When a business trip takes you to the other coast and it’s a place you’ve never been before, it merits tacking on a couple of play days to make space for adventure. Yes, I had adventures – but most profound were simple acts of love.
The weeks preceding my trip to San Diego involved pre-bedtime Googling the best restaurants, must- see landmarks, the hip neighborhoods and nature’s hot spots. In keeping with our Word of the Week, simplicity, I opted to establish just one must-do goal and let the rest play out in serendipity.
The sea lions were a must.
The Cove at La Jolla smells like sea lion and seal poop, but the majesty of the Pacific and the doe-eyes of those howling, napping critters was well worth the pungent aroma.
Well-timed suggestions fueled my adventure, like that of the proprietor of the inn where I lodged recommending a drive to Coronado on my first full day. (Side note: No matter WHERE I wanted to go, the pat response was, “Oh, it’s only fifteen minutes away!” Lo and behold, it was true – most everywhere I wanted to go WAS just 15 minutes away.)
Overcast skies and a too-cool wind tried to dampen my spirits to no avail. There were sandcastles and crashing waves…and in the distance, the behemoth that is the Hotel Coronado, a famous historic landmark with an equally legendary breakfast buffet.
Of course, I did!
Yes, breakfast was amazing, but what I observed was far more thrilling: A simple act of love.
I noticed her the minute she walked in; an elegant woman dressed impeccably in a pink tweed suit, her gray hair folding in a smooth, longer pageboy. More than the clothes she wore, her smile lit the room, removing years from her face and intriguing me.
Unfortunately, it is a rare woman in her advanced years who so readily smiles, and yet it is a trait I aspire to.
I watched what appeared to be her daughter – likely my own age – and granddaughter, setting a celebratory tone. Was it her birthday?
I tried not to be rude, but I couldn’t stop glancing their way.
Then, in walked a tall, handsome man with what appeared to be a bouquet of 50 roses.
And I watched the lovely lady hold back tears.
I bowed my head; this was a sacred moment.
He attempted a photo and I leaped to offer my services. It gave me a chance to tell the woman I found her to be beautiful.
Later, at the buffet, the man – her son – told me the back story. Fifty years ago, on that day, she got married at the Hotel Coronado. Though her husband was no longer alive, it had always been his practice to send her red roses, each representing a year of their marriage. On this landmark 50th, her children wanted to honor the tradition.
What love! What a testament to a life well-lived; so well done that her children were overflowing with gratitude and honor.
Elaine’s wedding photo also had a place of honor at the breakfast table.
I wanted to capture some shots of this glorious encounter, but didn’t want to be intrusive of their family moment.
The spirit of her beloved was surely smiling down on them all; I FELT it.
Emotionally sated, my adventures continued. I drove to the “Om Dome” in Encinitas for a spiritual concert with my newfound airplane friend, Myrna, who had a “Gypsy Soul” necklace made exactly like my go-to “Salt Life” silver flattened spoon choker.
I scheduled a table for one at the Marine Room, where the waves lapped against the window in front of my table (and the lobster bisque was swoon-worthy.)
The next simply wonderful highlight was to spend quality time with my cousin, Debbie, who gathered her two amazing daughters – Carolyn and Colleen – her granddaughter, Charlotte, her husband (who I had NEVER met, Craig) and Carolyn’s firefighter husband, John, for a night at an authentic Mexican restaurant in Old Town.
The conversation flowed as only it can when great love is at the table.
The reunion reminded me off what cemented my love for Debbie, despite decades of not seeing each other.
Her father, Joseph, is my father’s younger brother. When I was ten, as you all know, my father died suddenly from a heart attack. Joe and his family immediately traveled from their home in Virginia Beach, Virginia to attend the services.
We were all devastated, and I vividly recall sitting around my grandmother’s apartment picking at catered food and trying to find comfort in each other’s presence.
No longer able to hold it together, I remember erupting into sobs and fleeing to the back bedroom.
One person came to me.
My cousin Debbie.
Just a teenager herself, she wrapped me in her arms and just hugged me and hugged me. I will never forget that moment.
And throughout our magical evening in San Diego, I enjoyed her hugs once again. They felt familiar and oh-so-comforting. Her daughters are also world-class huggers! I loved them so much I wanted to say, “Where have you been all of my life?”
Of course, they were there all along. I just never took the time to know them. But that, of course, all changed in one love-filled evening.
A bouquet of 50 roses.
A simple hug, perfectly timed.
And then, in line at security on the way home, I marveled at a husband/wife team, so adeptly keeping their two toddlers entertained. The little boy kicked off his shoes as daddy patiently put them back on. His tears turned to giggles as mommy blew fart-sounds onto his belly. Finally, he was hung upside down by his daddy (to his glee), and mommy, weighed down with diaper bags and luggage and minding strollers reached down to lift the older girl.
The husband looked at her quizzically as if to say, “Why are you doing that? You’ve got so much to carry.”
She covered her daughter’s face with gentle kisses and said, “Because she wants to be held, too, and I love her.”
I bowed my head again. It was such a tender moment, so very sweet and lovely.
What a good mom.
I told her, too, on the way to take my seat home. She looked at me with eyes that revealed she is far too often hard on herself and feels a bit overwhelmed by this most noble of professions. She couldn’t imagine that I had observed something that so impressed a stranger enough for them to comment on her parenting skills.
Chocolate stained faces and poopy diapers be damned.
She was an amazing mom.
She simply loved.
I hope that you, too, relished in the adventures of simplicity this past week.
Onward to the new Word of the Week:
You mean there IS a tomorrow? And I don’t have to do everything right now?
For me, there will always be a balance between resting in patience and letting it do its perfect work – and cramming 27 hours of activity into a 24 hour day.
When you see me careening off of the edge – pull me back!
I will nuzzle into PATIENCE this week and see what fruit it bears.
And for those of you waiting for something (or someone) – I am standing in faith WITH you.