california dreaming

it’s only been a week since returning to pittsburgh, but i find myself searching my brain for the right words to describe, for instance, the first time we drove into monterey bay through groves of eucalyptus trees and how their clean, dry scent mixed with the salty air blown in off the bay wrapped itself around me. the words seem so paltry. it’s like it was all a dream, and i can’t scratch the surface of the whole california experience. travelling with small children is a lesson in both amnesia and memory for me. the thoughts and feelings i experienced in this new place as an adult were shoved aside after minutes, to be replaced by the mental checklists cycling through my mind in order to maintain some sort of routine to the kids’ suddenly uprooted existence.

i want to remember how the waves sounded, how they crested and broke to roll ashore, all the different kinds of plants and trees that were new to me and how they were shaped by the landscape, and how the air around me was a strange mixture from the mountains to the east and the ocean to the west. but these are just ideas now floating around unembodied. it will take me a good bit of imagination to fill them out into fully rounded memories on the page, and then they will lack a true sense of the original experience.

the memories which are all wrapped up in the kids and experiencing the ocean and the beach and the redwoods through them are what my mind clings to. what it meant to me is that they were there in it. what i remember about california are only those places where seb and oren sat and ran and fell and cried and laughed.

we stayed in scotts valley in a little best western in a single room. the kids slept well with brian and i next to them, but we ended up feeling a little bit marooned in the room not doing much of anything, and definitely not talking much about each of our days from bedtime (8 pm) on. several nights, we soon were lulled to sleep by the quiet and dark ourselves. about mid-week, we finally decided that once the the boys were asleep, we needed to sneak out of the room and picnic outside the door in chairs we snuck out of the pool area. we’d sit outside in 45 or 50 degrees shivering and talking and eating sushi from a to go plate on our laps.

during the day while brian worked up the street from our little motel, the kids and i ventured out to uncharted territories–the santa cruz boardwalk, the aquarium at monterey bay, the beach at natural bridges state park. these were good ways to spend the mornings–i can’t imagine having those places to take the kids daily at my fingertips–digging in the sand, watching the rides on the boardwalk, searching (futily) for some beautiful and unbroken sea shells, watching sea lions sun bathing on the rocks.

people have been asking me how the trip was, and i keep answering, “hard, but good.” i don’t mean for it to sound like it was a drag to be there. some of the time it was:

like when seb shrunk back from the waves crashing on the beach, holding his ears and crying because the noise scared him.

or when oren screamed and threw himself down in the sand head first because he couldn’t figure out how to walk when the ground moved around under his barely stable feet.

or when seb finally did get up the guts to walk in the ebbing and flowing water, and he lost his balance and fell, soaking everything he wore and getting sand up his nose and in his ears. it sucked to hear him say, “i never want to go to the beach again,” shivering in the backseat of the car wearing my t-shirt and his underwear because i hadn’t even thought to bring a change of clothes.

it sucked to go to sleep at 9 pm without remembering to write all these things down while they were fresh on my mind.

it sucked that brian couldn’t be with us every day on these mind blowing excursions.

but then there was watching oren walk like a little frankenstien back and forth along the length of our room the night we arrived, giggling with the joy of finally being able to master that skill.

and when seb overcame his fear of the waves a second time and joined oren and me on the hard sand by the water where oren could walk without even holding my hand, and the three of us enjoyed the beach and california and eachother.

and the last day of our trip when we took brian to natural bridges state park so he too could walk through the eucalyptus trees with their sickle-shaped, grey leaves, down to the water to see the butter-colored mudstone cliffs and how the ice plants with their pointy, green succulent leaves and yellow or purple flowers meandered through the sand. and later we also drove to redwood state park to see (with wrenched necks looking up, up, up) and stand inside some incredibly big, old trees. trees that have been damaged by fire and wind and people yet are still, for the most part, alive and well.

and shopping at the patagonia outlet…

travelling with kids is definitely hard, but isn’t it the difficult things that are, once they are said and done, the most rewarding?