Well, it’s official. My in-laws no longer live in California. It will be wonderful having them closer; and, like so many big changes, it’s bittersweet.
We took full advantage of their hospitality: from September 2012 to March 2015 we visited them in California ten times! 2013 was the record-setting year with five road trips to Ventura. It’s a place of many special memories for Mark and me: our first road trip together, the first time I met his parents and felt the warmth of their love and their welcome, the first time he gave me flowers and officially asked me to be his girlfriend.
(Spoiler alert: I said yes.)
I’m not going to miss the grueling twelve-hour drive across the hot desert. But I am going to miss arriving, climbing out of the car, and heading straight for the backyard hammock.
I’m going to miss the times that Mark’s little sister and I snuck out her second-story window, climbed onto the roof, and lay there on our backs watching for shooting stars.
(I’m not going to miss the old-fashioned pull-chain toilet and the thundering roar it made when flushed, so terrifying on middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom.)
I’m going to miss hikes and bike rides high up in the hills, where mountains stretch as far as you can see in one direction and the glimmering blue expanse of the ocean in the other. From up there you can see oil tankers and cargo ships moving off the coast, and the Channel Islands look like just another ridge of mountains peeking through the haze.
I’m going to the times Mark and I borrowed my father-in-law’s Boulevard (comfiest bike ever!) to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to Carpinteria, or to forbidden hot springs and secret swimming holes near Ojai.
I’m going to miss the old yellow house, the one built in 1880 and lovingly maintained by Mark’s grandparents, where Mark’s parents and aunts and uncles had their wedding receptions, and we had ours.
I’m going to miss walking the few blocks from the yellow house down to the Jelly Bowl Beach, where we spent hours spotting storks and anemones and iridescent-colored fish and crabs in the tidepools.
I’m going to miss my favorite bike ride in the world, the one that winds through the verdant hills and barrancas of Ojai, past oil derricks and graffitied industrial yards, ending on the beach and the Ventura Promenade.
I’m going to miss beach days, and exploring the old Spanish missions of Santa Barbara and San Buenaventura.
I’m going to miss the Ventura Harbor.
(Above and below: when I was six months pregnant!)
It’s the end of an era, for sure.
Someday we’ll take our son there, to show him all the old haunts. We’ll tell him, “This is the house that belonged to your great-grandma Madelyn, who never got to hold you. This is where your grandpa lived and went to school and surfed those big waves.
“This is where your daddy grew up and had adventures with his brothers, who were his best friends. This is where he brought Mama to meet his parents for the first time, and she knew for certain that she wanted to be part of their family. This is where you went hiking in the mountains and paddleboarding in the ocean when you were growing in your mama’s belly.”
And we’ll make new memories, too. We’ll play on the pirate ship and the zipline at Marina Park. We’ll eat shark salad on the Ventura Pier. We’ll take a ferry out to the islands and kayak around the sea caves.
We’ll camp on the beach. When the stars have come out and our campfire is dying down, when we can no longer suppress our sleepy yawns, we’ll retire to bed, a puddle of pillows and sleeping bags and cuddly bodies squished together. Outside our tent we’ll hear the waves lapping on the sand, and we’ll fall asleep to the rhythmic lullabye of the ocean.