The late afternoon light casts a coolness over the house. Everything looks bluer, but the house smells like cinnamon so it feels warm. I’m sitting on a couch that might as well be stuffed with cotton balls thinking back on our trip to Santa Cruz a few weeks ago. Sometimes I feel like I hang on the travels of my life hoping they’ll tell me things even after they’re over and, in this regard, I feel like the lessons of our road trip to Santa Cruz will be revealing themselves slowly for a while.
We planned, we played, we came home happy-exhausted. What is there left to say about a time so meaningful and so short? I feel the same way about the holidays, which seem to be right behind almost every corner ready to pounce. These squishy human bodies feel so much and know so little.
I do know I need to write down some things about our time in Santa Cruz, not only because I like to keep record for myself anytime I do something resembling my life in my twenties, but because I can tell it’s time to move on to something else.
Before the trip, I became obsessed with picking the most ideally perfect AirBnB possible. In other words, I started a search for our exact set-up here in San Diego, but further north near our friends and with a working fireplace. I narrowed it down to two places. One was near a world class surf spot called Steamer Lane and the other was near an equally famous, but less-shortboardable spot in Pleasure Point. When the house near Steamer Lane became unavailable, I did what any reasonable person would do and dwelled on it for days. The people who booked it were also getting to stay for a whole week, which we were unable to do. I pretty much needed Daniel Tiger to come in and sing some song with odd intonation to help me move on. Although, I’ve been looking for a reason to kick that sanctimonious tiger, so I’m sure I would have taken advantage, had he actually shown up.
The owner of the house we chose was kind. I could tell before I met her. I could hear it in her email voice and in the way she said “The number one rule for the beach house is no stress!”
On our first evening we arrived at the small, warmly lit wooden beach house with teal shutters that made the front windows look just like eyes wearing eyeshadow. There was a note on the chalkboard welcoming us and I cried a little. I knew we were in the right place.
We specifically booked a house with two bedrooms so we could all sleep in peace, but after Scott was tightly tucked in bed with his ear-infection drops soaking and his insagram feed synced up, I became overcome with anxiety that the heater between the two bedrooms could, in a Nighttime News inspirited fantasy, catch fire rendering me unable to save my baby. We carried the crib and sleeping babe carefully through the door jams and around the tight corners of the little hallway into our room where we all slept soundly to the hum of the heat.
The next day Mark visited and we rode bikes to the beach, the sky hovering over the four of us like a great blue blanket. I was expecting that I would have a rebuttal to almost every claim Mark made. This has been the nature of our friendship since I met Scott and him at a keg party on a cold winter night and he insisted he wasn’t drinking. However, on this trip, Mark and my conversations went together more like two different musical instruments playing the same song. He took my advice about his relationship and gave me questions about God I’d never thought about. When I think of Mark and the four other guys Scott lived with in college, I think of the time Scott and I were driving through South Carolina and he said that they were all like the brothers he and I never had.
In the evening, after a taking turns between surfing and playing with Avalon, we skated a new skatepark and drank some pale ale called Baby Daddy (after Avalon went to bed) with our friend T who’s about to be a dad. When T was calling earlier in the day I didn’t pick up because I thought he was a telemarketer. After all, on Scott’s phone it said call from ‘T Mobile’.
On Friday, Scott surfed and slept in the hammock. Avalon napped a long nap and we prepared for new company. I got to skate the Santa Cruz Skatepark and Scott, Avalon and I ate a rushed dinner at a local brewery. My college roommates–Nicole and Basia–arrived after dark with their families and it was like Thanksgiving dinner with Vodka-Lemonades and cold leftover kid’s meals. We drank and laughed and no one slept well. In the morning the surf was huge. We visited a beach probably in every tourist guide for Santa Cruz ever called Natural Bridges. Avalon and Nicole’s son, Will, held hands and slobber-kiss each other with sandy, open mouths. I surfed in the evening at the spot by the house, Pleasure Point. I got some amazing set waves under my feet and on my head. Even though the water was in the 50s and night fell before I reached the cliffs, I was practically steaming in the cold from all the paddling I did.
On our last day it’s just us again and no one woke up in a particularly good mood. I wanted to stay, Scott was ready to get on the road and Avalon wanted to put spoons in the heater.
I did finally get to surf Steamer Lane though. It was windy and cold and had I not crouched like a fox, I would have somersaulted into the water since I took the most dangerous, rock-scaling way of getting to it. Bottom-turns, top-turns, seaweed, locals, wind and whales. I could hear the seals bellowing in the distance so predictably I could have mistaken them for a fog horn. There was so much life there, and so many ghosts. At the top of the cliff were memorials to the Santa Cruz greats, some flowers and paint fresher than the rest. Shawn Barney Barron, one of my favorite surf characters, being one of the most recent. In these moments I remember we are not forever.
Driving home honestly used to be so much more about procrastinating settling into reality when it was just Scott and me drinking margaritas at lunch and wandering seal-covered beaches like early settlers. This trip it was about watching Daniel Tiger on my lap top, spilling peas in the back seat and stopping at my in-law’s for bath time.
Once we arrived to our own cheerily lit house, we unpacked our suitcases and let out deep sighs. There was so much still to do, but now so much more that we had done.
We snuggled into our beds with exhausted joy and dirty fingernails. I lie awake for a minute wondering what these trips will become someday as our family grows, as our friendships evolve, as we age.
These squishy human bodies feel so much and know so little.
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