Fueled by adrenaline, we packed our Subaru and Prius, and hit the road heading due north, out of LA. Our destination was Santa Cruz, a funky beach hamlet on the northern California coast known for surf breaks, a world class university, and a hippie culture. Our aim was to try on small town beach living for as long as we could afford to do so.
Eddie got some contract law work in the area, and since we need to go where the work is, we put the kids back in the car and on a sunny April morning, escaped LA…again.
As I pulled away from my parents’ house, I watched my mom shrink in the distance. In the backseat, Kai tried to pretend he wasn’t heartbroken at leaving his grandparents. He suddenly understood the tug of being pulled in different directions. He has roots in San Francisco and LA now. Just like I do. And leaving either erupts complicated emotions.
On the freeway, blurred by tears, speed once again allowed the sadness to shrink and merely occupy a portion of the body. The open road does that. A magic of sorts.
Nikko sang to himself, and flipped through picture books. Kai drew in his journal about this complicated life lesson, an ounce of chemistry, a dose of social science, and a hearty helping of life skills on flexibility, love, and family. At six, that’s a giant lesson.
After stopping for tacos and hugs in the affluent beach town of Montecito, the tension in my jaw began to loosen. The ocean air, the slower pace, the lack of smog and traffic unhinged a tightness. Breathing seemed easier. Eddie drove ahead to grab the keys to our vacation rental–we scored a killer deal on a vacation rental in Aptos, a community hugged by redwoods and the Pacific, just south of Santa Cruz.
I let the kids watch Magic School Bus episodes that corresponded with our Ms. Frizzle inspired science kit and then I slipped off my sandals, cracked the window and watched the landscape change from rolling golden hills dotted with oaks to peaks crowned with California poppies.
Something new bloomed inside of me–was it hope? Promise? Or relief to have tried Los Angeles just to make sure it just wasn’t the right place for us? Or is it the comfort that we will be ok wherever we are?