Since it was Spring Break, the kids and I decided to visit my brother’s family in Palo Alto. They’ve lived in the Bay Area since my brother started his PhD at Stanford (yes, I’m proud) and though they’d made the trip south many times, we hadn’t gone to see them in their world. Also, I wanted Maki to see San Francisco. So the three of us stuffed ourselves, our clothes, plush animals, camera, and guitar into the little clown car and drove the the 425 miles north. Maki has become my co-pilot with his sharp navigation and front-seat DJ skills. It’s a long drive and music is vital.
We didn’t take the longer scenic route, but I have to say I enjoy seeing the agricultural heart of the state. As one writer says, driving the 5 is a meditation on the state of California. It’s easy to forget how huge the land is: size is usually out of context when we think we are just one of fifty states. But driving that long mostly-flat highway for hours does give a person an inkling. Did you know that California is twice the size of the whole United Kingdom, geographically speaking (with a little more than half the population.)
It was beautiful, greener than I remembered seeing the land for a long time. The farmers weren’t the only ones grateful for this year’s sporadic rainfall. And with the two kids all tucked safely near me in our little car, I felt blissfully whole. I remembered ten years ago, almost to the month, I took another drive to see my brother and his wife. This was before they had kids, and they lived in Monterrey. I had Vernon with me, and we took another route, so I could show off the majestic coastline which might provide romantic opportunities for him to propose. (My grand scenic plan failed, by the way.) Here I was again, a decade later, driving up to see Hyatt and Nicole, who now how a full house of their own—this time without Vernon, but it wasn’t lost on me that without him, I wouldn’t have these two great kids in the car with me. My whole life fits in that Mini and the truth has come to this: I find such comfort and joy in that specific tightness. We have music, a bank card, a roof over our heads, doors to open and close, and the open road before us. And such a great state. I am blessed among women.
When we got to Palo Alto, where our Bay family live, the kids were thrown right into the cousin mix, stretching their bones on bikes on the cul-de-sac. Maki is older, so I made sure he got time apart, but he is so great with kids, and of course they all adore him. Justine immediately attached to her favorite cousin (well, the one she knows the best) Evera, and stayed stuck with her till it was time to leave a few days later. We went to Chuck E Cheese for our welcome dinner, the party had begun.
It’s one thing to visit with friends, another to stay with them. You certainly get to know and love people better when you are invited to live there for a few days. What a privilege it was to get to know them a little better, to see how my nieces and nephews are growing up, to create new memories, to appreciate Hyatt and Nicole even more than before. I just wish it was a drive we could take more often. Hyatt took Maki into the city one day, where they did some classic sightseeing and spend some guy-time. They even happened to run into a cousin of ours on her lunch break. I love when the world gets smaller.
Hyatt, being the kind-hearted guy that he is, asked me: “So when are you going to move in with us?” I know it’s not possible, but I was deeply touched that he said that. “Taking care of each other is what families are supposed to do,” Nicole added.
I’ll sign off here and use the rest of this space for a photo gallery from our family time. No big tourist attractions to see here, but a lot of lovely kids. Thanks for your hospitality, Hyatt and Nicole. We love you. In the words of Evera and Justine fondly (if a tad dramatically) calling out to each other as we drove away: “We’ll never forget you!”