We just returned from 11 blissful days in California. Eleven days of fish tacos, coastline sunset strolls, redwood-gazing, and bumper-to-bumper L.A. traffic. Glorious!
Our flight into Oakland was fairly uneventful. Simon slept or cooed for most of the trip (THANK YOU GOD), his stroller emerged from the baggage carousel unscathed (AGAIN, THANK YOU GOD), and we were unexpectedly and happily upgraded to a full-size SUV at the car rental pick-up office. Note to self: sell out-of-season clothing, baked goods, and/or my eggs to purchase new, more spacious vehicle. So much easier on the back and psyche.
I could brag for pages about this trip: the joy of seeing friends and family, the quaint beauty (and gluttonous gelato) of Carmel, the spiritual silence of the Muir Woods–it was plenty enough to make us abandon our little apartment in Austin, don paper hats at In-N-Out, and start a new life on the Best Coast with our wee babe and the change in our pockets. Truthfully, however, this inaugural big trip with Simon made me think about my mom–the most intrepid traveler I’ve known. In the weeks leading up to our departure, I had so many questions for her: was it possible to overpack? Will he get jet lag with a two-hour time difference? What if he sucks me dry before we reach cruising altitude and his little eardrums implode? And how on earth did you do this alone with three children for 8,000 miles?
But she wasn’t here to give me the Cliffs Notes–so I did my best to make up the answers. I tried to think like a woman who traveled annually from Dubai to New Orleans lugging 14 pieces of luggage (we Browns have never been light packers), a carry-on full of Berenstain Bears books, and a trio of sleep-deprived gremlins. My dad, God bless him, stayed behind in the oppressive Dubai heat for several weeks, working long hours and subsisting on tuna salad until he could join us in the (comparatively tolerable) NOLA heat. Mom always thought like a Girl Scout and was prepared for every calamity: extra clothing in case of illness or accident, sufficient handi-wipes to sanitize terminals A-F, snacks to satisfy every artificially-flavored craving, and My Little Ponies. Lots and lots of My Little Ponies.
I tried to do the same, and organized all our belongings in tidy, labeled Ziploc bags. I woke early on the day of our flight so I could do something with my hair and stick in my contacts, in an attempt to feel put-together and poised (“Fake it ’til you make it”–true words, people). In the end, I think I subconsciously followed her one-size-fits-all truism: just enjoy the ride. Mom’s secret was her ability to let go, and while that will never be my forte, I am working on it. The view from Highway 1 was too beautiful to fret if Simon got hungry earlier than anticipated–so we pulled over and fed him on a bench surrounded by blooming ice plants overlooking the surf below. Our next hotel room could certainly wait.
Even in her final days, Mom held on to her adventurous spirit. She had just settled into her room in hospice with the help of my aunt, and was eyeing her wheelchair as she reclined on a mound of pillows. “Let’s go exploring, Sis,” she whispered.
Indeed. Let’s go exploring.