Friday, February 13, 2009

California begins

California, we have arrived! There was much woo-hooing and cheering and ballyhooing as we passed from Arizona into California, coast-to-coast, we were there! We drove an easy straight shot into San Diego and wanting to take a break, have some food, get gas, and have some run-around time, we pulled off the 805 freeway having no idea where we were, just looking for food and green space. We promptly got a bit, well not lost but confused because there were no gas stations in sight, only crazy urban suburbia spreading out before us. We persevered, found a gas station, asked the attendant the fastest way back to the freeway because we could not get on going north where we got off, and he pointed due west, said you can't miss it. Right before the freeway was a grocery store, bingo, now for that green space...well, let's just drive over the freeway a bit and see what we see...and we saw heaven. A huge park, a playground, and children running and jumping and playing. And ya know what? There was also a Starbucks right around the corner, ha! Boy do we love California.
The park was so classic California, a cross-cultural slice of our dense American pie. We set up a spot with our blanket and fruits and cheese and popcorn and sparkling water and off my little ones went to join the ruckus. Across the playground were concrete picnic tables, where the "old world" contingent of the large group of Muslim families set up. The older women were fully covered in flowing black robes and head scarves, faces covered except for their eyes, the younger women, with white or black scarves, still covered their heads but not their faces, had long robes on also, reminding me of the nuns I grew up with. Then young women, teenagers, hip young mamas, where wearing head scarves with beautiful, fitted long tops, but very hip jeans underneath, and the youngest of all, the little girls and boys, were running around indistinguishable for their clothes from the rest. There were hibachis and coolers, plates, cups and napkins, and I imagined a bit of oh-so-yummy food from their table, but I don't think they were looking for company, so I kept to my fruit and cheese.
Directly in front of me were the Latina mamas, big sisters, aunties watching their little ones. A row of gorgeous, young, dark haired and perfectly olive skinned women, in tight jeans and tighter t-shirts, laughing and watching, all heads turned toward me when Augustus falls, and I didn't even think they knew I was behind them. They knew, they clocked us, they knew who those little ones belonged to. There was a group of Asian-American families, the mamas following their little ones through the playground, pushing the swings, and finally, us and a few other random families, mamas with one little one, or one baby, taking it all in and really marvelling at who we are.

Then Los Angeles proper. Below are the principles of the homeschool group we slid in with whilst doing our LA gig. Saiya, Magdalena, Blossom and Maddy. I say principles because they were the big girls, the almost five and five year olds, the grand dames of the group, as it were. Some time last fall, Jessica, the mama/dear friend/partner in mama-ing, who we were staying with in LA, called me not completely convinced that this homeschooling thing was going to work out. She couldn't find the families that clicked, she was checking out park days, going online, but hadn't yet met her tribe. Trust, I told her, Trust. I was exactly the same - who were our friends going to be? Where were the mamas, the babies, the big kids that I was going to do this thing with? Who were we going to create this life with? And then, voila, at the library one day I saw them; I said, there they are, those are my people, those mamas and babies and big kids are the ones, and they were. So I said to Jessica, Trust. And she did, and they came. She called me thrilled one day, saying she had met two mamas who she got, who she knew before she even met them! She even said "I met my west coast Connor! She's lived all the same places as you, she totally gets me!".

Our first full day in LA (Culver City/Mar Vista-ish, feeling very Venice Beach) was New Years Eve, so off we go to the New Years Eve homeschool coop afternoon party at one of the family's houses. And doncha know, as I'm backing the Mitsu up to park and unload, out there, on the street, in Venice, CA, welcoming us to her house, was "the west coast Connor" and doncha know, as I stick my head out the window to ask for some guidance into the spot, I hear "Connor?" and I say "Claudia?" and who knew that the west coast Connor was an old friend of mine, actually, the woman who was partners with a really old friend of mine from Atlanta in owning the Three of Cups restaurant I bartended at back on 5th and Avenue A in Alphabet city, in NYC? Really? Come on, no way. Way. WOW. We both laughed at who we were and marvelled at who we have become. She said, did you ever figure me for a homeschooling mom? I never imagined you as one. I thought, but didn't say out loud, shoot, who knew I'd even survive NYC, let alone thrive? Will the miracles never stop? I'm betting on a lifetime of them, miracles that is.

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