The second part of our California adventure was equally memorable and fun. We visited the Grants, with whom we've been friends for more than a decade. Emily and I suffered through our student teaching days together, then celebrated our successes over pineapple & rum drinks at the Green Door. We were in each other's weddings and were pregnant together for two of our babies. During our many years of friendship, there have been countless adventures and dozens of travels back and forth between New York and Maryland, and now California and Virginia. Connor and Aidan are 6 weeks apart in age; Patrick and Leo are 6 months apart. Needless to say, all the boys were thrilled to be on a constant play date with such terrific buddies! It is a uniquely lovely experience to witness the friendships that play out with the children of some of your closest friends. It's affirming, really, to see your children discovering common passions and interests with the children of your own good friends.
Probably the biggest highlight of our time in Valencia was the chance to experience Six Flags Magic Mountain. Although the adults did not have a chance to ride many rides, it was worth it just to see the joy in Aidan and Leo's face as they explored the amusement park for the first time. Shockingly, we discovered that Aidan, who is usually more careful and reserved, is a fearless roller coaster rider! He even held his hands way up in the air, whooping and hollering at every turn. Leo looked petrified during the coasters, yet afterward, professed his love of them, too. And Pax enjoyed his first ride on a real* Merry-Go-Round, and was thrilled! (*The teeny one at the mall doesn't count). Our adventure at the park was another one of those times where I found myself marveling at how much enjoyment can be had in simply watching my children experience something so exciting and novel and fun.
Made-from-scratch sticky buns, grilled lemon and garlic shrimp, homemade crabcakes, and fabulous sushi were some of the delicious meals we enjoyed with our hosts. Many of my best recipes come from the Grants, and these culinary treats were no exception. Recently I was watching a show on PBS where they were interviewing an Italian chef, and he described the making and sharing of food not only as pleasure in the food itself but also in the "joy of the table." Indeed, these meals we enjoyed were not just about good food and good drink, but also about good friends gathered together.
Our travel back home was as smooth and seamless as our flights heading out. Home! Few experiences make you appreciate and love your home more than being away from it for a bit. We reveled in our house, our community, and our East Coast, mountain view setting for days. Reuniting with our friends and reconnecting with family, I felt a deep sense of peace and happiness about the choice we have made to live here, in this friendly, comfortable lake community and in such close proximity to my parents. I love going to the grocery store where my kids talk to Miss Mary and Miss Linda as they bag our food. I love how the small business owners here greet me by name. I love heading to the park and knowing - or at least recognizing - most of the moms there. I love that our kids can walk through the "secret trail" to their grandparents' house. I love our small town, I love the familiarity and the safety and the security we feel. I love the trees, the mountains, the lake, the nearby rivers, the four distinct seasons. As much as we love our California friends and family, and love the time we spend visiting them, we know now more than ever that our roots are firmly planted here in the deep red clay of Virginia.
For more pictures of the Valencia portion of our California adventure, click here...