My baby brother (two years younger) and his family came out to Southern California from Massachusetts over Christmas vacation, and they left for home today. He and his wife have two kids, a 12-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl. This was the first time I'd met the kids, and besides last year, when the family descended on my parents' house when my dad passed away, I hadn't seen my brother and his wife since they got married about 15 years ago.
My sister-in-law has family out here, about 5 or 10 minutes from Disneyland--close enough to hear the booming of the fireworks but far enough away that they can't see them. The family stayed at her aunt's house, and my kids and I picked them up so we could go to Disneyland on Christmas, which was all dolled up for the season.
We got there about a half hour after the park opened. My sister-in-law went to rent an electric scooter/wheelchair, because she has arthritis in her ankles and can't walk all over creation the way Disneyland requires. So the rest of us started for the Indiana Jones ride, but partway down Main Street, I realized I had left my camera in the car. I sent my kids with my brother and his kids to Indiana Jones, and I went back on the tram to fetch my camera from the car. All I can say is, thank God for cell phones, because we used them to find each other again.
Once we were all reunited, we headed for Star Tours. My niece and nephew were worried about the ride. Does the seat move? No, the whole room moves. Is it scary? Well, it's like being in the movie, Star Wars. And besides (this to my niece), the pilot is cute (he's a 'droid).
With the scooter, they sent us to the handicapped route up the exit, so we missed the whole experience of waiting in line, which Disney has managed to make into an attraction in itself. So I explained the back story to the kids while we waited for our turn. We're in a galaxy far, far away, and we're going to be riding a shuttle to the moon of Endor, where the Ewoks live. I don't think they've seen Star Wars, so my explanation meant nothing to them.
But one of my favorite things in Disneyland is riding Star Tours next to people who have never been on it before. I sat by my nephew, and he was a delight. He exclaimed and he laughed in surprise at all the right times. And when the ride was over, he said how terrific it was.
On Indiana Jones (the line had been too long when I was fetching my camera, so they rode Pirates of the Caribbean instead), my niece asked to sit between me and her dad. Once our transportation vehicle went through the entrance door, she ducked her head between her arms as she gripped the bar on the back of the seat in front of us, and she didn't look up until the ride was over. She was adorable.
That was Christmas Day. Yesterday, we went to the World Famous San Diego Zoo, just my brother's family and me, because my son isn't into animals, and my daughter was leaving town for a conference in the afternoon.
Before we went to the zoo, we stopped at the beach, so my niece and nephew could get their feet wet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. They said it didn't look much different from the Atlantic.
Then we stopped in the San Diego neighborhood where my brother and I (and our sister) grew up. The kids were impressed with the distance we walked to and from school everyday--uphill both ways. And downhill too. Our neighborhood was built on a hilly canyon. The Speedee Mart (it was a 7/Eleven, but nobody called it that) where we spent our weekly 25¢ allowance had long ago been torn down, and an apartment building stood in its place. Our old house, which had wood siding when we lived there, was stucco, and the yard was different but nice. Some of the other houses on the block were dumps in need of paint and weed removal. I was glad ours wasn't one of them.
At the zoo, my niece held my hand a lot of the time. I had forgotten how good that feels.
There were still a good number of babies at the zoo. It surprised me, because I associate babies with spring. The gorillas had one. One of the wallabies had a joey in the pouch. And the newest panda baby was sleeping in a tree.
It was good to spend time with family again. My niece told me, as we were driving back home from the zoo, that she's glad I'm her dad's sister, because if I weren't, then I wouldn't be her aunt. I told her I was glad about that too.
And we began making plans with my brother and his family. Next year, my mom and I will be driving around the country in a motorhome, and we've loosely scheduled each region of the country for a season when it won't be at its worst. We're planning on seeing the West in the summer, the Northeast in the fall, the Southeast in the winter, and the middle of the country in the spring.So next year in October, give or take a month, we'll visit my brother, and they can show us some of Massachusetts. I'm hoping my niece isn't too old by then to hold my hand.