The first time I showed up unannounced was for Christmas about a year after we moved to France. We hadn't been home yet to visit, so I thought she might suspect something. She wasn't home when we got there, so we called and made up some story about a UPS package needing to be delivered. I could hear my step-dad in the background totally killing our story and saying UPS didn't deliver that late or call over seas for a package, but she still had no clue.
When they pulled up in the driveway and saw us at the door her face exploded. It was like from the movie Drop Dead Fred when he gets his head stuck in the fridge and pulls it out and it's all flat and huge.
Her enormous smile took up the whole windshield. Her whole body vibrates when she is excited and she buzzed around like a slightly stoned hummingbird for the first few days we were there saying over and over "I cant believe you are really here."
So I have already done the surprise visit and it was very fun if a tad dramatic but I decided to do it again because if she knew we were coming she would be exhausted when we arrived because she would have spent days cleaning and shopping for food.
David got upgraded to business class when we were boarding and he asked me if I wanted his seat. I felt guilty for a second because he is taller than me, but then I remembered all the "vanity bags" you get when you sit in business class that we had just pawned off on his mom and realized he had been upgraded about a million times and I never will be.
I was stuffing my jacket into the completely empty overhead bin when someone came by with a hanger and asked to take my coat. Fancy pantsy. Champagne before take off? Bien sur! The seats went almost flat so I actually slept and were entirely self-contained, so when you moved them it didn't encroach on the space of the person behind you. Did you know it's considered rude to put your seat back and people actually buy "knee defenders" to block the person in front of them from moving their seat? I'm 5'9 and there is no way I am sitting up ramrod straight for 11 hours.
Needless to say, my Mom was super surprised, and my step-dad sincerely thanked me for coming while I was putting my suitcase in the guest room.
It was a very short week and we spent just two days in Sacramento, but it was great to be in California in the spring. Normally we only come for Thanksgiving and although November is still warmer than Paris, spring in California is still the best of the best weather wise.
It was our last visit where we can use my old apartment and the bar across the street from it as a meeting spot. I took over when my friend moved to Philly and he left a lot of stuff behind, and my friend took it when I moved to France and I left a bunch of stuff behind, so it's filled with memories and still looks similar to the way it was when I lived there. But she is moving to a house, which is more practical for a new baby than an old Victorian that has been chopped randomly into four railroad style apartments and has ceilings so high that it's impossible to heat or cool. Maza and I used to sleep with ice packs in the summer and shut all the doors in the bedroom in the winter and only heat that room. My electric bills were still ridiculously high.
I got mani-pedis with my 11 year old BFF who is now 15, went to my sisters for dinner, had cocktails at The Shady Lady, managed to see a bunch of people but of course not everyone, and spent a lot of time eating outside. I always forget to take pictures, so most of these I stole from Facebook.
|Made in France/Made in California|
|a little piece of Paris in Modesto|
|My nephew is 16! God I'm old.|
Of course it wouldn't be a normal visit if some crazy person didn't wander onto my moms property. The day before we left I saw someone moseying down the driveway in a totally sketchy way, slowly scanning the porch and the side yard. The house looked empty because there were no cars in the driveway. I grabbed the (useless) dog and followed the weirdo toward the back where there is a guest house that a college kid lives in. I yelled towards his back "Can I help you?!" but then I heard the college kid say "Come in", so I felt silly and rude and went back inside.
Turns out, she thought the crazy guy was my husband, and even though she thought it was odd David would be knocking at her gate, she did the polite thing and said come in. She came into the main house pretty freaked out a few minutes later. She had the two kids she nannies for with her and he was trying to come in her house and saying he knew her, showed her an id that had someone else's picture on it to prove it and told her that she needed to check her bank account. He was calling one of the girls Bella and trying to give her an ipod and wouldn't leave.
I should have just listened to my gut and gone all the way back there to make sure things were ok. I read The Gift of Fear when it came out, and one of the things that women do that get them in trouble is to be polite even when they are feeling uncomfortable. Guess I need to read it again!
As usual all those goodbyes hit me as we pulled away from my moms house and I cried and David laughed at me and said "You cry every time." As if someday it will be easy to leave my friends and family and speaking English and friendly waiters, Target and taco trucks.
Luckily we had a few more days of sunshine in San Jose. We never manage to see our friends in the Bay area because after the flight, driving to Modesto, driving to Sacramento, driving to Grass Valley and then back to Modesto, the last thing we want to do it drive more. So it was great to have time to see them.
Normally I never travel with David when he goes somewhere for work, (really, I don't, but this winter is killing me and he keeps going to warm places) so I was interested to see him set up his demo, but his British co-worker who met us at the office in San Jose seemed super nervous that I was there and even though I had a badge implied that I should stay in the lobby. I completely ignored David when he came in and out and was just chilling but the British guy kept stopping to check on me and ask me if I was ok and told me how to get to the hotel by the tram and asked me if I needed anything.. It was only two hours and I had about a thousand books on my tablet and internet access, so it made me wonder what kind of wife he has that he thought I couldn't entertain myself.
He also said that he was moving home and that he hated the food in the US and was practically a vegan after living there for two years because it was so terrible and all Americans did was shop and never socialized. This was one of the very first things he said to me, which I thought was weird. I wouldn't have said, "British people boil all their food and don't believe in dentists" if he asked me what I thought of his country. I understood what he meant (I think). It took me a long time to find substitutes and replacements for the healthy food I missed and to figure out the non-spoken social rules, but what an odd puppy.
I always get a little sad taking off and watching California fall away beneath me. But it's not my home anymore and it's a relief to go home to my cat and my own bed, and my routine and the small handful of friends I have there. It isn't the same as the life I left behind, but it's what I do every day and what I am used to and when I'm gone I miss it.