This past weekend, my two daughters and I flew to San Francisco, to visit my brother and his partner Patrick. This was the kids’ first time there since my parents moved up to the Northwest back in 2004. The younger one didn’t remember even being in California.
Traveling with them is interesting. The three of us have some different interests, so I’d been forewarned by them that they weren’t interested in going to a bunch of museums. And, there’s the dilemma of how much to plan verses how much relaxing time to allow for. Also – we’ve got a bunch of food allergies, which makes finding restaurants a challenge.
I got lots of grief about the trip in the days leading up to it. There was lots going on with school, homework to attend to, and an event missed at the younger one’s school the day we were leaving. They didn’t have friends there, and were skeptical they’d enjoy themselves.
The skepticism persisted right up until departure. Things did get better when the plane had entertainment systems built into each seat though. And things got better immediately after meeting my brother and his dachshund Coco at the airport. We went to his place, before heading out for Mexican food.
One of the highlights of the Mexican food was getting to try out the salsa bar. It included selections along the full range of spiciness. Naturally we all had to sample the super-hot Habenero sauce. It began mildly enough, with kind of a fruity taste – and then exploded – sending your eyeballs shooting out from your head, and causing sweat to pour down your face. I’m exaggerating, but only a little. The pictures above are of the girls each trying to quell the fire taste in their mouths. We capped the afternoon with a drive up to Twin Peaks.
We played games for a while, then headed out for some great Indian food. The highlight there was someone getting to enjoy a Dosa that was longer than their leg.
I visited with a good friend from Cal Poly the next morning. This was very special to me. We hadn’t seen each other in about seventeen or eighteen years. She’s married, and has two wonderful kids. I enjoyed hearing her stories of her adventures since we’d last seen each other – she told me about spending several months on a road trip in the Southwest, about she and her husband living in El Salvador, and we swapped stories about our kids.
Last summer, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which (as she stated it) has turned things upside down for her. I learned things about courage and about the ups and downs of living in the present from my friend. I’m still thinking about our conversation a lot.
The next day, we did brunch with some long-time family friends. My eldest took charge of cooking the pancakes, and did a great job. I’d lived with these people for a few months when I was a teenager, and found it amazing to share stories about my own children with them.
That afternoon, we met another friend from Cal Poly at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. He was there with his daughter, who was close in age to my eldest. They hit it off marvelously. My younger daughter and I visited the Planetarium, the Aquarium, and the rain forest – and really enjoyed ourselves. We extended the visit into another great Mexican meal (with more Habanero sauce), and some time spent playing games at my brother’s place. By the time things wrapped up, the two older kids were plotting a visit at our house near Seattle.
We visited Alcatraz the next morning. Parts of this weren’t as much of a hit, but I’m still glad we went. In addition to getting out to the island (I’d not been before), we got a chance to ride a vintage trolley along the waterfront, and to enjoy the best commercially-available root beer and burgers at the Ferry Building.
By then, it was just about time to head home. We got a little down time at my brother’s, and then it was off to the airport.
I found the time with each child amazing in different ways. They have pretty different personalities and some different interests too. Getting out of the house, and away from your routines forces you to listen to each other differently, and you get to appreciate different qualities in each other too.
My brother and his partner were excellent hosts. They’d done some great footwork to find restaurants that would provide options for us (very challenging), and allowed us to spend nice time at their place – playing with their Wii and with Coco. And they’d found us a nice place to stay close to their place. As we left the place we’d stayed, Lynn (the woman who rented us a great one bedroom apartment) told me that one of the girls had said “I’m so lucky to have two uncles here”. Warmed my heart so much to hear that.
The younger one’s already planning our next trip down. I’ll take that as a good sign.