Summer in California 2007
Flying east to west across the great pond we took the reverse trip from France to California this summer, spending six plus weeks in the beautiful state of my birth. Spending three weeks living side by side my parents in their San Diego condo was not what you might expect. But if you know my parents you’d probably realize this by now. Not the typical 83 and 85 year old they have more energy than Jean and I and are as interested in seeing the latest show at the museum as they are willing to go to a movie at 10pm at night, so our daughter can be alone with her Aunt in their home. Some things however never change.
Mom, Dad, Zoe, Jean and I on a boat trip in San Diego Bay
Fresh Squeeze orange juice was made each morning by my dad (the one domestic chore he does quite well) and planning trips to the Summer Pops concert in the park or a walk in the Zoo or a swim at the beach were all part of the plan. Having lived no closer than 500 miles from my parents for the last 30 years our relationship and time together is different than with my sisters who live nearby. Because of distance we have always had long stretches of time together versus short bursts of Sunday night dinner. Somehow it works quite well for us and we seem to get into a rhythm. Once we get my mom to relax a little and not worry about keeping us entertained (or her self) she does just fine, enjoying us versus having to run, run, and run.
Picnic Dinner before the San Diego Pops Symphony concert outside on the Bay
I was a bit worried how it would be to live under the same roof as Mom and Dad for three weeks without getting on each other’s nerve. Jean and I discussed our strategies of time to ourselves as a couple (a gift of grandparents) as well as time alone with Zoé was necessary. Setting up a hand signal with Zoé to tell us when she felt overwhelmed and needed quiet time she felt empowered. Either that or escaping quietly to the den to watch the Disney Channel. Settling in my mom went all out with new 600 count Egyptian sheets and a blow up bed for Zoé. With Dad’s new wide screen TV Zoé was in heaven watching the morning cartoons and being served her cereal in bed by Partner, (something we don’t do).
A fabulous girls lunch (Bari couldn't join us) Mom, Cyn, Zoe- and me after a day of shopping on Santee Alley in LA.
Loving the warm ocean I was determined to buy some boogey boards and ride the waves. All packed in the car we drove to the beach and set up camp. Mom and Dad not willing to miss a thing or time with Zoé sat on the grass above the beach (at 80 you prefer the grass to the sand) and read their books while we hit the sea. “Okay Zoë, lay down and when the wave comes kick like the dickens.” And off she went. Thirty minutes later she was tired and wanted to just lie down in the sand and well be a kid. I called mom over and lugging her chair she came to sit with Zoé while Jean and I continued to body surf. Nothing was too much for their granddaughter.
I brought along my knitting (somehow thinking I was going to do so) and asked mom for help. It was a difficult project I was attempting and being that the pattern was all in French mom had another idea. Rip… rip... rip…
“It’s no good, you’ll hate it, she said. “
I knew she was right as I was frustrated using tiny, tiny needles that the salesperson talked me into. Ten minutes later she had arranged with a friend who had tons of knitting patterns to meet at the swimming pool where Zoé was taking lessons (oh my mom arranged that too).
” I needed something easier and with bigger needles and I would feel better,” she said, finally realizing I wanted to knit not has her do it for me.
Jean and I took off for a few days to visit our friends Roxanne and Jim in Santa Fe.
Beautiful country and fantastic people. The first time we had been away from Zoe-Pascale together in at least four years. What happened to our resolution to go away a week or at least a weekend a year when she was born, we wondered about? We started off good year one, but as she began to become a real person who could talk and tell us what she thought it became harder and harder. But all was well on the home front and she barely missed us.
My sister Cynthia lives also in San Diego with her husband Mike. With 7 grandchildren their house is always full of kids which Zoe-Pascale loved and they were happy to join us at the Zoo and Wild Animal Park.
Cyn, Mike, Jack , Sofia and Zoe-Pascale. Sofia, Zoe and Jack getting their feet massaged at the Wild Animal Park.
Sleeping over Cyn's house one night I felt like I was back in junior high (middle) school. She would hang out with her friends in our shared bedroom and she would allow me to sit on the floor and listen in. Sometimes I was actually allowed to say something, but mostly I listened. As I got a little older she even began to take me along with her and I felt so taken care of. Sleeping over reminded me of those pre teen and teen years when we would be in our orange and pink PSA bedroom together and just talk. Some things don’t change. Except the bed was much bigger and much more comfortable than our twin beds and there wasn’t a life size, beauty parlor style hairdryer in the corner.
Lounging on the bed at my mom's house with my sister Cynthia, niece Morgan, and Zoe-Pascale.
Meanwhile Mom was rounding up volunteers for Jean to test as part of his dissertation. Doing what she does best, she organized, invited and made it happen. Within two weeks he had tested 12 additional seniors and was able to continue his momentum, something he was concerned about taking so much time off. As he tested we swam, visited my sister, went shopping, played and just hung out.
