Friday, 27 April 2012

A Tale of One City...and One Family

It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us,
we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven,
we were all going direct the other way-

It’s maybe just a wee bit melodramatic to begin this family story with reference to Dickens’ classic introduction to his Tale of Two Cities, but on scales large and small, life’s contrasts keep smacking me in the face.

 San Diego is a sprawling city filled with sights to see and things to do. We were naïve to choose it as a place to spend a week with extended family, especially for family members who hadn’t been there before and don’t have the money to travel often. Imagine the fun of making group decisions with 7 adults and four children from ages 2 to 8. The texting was frenzied and tempers frayed as plans for every hour of six days couldn’t possibly cover all the options. 

Here are a few that we enjoyed.
Besides its famous zoo and the natural beauty of ocean and coast, San Diego offers everything from a tour of the naval aircraft carrier, “The Midway”, to the playful children’s areas of music, construction and an alphabet "Smelling Garden" at the SD Botanical Gardens. We squeezed in a run through the La Jolla Gallery of Modern Art and dinner at a clichéd Mexican restaurant, with its mariachi band and hand-painted tiles. We screamed on the roller coaster and Tilt-a-Whirl at one of California’s many beachside amusement parks where our youngest had his first experience of a merry-go-round.  (Every time the music stopped and the ride slowed, the baby said, “More?” I may have broken the grandmother record for the most rounds. I actually started to feel a little nauseated after about the tenth time of going in circles atop an ostrich.) 
We watched surfers of all ages and both genders on several beaches and gasped at fields of white crosses in a military cemetery.

It was educational to visit the annual Chicano Park Day, near the Mexican border. This community is fighting to retain their piece of parkland where the city insists on highways, so they have painted giant political and historical murals on the overpass' cement support towers. Another colourful feature of their culture is the astonishing low-rider cars, customised to the extreme, some upholstered in pink fur, some with trunks full of wooden cabinetry, every engine gleaming spotlessly with polished chrome. They modify these vehicles so that each wheel can lift up in the air independently on hydraulic springs and when you see them in motion, the cars virtually dance around street corners.

Our week in San Diego/La Jolla was as full of contrasts as Dickens’ quote, the best and the worst.
During all of the activity above, there were many joyful and loving moments but the stress level was sky-high for every one of us, even our obliging and patient sons-in-law. I don’t know about your family but in my family (three generations) we have different tastes in food, different interests re tourist options and we make different choices in the way we spend money. Don’t even ask about personalities. Spontaneous or organized, leisurely or quick, we’ve got them all. My daughters are even weird enough to want to spend holiday time shopping! Can you imagine?!
I, on the other hand, gazed longingly at seaside benches, churches and a meditation garden as we whizzed by them in our caravan of rental cars.  

Needless to say, the children’s needs for food, sleep and physical play dominated our schedule, (It’s time for another nap already?) but oh what fun and delight they added. The little ones squealed with the risky adventure of jumping an approaching ocean wave, hands tightly clasped by Mom or Grandad. We adults would likely have avoided the freezing Pacific were it not for the children. In case you’ve forgotten, it is in fact thrilling to jump over or flee in a panic the unpredictable waves – lots of wet shoes and pant-legs. The older boys practiced ‘boogie’ boarding and hunted for special stones and shells. All four of the children spent as long as they were allowed getting filthy in the sand. No better toys than dirt and water, free from Earth’s Creator. 
At two state parks we spied wild rabbits, small lizards doing push-ups and crazy crabs that scramble around on the cliffs fifteen feet above water at low tide. At our rental house we were wakened each morning by a real live mocking bird. We researched it to be certain and were amazed at its multiple kinds of songs.

Despite our constant conflict (good name for an herbal tea) every one of us persisted in trying again to restore harmony and justice in our little group. Grace trumped our human limitations and I am so grateful.  Personally, I give God's Spirit full credit for so much patience and forgiveness among tired, busy people. I hardly yelled at anybody... not that much.... well, only at my husband...and he's used to it.

In retrospect, we highly recommend San Diego, CA, but I’m thinking that our next family trip will be to an all-inclusive resort far, far away from the nearest city. And it may not happen for a while.