We stopped taking vacations when Charlie was around 11. He couldn't handle the change and we all got weary of slogging through the hours in unfamiliar surroundings while others puzzled that something synonymous with 'fun' for most everyone amounted to a non-idyllic ordeal for us. No one was ever happier to make their way to econo-parking at Newark airport, amid piles of frozen and begrimed snow, than us.
The two places we had been wont to visit were Long Beach Island, one of those parts of the Jersey Shore that is nothing like that Jersey Shore aside from the beautiful ocean, and the Bay Area as that's where a good part of my family lives. We'd rent a house at the beach for two weeks in mid-August and fly out to Oakland during Christmas.
The reason we moved out here to Berkeley is that my family is here. The harsh reality of Charlie -- an only child -- needing care and guardians all his life makes being near family a necessity.
But it was not a bad twist of fate that San Francisco was the place my grandparentts landed when they left China at the start of the 20th century. I'm sure the climate of Old Gold Mountain, 舊金山, Gumshan, seemed cold to someone emigrating from Toisan in Canton. If you've lived, as Charlie has, in the Northeast, Minnesota and Missouri, the Bay Area's Mediterranean climate is downright temperate, and on a year-round basis, arguably the perfect fit for a boy who prefers to wear the same thing day in and day out and never quite knows what to do when there's change.
Sunday, the 2nd of February, it rained, a good thing as there's a drought here. Hearing the drip and patter, and the seagulls, on waking, I cancelled plans to go to Sacramento for a 'family meeting.' The plan had been that Jim and Charlie would do a long bike ride while I was gone; the rain made this seem less likely.
As things turned out, Charlie slept in till 11 (when the meeting was to start). I went for a run up into the Berkeley Hills. I took the notoriously steep Marin Avenue all the way to the top, past Grizzly Peak Boulevard and a bit into Tilden Park.I got the most glorious views of the Golden Gate Bridge in fog and the Bay Bridge a bit south and the water and islands and the hills across from us.
Charlie and Jim headed out for their usual by-the-bay to Richmond bike ride in the same attire (one layer) that they've worn every day we've been here. It was cooler than it had been and the sky was grey and it was wet and we all agreed, 'twas nothing compared to some of the temperatures they've ridden bikes in. Or as Jim commented as he got on his bike,
'We would have been joyous if it'd been like this' on those knuckle-freezing yellow-jacket ride days in New Jersey.
One of the perks of being a professor is being able to take a sabbatical and, if you set things up right, to spend it in a nice place. We have never done this due to Charlie's school and other needs -- never, that is, until now.
And the climate being Mediterranean here, when I step out the door in the morning, the air feels just as it did when I went for morning walks while my students were sleeping and breakfasting, in Greece.