When my sister in law Nicole called a couple of months ago, inviting us to share Christmas with them in their new home in Salinas (in Northern California, just outside Monterrey,) I agreed. I wasn’t sure I’d be up for it when it came, but I believe in putting special events and trips on the calendar ahead of time, regardless of the feelings of the current moment. I was warned over and over again that Christmastime and festive gatherings can be especially difficult in the first years after a death in the family. True, I had to leave (and decline) some holiday celebrations because I was feeling angry/jealous/sad/sorry for myself. The holidays are full of triggers, it’s common knowledge. That said, it was a wonderful trip from the first day to the last (we just got home tonight.) Even the 8 hour drive was enjoyable (though I am ready for a break from Pink Floyd on repeat and Maki’s guitar-in-my-ear as he fulfilled his role as DJ and co-pilot.)
Here is our family: Anne and Hyatt 3. Nicole and Hyatt 4 with Kaiya, Hyatt 5, Evera, and Lucas. Me, Justine, and Maki.
They live in such a beautiful area. If I lived there, I’d walk these hills every day. I can see why Steinbeck was inspired.
It worked out to meet another sister, Cambria’s family. She works in the Bay Area so had her husband and boys from Seattle in town. We met that part of the family in San Jose for a movie and museum. Christmas day was perfect. Relaxed and full of love. The children were so fun to be around (especially for Justine.)Though Christmas with the family in Hyatt and Nicole’s new home just outside Monterrey was a fresh experience, the weekend brought some circles to fullness.
Years ago, before Vernon and I were married, he flew out to LA and we took a road trip up the gorgeous coast of California to Monterrey, where my brother and his wife lived at the time. I think I was hoping he would propose to me at any number of idyllic vistas along the way (I certainly gave him opportunity, clueless love that he was.) Anyway, I specifically remember on our way back from their home, we stopped at a gas station and looked at the back seat of my car, strewn with road trip what-not, and envisioned children in those seats one day. It was just a moment, but the memory was profound enough to return to me a couple times this very year: one day we’ll be making this kind of trip with our own family in a car messy with not just our own stuff, but that of our children as well.
Though my parents came on the trip too, they took their own car. Though we are close, we are highly independent characters. We like our freedom. So we took two cars and caravanned (yes, we have massive traveller’s footprints.) Maki had brought his guitar and played that as well as his playlist from the passenger seat. Teenagers have an incredible ability to play the same songs over and over again without tiring. For parents, its an endurance sport. He did learn SEVEN songs on his guitar over the weekend though. I have to say it was impressive. I can also say I’ve had enough of Pink Floyd/Oasis/David Bowie/Smashing Pumpkins for a few days. He serenaded all of us over the weekend with his playing. The truth is, it kept this kid busy and I LOVED IT! Here is a sample:
Another cool circular occasion happened when we took up my friend Lucy’s partner’s offer to play music with Maki sometime. I’ve known Lucy for 30 years, and we have stayed in touched as well as visited one another over the years in our various cities of residence. I met her, in fact, when I was a mere 15 years old, new at my high school in a new town (let alone country.) I liked her because she had a disarming smile AND wore head to toe black. We were both obsessed with the same British band, The Smiths. It wasn’t lost on me that Maki was playing their music in the car on the way over, trying to learn the guitar parts. (Here are Lucy and I, 30 years later: this week.)
And 15 year old Maki got to hang out with Jason, a sound engineer. Maki had been looking forward to it, so it was worth driving the two hours up to the East Bay and back again later. He said he learned a lot in Jason’s studio and hoped to stay in touch. He said it was a really great day, and he didn’t mind the drive at all.
Lucy and I spoke about the concept of “Inspiration” and how important that word was to each of us. I’ve decided to focus on that more over the next month. We’re coming to the end of a very odd year. Lots of death. Lots of change. I’m looking forward to focusing on the positive in the future! Happy Holidays and Happy End-of-Year to all.
“I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible.”
― John Steinbeck,