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California, New Zealand. Two passports, two homelands. And detours.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Camino de Santiago: Tapas with mom

Three weeks ago, a conversation with my mom about the California education system - a conversation that began in the kitchen I grew up in a week before - continued in a tapas bar in Pamplona.

Dad was trying to find a parking space; it was a Sunday night, busy in a way that was fresh and kind of wild for all three of us, and while he searched the streets for somewhere to wedge the rental, Mom sat on a barstool next to me, a glass of wine and a plate of jamon and bread, olives, marinated mushrooms between us, and she continued talking like we were still sitting at the kitchen counter in bathrobes, our hands around coffee mugs, the morning news on mute above the refridgerator, and the cat at our feet.

In the bar, Mom talked with passion about her work, but for a moment I just watched her face, her hand, beside my hand by the wine glass, crazy noise around us and outside on the streets that was just warming up for the night, and I´m thinking, I´m sitting here with my mom, talking about education, in a bar, in Spain.

My mom, by the way, came to Spain on just about two week´s notice. When it became unavoidable that she wouldn´t be able to make it to my cousin´s wedding this next week because it clashed with finals and graduation, I mentioned, extremely casually at the end of an email, that she should think about coming over and walking a piece of the Camino with me on her Easter break.

My mother is a such a sucker for adventure.

When I was young, Mom used to take me to Hendry´s Beach during the summer and on weekends; sometimes in a minivan carload of my friends and our boogy boards, sometimes just her and I. In the morning, or if it was June, it would be completely fogged out. She grew up in a house on the Mesa and Hendry´s was where she grew up swimming with her sisters. The fog didn´t bother either of us. She would get a cup of coffee from the restaurant, wrap herself in jackets and a hat and sit at a picnic table with her journal and write.

I would be leaping and diving - my first taste of feeling beautiful and powerful at something - I would yell out to her and wave, and she would wave back and I would feel appreciated and then find someone else to show off for and she would go back to writing and staring at the ocean.

Whenever I am back in California, I try to get to Hendry´s. I´ll usually do it on a day when I have something I need clarity on. I bring blankets or a down jacket in case its foggy. I´ll bring my journal and a coffee and I´ll go sit at Mom´s picnic table and write. There have been years when I have stared at the waves from there and remembered myself in them, and then picturing mom, probably younger than I am now, sitting in the same place, writing about her own life.

But mostly I don´t think about that. It´s my picnic table now, my beach, my life.

One of the most precious things about my mom is the way she has been able to leave beautiful pieces of herself - a picnic table, a beach, a need for adventure - and leave it behind her in a way that I have been able to pick them up and make these things all my own.

This morning, on Mother´s Day, I know my mom will be looking up where I am on the map (Melide) from her bed, where Dad will have brought her a cup of tea. Dad will have printed this out for her and placed it on the tea tray. She will have Michener´s Iberria beside her for historical reference, so she´ll know more about the place I am in than I do.

Then I bet you anything, she and Dad are going to the beach this afternoon and she´ll get a coffee and bring her journal and write her heart out.

Happy Mother´s Day mom...I am a very, very blessed daughter. It was so, so wonderful to see you and Dad in Spain...

The next vino is on me.


  1. You know - this entry has an even bigger impact on me since I have actually met your mom. There's something about being able to actually picture your mom's expressions as she sat there in that bar in Spain with you. And it makes me long to share something special with my mom. I don't care what it is... a trail ride, an incredible piece of chocolate, a good looking guy (just checking him out - I don't actually want to SHARE him with my mom - eww). I wish I was over there in SYV so we could have Grappolos and walk through Back at the Ranch. I think I need to plan a trip. :-) Love you Gwyn!

  2. Brought a tear to my eye, as I realized you wrote this for mothers day at the conclusion of the story. I pictured your mom, Hendry's beach, and you as a little girl boogie boarding.
    Thanks for the visual through your writing, and keep it up. Beach trip when you get back to Cali? Hopefully it will not be "fogged up," or in.

  3. Ahhhh, Michele, yes Grappolos if you are in SYV anytime early next month! Jonah, that would be really cool. Thanks for the encouragement guys.