pilgrimage home for Mothers Day.

Josh from Oakland, Julia from Petaluma and Jonathan from Sacramento. In today’s scattered world, 100 percent attendance is not to be taken for granted.

Cheryl had insisted no gifts, no flowers. She does that every year. And every year her offspring ignore her.

Josh had written a poem that began: “My mother! My rock! My port in a storm.”

Sounds like schmaltz? It wasn’t. Josh was paying sincere tribute to the parent who has seen him through some hard times.

“With wisdom and humor you’ve guided your brood through 102 combined years of moods,” the poem continued.

Sounds humorous? It was.

Cheryl read the poem aloud, including the closing flourish: “So praise and reflect, as we gather for lunch, on how well you’ve raised us, not a dud in the bunch!”

Julia had arrived with a potted plant half as tall as herself. She’d noticed her mother admiring it on a recent visit to her place.

And Jonathan? He bestowed a porcelain bird. A bird originally intended as a Christmas gift, but it had failed to fly to Napa for the holidays.

From start to finish, the day radiated happiness. Mom delighted in seeing her children’s lives on upward trajectories. The kids reveled in each other’s company and in revisiting their childhood home where tranquility again reigns.

As the late-to-the-family stepdad, I was happy too. Seeing Cheryl aglow in her kids’ presence was its own special treat.

My role for the day was a small one. I was Cheryl’s fetcher of things and dishwasher. As openings presented themselves, I also bantered with the kids. I don’t share their pop culture references nor do I share their childhood memories, but banter? I can do that.

These family gatherings have a common structure. There’s lunch upon everyone’s arrival, then dinner in the late afternoon. In between, maybe a walk. Maybe kombuchas at Whole Foods.

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Sometimes I go on the walks, sometimes I stay back and do meal cleanup. Drink kombuchas? Never.

This year’s lunch menu was pumpkin pancakes.

Does this strike you as odd? Even if the pancakes were made with buttermilk and toasted pecans with warmed maple syrup on the side? Tell me something better.

The afternoon went by fast. Next thing I knew, Cheryl was grilling salmon, Jonathan was making mango salsa and I was hauling side dishes to the deck.

Not long after the meal, folks scattered.

Jonathan had to get to Davis for a rehearsal of a community theater production of “Rent.” Have I mentioned that he’s the male lead, Roger?

Julia, having just moved to Petaluma, was eager to get back to her new abode and her boyfriend who had spent Mothers Day at his own mother’s house.

But first she had to chase down her cat Jack who had been at our place for two weeks during her house move. Jack abhors Julia’s cat carrier and was doing everything in her power to hide.

Ultimately, Jack got corralled and they were off, leaving Josh who was staying to watch the next-to-last episode of “Game of Thrones” with us.

I can’t keep GoT plot lines and relationships straight, whereas Josh has encyclopedic knowledge. He may know the characters’ genealogy better than his own.

Cheryl considered GoT the perfect way to end her Mothers Day celebration. Bring on the dragon! Let’s see if Cersei gets her comeuppance.

All I can say is be careful what you wish for.

The sweetness that had defined Mothers Days? It didn’t survive 80 minutes of “Game of Thrones” viewing.

All was obliterated by dragon carnage.

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Kevin can be reached at 707-256-2217 or Napa Valley Register, 1615 Soscol Ave., Napa, 94559, or kcourtney@napanews.com.


City Editor

Kevin has been city editor since September 2010. He joined the Register in 1973 as a reporter. He covered Napa City Hall and assorted other beats over the years. Kevin has been writing his Napa Journal column on Sundays since 1989.