Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mother-Daughter Time in California

I was surprised when my daughter asked to visit Pomona, Stanford and Berkeley on our college tour. Gemma was looking for a small liberal arts school in the mountains with active outing and nordic ski clubs and no Greek life. She would have to miss a week of high school to fly from Maine to a region she'd never seen.

I asked, "Do you want to go to college in California or do you want to visit the west coast?" When Gemma admitted to the latter, I promised to take her there after she was accepted to college. So last month we flew to San Francisco for one last mother-daughter vacation before she starts Middlebury College in February.

At Half Moon Bay, CA with my daughter and my friend's dog. Photo by Martha Enthoven Stid, our host in Menlo Park.

Middlebury admits one sixth of the freshman to start in February, allowing time for a gap term. Gemma had trekked through the Scottish highlands with her cousin and worked on organic farms in France and in New Zealand (via WWOOF). We'd reunited for Christmas in the UK with my husband's family.

After wet England, we were ready for some Californian sunshine, but somehow we brought the rain with us, nearly ending their drought! Luckily the Muir redwoods were just as lovely in a misty drizzle. We spent our first day hiking with my daughter's friend from Chewonki Semester School, whose family hosted us in San Francisco.

As the sun broke through the clouds, we hiked from Muir Beach Overlook down to Muir Beach and had a tasty pub style lunch at The Pelican Inn (his family is half British too). That's a real pelican in my opening shot. Muir Beach and the pub are on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge and up the bay.

Muir Beach

Double jet-lagged from England, I fell into the teen timezone, staying up past midnight and sleeping late.

My Snap Chat debut via Gemma.
We enjoyed cocktails and sodas at Top of the Mark, overlooking the San Francisco skyline. Our best meal out was at Range, a restaurant owned by the brother of my oldest friend. Range's chickpea fritters tasted like cheese souffle only lighter and healthier. All the ingredients were fresh and local, a joy in January. The Mission neighborhood, with its funky after hours boutiques and vibrant street art, was fun to explore at night.

My daughter revived my inner teen, suggesting we try on designer dresses at BCBG just for fun, imagining life on the red carpet. Then we rummaged through the sale racks for clothes we would wear in the real world. Stepping out of the changing rooms in our favorite dresses, we had an hilarious surprise. When Gemma leaves for college, I'll miss her laughter. It was hard enough saying goodbye to our friends in California.

When I last saw Miriam, we were at M.I.T. graduate school studying politics. There were only four women in our year so we bonded tightly. She was a fabulous cook and taught me how to make Oyakodon, a Japanese dish I still enjoy with my family. In San Francisco she treated me to excellent dim sum at Hong Kong Lounge. We reconnected like no time had passed and could have chatted for hours.

After a week of staying with friends, we pushed the boat out for the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa. The location, Cannery Row was the setting/title of one of Gemma's favorite novels. My dad emailed a link to a literary tour of Monterey, and we were pleased to find Doc's shack still standing. The character was modeled on a real marine scientist and friend of Steinbeck.

Our journey down the coast started out well when Enterprise Car Rental offered me a free upgrade to a BMW. Yes! It was a challenging drive in heavy traffic, thick fog, torrential rain and longer still dealing with a flat tire, but it was well worth the journey just to see the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Braying sea lions and Pacific waves breaking under our cantilevered hotel lulled us to sleep. I woke early to watch the sea otters fishing in the surf while Gemma slept in. I wasn't quick enough to photograph a pod of dolphins leaping past the pier so I phoned my daughter. She stepped out on the balcony in time to see them.

With borrowed binoculars we watched hundreds more dolphins from the shore path, passing like a parade at sunset. We reminisced about the past and discussed her plans for the future: Philosophy, Studio Arts, Psychology, Music?

Today my son and I are helping Gemma move into her dorm. I'm so lucky to have two marvelous children, and Middlebury is a wonderful school. Still, it's hard to let go.

I will cherish these memories...

My daughter at Half Moon Bay, California.


thecuecard said...

Wow what a wonderful trip Sarah! Perfect times with your daughter. Yeah the Monterey Aquarium and Muir Beach and Woods are terrific. Hard to beat the Bay Area; I was there at Thanksgiving time. I wish your daughter a great freshman year at Middlebury! very exciting.

A Cuban In London said...

Gorgeous post. This time flies by so quickly. I can imagine how hard it is for you and your husband to see her go to college. The photos are spectacular. Thanks for such a beautiful post.

Greetings from London.

Amanda Summer said...

Oh my gosh, Sarah, what a beautiful journey to take with your daughter. That photo of you two looks more like sisters than mother and daughter!

Rose said...

What a wonderful way to spend the last few days with your daughter before she headed off to college! I remember those first few weeks of being an empty-nester; it's an adjustment, for sure. Of course, my daughter was only 15 minutes away at the university, so I could see her quite often. Thank you for your kind words on my last post about losing my mother. That has been the hardest adjustment of all for me.

Gorgeous photos!

Petra Pavlátková said...

Great photos and wonderful memories, Sarah. First I thought that was a statue of a pelican in the opening shot, it suited the place perfectly, so I was glad you confirmed it was a real bird. That must have been a wonderful view.

troutbirder said...

A very special time for both mom and daughter. Then off to college. Well done Sarah....;)

Bee said...

Hi Sarah! I would have enjoyed this account anyway, but I've read it with a very personal interest as I am currently planning a mother-daughter trip to this very same region. Camille and I are going to be driving from Texas to California at the end of May -- ultimate destination Yosemite, but with stops planned for Steinbeck land. I'll email you. Thanks for the postcard! X

Les said...

Sounds like a spectacular trip. Lucky for you to have such a bond with your children. At this point in our relationship, I might as well be a freak of nature as far as my son is concerned. Hopefully though, I have laid a good foundation and he will see me differently in the not too distant future. I know I did with my own father.

Sarah Laurence said...

All, thanks! I enjoyed your comments.

Rose, my heart goes out to you and your family in this difficult time.

Amanda, my high school friends do a double take when they see my daughter since I looked so much like her at that age.

Bee, I’m looking forward to hearing more about your road trip. Sounds marvelous!

Les, I’m sorry that you’re having issues with your son, but as you know, that is not unusual for that age. Toward the end of high school, my son was more focused on his friends and girlfriend, but now at college, he calls home for hour-long conversations and enjoys coming back to visit us. You are wise to give it time.