A month ago, we celebrated our little guy's one year birthday. We rented a hall along the Bay, invited our friends, decorated the place with paper lanterns and custom made posters of the little guy's past 12 months, and laid out enough food and cake to feed all the smiling faces. We put the little guy in a hanbok and made him pick from an assortment of objects - following in a Korean tradition that I know little about -- more for kicks than anything else. When he picked the piggy bank, symbolizing a life of wealth, and the crowd broke out in laughter, we knew we have an entertainer on our hands.
The day after, we loaded our station wagon with our luggage, bottles of water and leftover cake, an umbrella stroller, and enough toys to last the upcoming drive. I packed our little guy in his car seat, and my parents piled in. We left Jeff behind to deal with the moving company - and all the leftovers in the fridge until he was ready to follow suit a couple of days later.
Around 11am, we started driving. Away from the home I had known for the past six years, away from the city I had loved for the past eleven. We drove straight down 280 and then to 101, past Daly City where I had regularly stopped for Hawaiian plate lunches, past the airport I had often hovered over before landing, past all the exits that led to houses of our friends and acquaintances. We stopped in Paso Robles for lunch and proceeded to Santa Barbara for the night. The next day, we kept driving, until we reached La Jolla.
For the past month, I have been calling La Jolla home -- from a rental that we have for the next six months while we try to figure out whether to become Southern Californians for good. Out of our master bedroom upstairs, we overlook the Pacific -- a view more stunning than any I have ever known. We are surrounded by palm trees and people in flip flops. Guys and gals tote surf boards, as casually as if they were carrying laptops. On the freeway, we drive past convertibles -- and monster trucks.
To try to fit in, we have made a concerted effort not to wear any foot gear other than flip flops. I have yet to tuck a surf board under my arm, but Jeff has been going to work regularly with a boogie board and a beach towel in his trunk. We have strolled up and down the streets of Bird Rock, a little enclave of La Jolla, and hit many of the take-out joints in Pacific Beach - but have yet to brave the bars where we see women clad in bikinis and men in cut offs partying as if they were in a John Cusack film.
The past month has passed in a blur. The first few days were dedicated to unpacking and sorting out our material possessions to approximate some state of stability even as our two car garage remains filled with unpacked boxes and plastic bins. Then the dam of work I had put up while our lives took their course broke and I have been drowning in it since. Even though we hired a part time nanny to help us, we don't know what we would have done if my parents hadn't put their own lives on hold to help us with the transition.
Yesterday, I took the day off. We piled in the car and drove one exit over to Sea World. Once there, we pressed our palms against the glass panes and marveled at the orca whales swimming past us. We lathered sun screen on the little guy and braved the sun to watch the dolphin show. And giggled at the sea lions barking for more food. Later, we gobbled up ice cream bars shaped like Shamu.
I purchased an annual membership to the place - and the second year is for free. So until little T turns three -- and if we find ourselves lucky enough to make this our new home -- we'll be there regularly, befriending the whales, the dolphins, the sea lions, and the sea otters. Maybe even the moray eels.
I think about how life must look to a little person like our T, who has suddenly been transported 500 miles and planted in a new home that is three times the size of the only home he has ever known. Who is now showered with overwhelming attention -- and incessant feeding -- by his grandparents from 2500 miles away. Who suddenly finds himself exposed to humongous creatures he has never seen in his one year of existence -- dolphins and orca whales that jump out of the water and crash dive back in.
What else does life have in store for him -- and for us?