This week we traveled to California to visit my parents. I’ve been making this semiannual trip to the Golden State for nearly 10 years. My father lives in Squaw Valley so winters draw us to days in the snow and on the ski slopes, summers see us on long walks in the hills and swimming at High Camp. Sacramento, where my mother lives, has river rafting, more swimming, millions of shopping errands with Grandma, and fantastic food. The girls live for these trips. So here we are on our last trip to California.
I confess that each trip to California I enjoy less than the previous. Oh the countryside is lovely and the stay with family wonderful, but the driving itself is the one activity which drives home to me the accrual of years. I can feel the age slide down my bones and pool in my joints during the endless miles down I-5.
At the risk of digressing, I’d like to point out to those Easterners reading this blog that the West Coast is very large. This is often a surprise to people raised on the Eastern Seaboard... it certainly was to the folks with whom I rode across the country. I think the problem originated from the idiot who named Ohio the “Mid West”. Somehow, it conveys the idea that driving out to visit MMORPG friends in Columbus is driving halfway across the country. However, if you’d just pull out the goddamn map and fold it in half, you would see that Ohio is a really good chunk to the right of the middle of the country. Once you grasp the basic principle that two thirds of the country is to the left of the mid West, you begin to get an inkling of how far it is from Seattle to Sacramento.
The girls are scheduling their last play dates and sleep overs, DrC is booking his last days doing LASIK, and I’m making up the last shopping list for Costco. Before the end of the month, we'll visit the dentist for the last time, get our hairs cut (all of them), and swing by the pediatrician for a last looksee and updated shots. I’m tempted to make a last run to Ikea, Target, and Joanne’s fabrics before DrC sells the car in two weeks. We’ll be busy, that’s for certain.
Yet sometimes it seems like there is too much to let go of. We have already sold so much, stored or thrown away the rest. We’ve walked away from jobs, a beautiful house, all sorts of things things things. We don’t go to our YMCA or our favorite brew pub or the coffee shop I used to love, and we’ve had to change banks, grocery store, and library to ones closer to the boat. Now it's time to let go even of these cobbled together alternatives, and it really really hurts. I lie awake at night, and I’m not happy. This isn’t fun. This isn’t funny.
It’s exhausting. My mom told me I looked like hell when I arrived in Sacramento: tired, stressed out, and fat. We’re not particularly good with the little white lies in our family. She also said in the exasperated tone I think only mothers are capable of, “I’m looking forward to seeing you when you step off that damn boat in San Francisco this fall. You’re going to finally look rested.” We’ve come a long way when my hide-bound, land-based, neat freak of a bookkeeping mother imagines a week long ocean passage as a relief from the pressures of preparing for the cruising life.
In less than a month, we leave our homeport. We may not be ready, but we sure as hell are going to be done getting ready. The cruising life is not a vacation -- DrC and I know it will be as much work as our current lives if not more. But the biggest relief in those early weeks may be that instead of spending so much time on the last call, we’ll finally start doing things for the first time.