A Brief Reprieve

A Brief Reprieve

Frank and I are in California with my mom and dad, visiting my sister. It’s weird because I haven’t seen her in like two and half years—she works for a restaurant, and so doesn’t get time off around the holidays when I’m visiting my folks. But it’s funny how with siblings you just pick up like you never left off. I suppose a lifetime of living together makes an indelible impression.

So, California is beautiful. Such a cliché, I know, but especially in the springtime it’s just striking. Like people are going about their business because this is where the live and they’ve got shit to do, but being on vacation and in a new place I have the unfamiliarity and the time to be awed by it. Coming from a city where every square inch is coveted and argued over and pooped on by birds and bought by developers for condos, to see a whole field of blooming mustard flowers stretching from the side of the road, rolling to the edge of the horizon bright green and yellow and dotted with picturesque little cows and nobody’s using it for anything, I just think “Wow, what a waste! Nobody’s even appreciating these flowers.”

Which is why I will never be a Californian. Visiting is awesome though. We’ve done wine tasting, a mustard festival, eaten at the French Laundry, and barbecued on the back porch of the little house my folks and I are staying in. Today we’re going mushroom foraging with my sister’s boyfriend—he works in a mushroom factory but knows good spots for wild ones, too. Yes, for real. I know. California, man!

So it’s been great but also kind of oddly timed. Obviously we’d scheduled this trip before we knew we’d be moving at the end of the month, and though it’s really nice to get away for a while, it’s hard not to let the stress of it all wash back sometimes. What’s funny to me, though, is how in this environment—surrounded by family, scheduled to do something together every moment of the day—a normal moment of stress and worry bubbling up has no outlet and therefore becomes a big deal.

Yesterday Frank heard from his friend who agreed to check in on the cats, and I guess they’ve made a real mess of the place. Not surprising, really. They hate to be left alone and even when we’re around they’re pretty gross and fight-y. Plus the place is half filled with boxes and empty bookshelves and generally looks a wreck anyway. So when the friend called to tell us how gross everything was, it shouldn’t have been a surprise and wasn’t, really, but something about it just triggered an avalanche of worry.

The movers haven’t called back to schedule yet, we’ll never get packed in time, the cats are jerks, we haven’t had a chance to get a gift for the guy who had to watch the cats yet, etc. I mean, total boring stuff, nothing even noteworthy, right? But whereas normally I’d have a little freak out and then be done with it, you can’t really do that when everyone’s around. The little freak out has to be explained, and then everyone feels like they have to comfort you, then you feel like an idiot. I realize that this is love and concern, and I appreciate it.

It’s just funny how taken out of my normal emotional context a completely reasonable stress ball from me and a completely reasonable response of reassurance from family can make me feel like a dumb teenager again. Fun times.

Anyway, though, the worry time was brief and alleviated by a paper container of festival nachos and a glass of wine. I’m telling you, California knows how to do it. And when we get back tomorrow, hopefully I’ll be able to view our cat-infested apartment as a metaphor for all the shit we’re in for the next week or two, rather than freak out again and murder everyone. It’s always a toss up, but right now I’m feeling pretty mellow.


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