36 Hours to Reconnect with Family

Thanksgiving is this week, so it’s no surprise that family is on my mind. My favorite holiday is celebrated by virtually everyone in the U.S., lending a communal feel that is unique. I love all our traditions, right down to the buckled shoes and square white collars on pilgrim figurines, football games, cranberry sauce and mouth-watering pies. It is so simple and straightforward – family, food and gratitude. While gratefulness may not be the first thought on anyone’s mind during a long drive or hectic airport crush on the way to see relatives, family faces filled with joy and laughter are.

Six weeks ago, knowing I would not see my sister during the holidays, I was pining on the phone to her how I wished we lived closer. We had been trying for months to figure out a way to travel together, but work and respective family activities (six kids between us) seemed to conspire against us getting in sync. With a cherished sibling you have the freedom of complete honesty and no one can make you laugh harder. I grew up in California and currently live in Washington State, so I don’t get back nearly as often as I would like. I was craving the abundant sunshine, the sight of ancient oaks and the spicy smell of fresh Mexican food.   So, I made a spontaneous decision – just go. This was a special trip to see my sister and niece in San Jose. In measured time it was completed in 36 hours but in mental pleasure time it has lasted much, much longer.

 Departing from Seattle on a Thursday 6 a.m. flight I had plenty of time to think about my specific travel agenda, which I announced to my sister when she picked me up from the airport. I wanted to go for a walk outside to soak in some much-needed warmth and Vitamin D. I wanted to see my niece run in her first high school cross country meet. And, I wanted to have dinner with my nephew and brother-in-law.

I happily squinted as the sunshine pierced through the windshield of the car on our way to our first destination, a one-hour hike in the hills of Saratoga. Villa Montalvo is an art center with beautiful grounds that are awash with the fragrant sweet smell of eucalyptus trees nestled in soft earth. We made our one-hour “clockwise” walk around the trail – I was already smugly satisfied.  The next stop was lunch from Andale Taqueria in Los Gatos. We enjoyed our meal on a bench at the town plaza park, did a little window shopping and then made it across town to the cross country meet.

I followed my niece along the course, intercepting her wherever I could while shamelessly yelling, loudly, “Go, Sarah!!” There were 150 runners, but only one that I really wanted to see.  Sarah had told all her friends that I came all the way from Seattle just to see her; she was right and I am glad she knew how much I cared. After the meet she jubilantly hopped in the car, eager to show me her high school campus and her newly acquired driving skills. The trip could have stopped right there and it would have been worthwhile. 

The action continued that evening. I was able to enjoy a family meal with my brother-in-law and watch Thursday night football with my nephew.  After talking late into the night with my sister, I slept soundly on the living room couch, amazed at how much had occurred.

The following morning I said good–bye to the kids as they rushed out the door for school and began to strategize with my sister about what we could do in three hours before driving to the airport. We settled on squeezing in another walk, this time at the Fremont Older Open Space Preserve. The green belt boasted a panoramic view of the Bay Area framed by golden hills; it was a fitting way to say farewell to my home state.

Flying back that afternoon, I was a little wistful thinking of my family in California and the one I was going home to in Seattle. Yet, I marveled at how even a 36-hour break can make a world of difference; it was a memorable getaway and one that I promised would happen more often. Reconnecting with family was good for my mind and heart.

Carol Lewis Gullstad  November 23, 2010

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