Partner and Zoe-Pascale loved the comics
Jean gave us all a painting class on the terrace
A San Diego Backyard BBQ at Cyn's with all of Mike's kids and their grandkids.
Zoe dressing up in Granny's clothes
After a shopping spree with Zoe's granny and aunts.
Zoe working with her Granny and Partner at their volunteer job at the airport.
Being in San Diego also gave us time to visit with my niece, Morgan and her husband Shawn as well as see Kevin, Liza, and Logan who lived in LA.
Morgan and Shawn, and Liza, Kevin, and Logan (and Jean) Zoe's cousins.
Shawn mentioned to me that he and Morgan were going snorkeling on Saturday. Jumping at the opportunity I left the house at 7:30 and met them at La Jolla Cove. Morgan and I rented wetsuits, jumping, twisting, and wriggling to get them on. The worse part of snorkeling in cold water. Those things were so dam heavy and uncomfortable. I just hoped they would help me float or I would surely sink, I thought.
Stomping through the stingrays, I heard were skirting the bottom of the ocean floor, we swam out a few hundred feet. Speaking through snorkel mouth pieces we yelled.” Look, look” Stingrays, Sharks, well baby sharks. Floating on our backs we rested a few moments taking in the overcast sky and feeling as though we too were a fish.
My sister Bari was in between Los Angeles, San Francisco and at different times than we were as a result we saw here some but not as much as we had wished. As usual though she made every moment special for Zoe-Pascale and planned an evening movie night with popcorn and lemonade for just the two of them. A wonderful Aunt who keeps Zoé in sparkling red shoes.
Our last day we spent at the horse races with my nieces and nephews, sisters and aunt and cousin michelle. Zoe got to meet a new 3rd cousin she didn't even know she had (the down side of living far from all the family).
Zoe and Cailey Rose, my cousin's daughter
The best part of staying with my parents for so long was our casual conversations. We didn’t have to talk about everything at once and we could let it flow naturally. In the pool I’d swim my laps, Dad would do his exercises and Zoé would play, dive, and practice her crawl stroke. Then we’d all hop into their ten people concrete covered Jacuzzi and chat. What are we doing with our lives? Where are going to live? What is next? Now mom and dad always try to be supportive but their bias would definitely leak out. They love our adventurous streak as they have it also when it comes to travel and besides they moved across the country from Minnesota when they were in their 20s. But on the other side they want us fairly nearby. They love to come to travel to France and I believe we have shown them more of the world by being here, but we are their children and what else could they possibly feel. Since we don’t know the answer to our lives we could only give our thoughts at this time and that of course could change.
The second half of our trip took place in Northern California. Our first stop was in Salinas / Monterey visiting two sets of great old friends from my graduate school days 30 years ago. Over the years we have traveled, skied, celebrated holidays, gone on retreats and supported each other in good times and bad, and through it all we all know that our lives are intertwined forever. It is indeed a virtual world where friendships are forever.
Settling into Marin we felt like we were coming home. The beauty touched our hearts as it always did, the people were so welcoming and warm, and the buzz of the city was alive. Even the size of the freeways and the traffic felt manageable compared to Southern California that we calmly weaved our way through the lanes on 101. Settling into Kirsten and Farnum’s house (who were in Montana) we pretended we were living in San Anselmo and would discuss what it would be like to live in Marin and specifically move further north.
“Great town and good coffee.”
“The weather is definitely better than Tiburon, 10 miles away. We can even eat dinner outside.”
“The hiking and views of Mt. Tam are wonderful.”
“I love being so close to friends who live here.”
“We’d have to drive more to the Lycee, but it is manageable if I don’t work fulltime.”
One of our goals looking at Marin was to see how we felt about coming back. Could we live here again? Would we want to? Has life changed at all? Have we changed? Could we balance our priorities and not get caught up in the fast pace of life? What would it take? What is our preference?
Over and over we discussed these questions in between lunches, hikes, dinners, and swimming with friends. It all felt so easy and soothing, so simple, so comfortable. But then we were also on vacation which colors life a bit. How would it be to live here and work again? Could we do it in a different way? Could we be strong enough to hold our own and stick to our priorities? Is it possible in a consumer society, torn by an oligarchy government that values being available 24/7?
The one conclusion we came to was we have wonderful friends in Marin and we love them and appreciate them all and if we decide to return, a big part would be because of the friends and secondly because it is a beautiful place to live and hopefully the government would soon change.
Hiking in the Marin hills on Mt. Tam
We are at the place now that we are aware of the tradeoffs we will have to make no matter where we settle down. Some places will be better for housing, others worse, some will be better for work, others worse, some will be better for friends and others lonelier at first, some will have better schools and others not so good, and some will be better for the overall lifestyle and others more challenging. As we go forward this next six months in finishing our projects and getting clear on our decisions one thing we know for sure is we have great friends and family all over the world.