We recently traveled to southern California to attend the wedding of my husband’s nephew. While at my mother-in-law’s funeral, we learned of the wedding in San Diego and decided we would make the trip.
The decision to go turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve made in recent years. There are times when the stars align, the heavens open, and serendipity ensues. Our visit proved to be one such time.
Since we were traveling so far it only made sense to see as many people as we could. Sixty years ago this month, when I was only four, my oldest brother married his college sweetheart, Joyce. My brother died ten years ago, but I have kept in touch with Joyce, who moved to Palm Springs several years after his death. I had been yearning to see her, so our trip would mean a chance to visit Joyce and see her new digs. Then there was the friend from our hometown who had been good friends with both my husband and another brother. His business is in Los Angeles. My husband’s cousin in Ventura was another chance to reconnect with a favorite relative. And finally, there was my very dear Sarah AKA S.R. Mallery who lives in North Hollywood. Was it possible for the two of us to meet in person after working together for years? I’ve edited and formatted most of Sarah’s books, most recently, Ellie & And the War on Powder Creek.
The first part of the journey–the wedding–may have been the original impetus, but it may not have been the reason we went. Another family member who came to the wedding spent a day with us, mostly walking on the beach near San Diego. It turned out this person needed accepting ears to listen to his problems and concerns regarding a transitional period now facing him. We walked, listened, and hugged. We even found impossible-to-find parking spaces right on the beach (and for free) right when we needed it. Serendipity.
The visit to Joyce’s began in Idyllwild, CA, where she’d recently purchased a cabin in the mountains for the summer months. Cool temperatures, outstanding mountain vistas, and a rejuvenating visit with someone who has been a huge influence in my life. Joyce, who is eighty-one and laughs with ease, who practices yoga and lives in peace. We built fires in the huge stone fireplace in the living room. We made friends with Elvis, her Scottish terrier/poodle mix. And as we sat watching the flames in front of us one night, we felt the rumbles in our feet and heard the bomb blast outside–our first earthquake, a 3.3 minor occurrence, quickly over. We left from her home in Palm Springs after driving by Cary Grant’s former home and drinking beer while water misted over us at an outdoor bar on a 100 degree day. But, hey, it’s dry heat, right? No. It’s still hot, but the mists helped when the wind cooperated.
The other visits went well. We happened to plan our trip at a time when the friends in LA and the cousin in Ventura were present. The cousin and her husband had just returned from Australia and were headed out to Denmark in a few weeks. We caught them between their extensive travel schedule and even managed to meet two of their kids. The friend in LA only comes down from his ranch one week a month. That’s right, we picked the right week. Both visits cemented friendships and strengthened family ties.
And Sarah. What can I say about the phenomena of meeting someone who I feel is a good friend even without ever had hugged or looked at each other in the eye? It was wonderful. We just held each other at arm’s length for a few minutes before hugging for real. Then we went to the dining room where we were told to pick our table. Sarah and I chose a booth in the corner. A plaque on the table informed us we were sitting at a table where Walt Disney had often sat with members of his Imagineers team. They even carved some designs in the wood surface. Perfect because Sarah’s husband had been an Imagineer as a special effects designer. Both of our husbands have the scientific head for specifics and details, while Sarah and I are definitely the other end of the spectrum. Luckily for us, the two men bonded immediately and left us to our chatter about writing, marketing, and life. We couldn’t even stop to read the menu, but we had a lovely waitress who loved our story about meeting for the first time. She said it was like online long-term dating. All I know is the lunch ended much too soon, and we had to get on the road to avoid rush hour traffic in LA.
Our flights, both ways, were easy and efficient. Even our luggage arrived everywhere it should have arrived. And as much as I love Florida, I have to say, California wins the friendly tourist destination prize. Everywhere we went, we met helpful, kind, and friendly folks from our bartenders, waiters, drivers, flight attendants, and clerks. One day at Mission Beach in San Diego, we visited a beach bar with lots of craft beers. We had a couple and chatted with the bartender, Juan. When he gave us a bill, he’d only charged for one round. We pointed it out, and he said, “I just want you to enjoy your visit here in San Diego, so it’s my treat.” Can’t say I’ve had that happen at a beach bar in Florida.
And now we’re home, happy to be here, but extremely grateful we made the trip west. Sometimes, it’s just supposed to be that way.