PART II: The Arrival:
(AKA: Blame it on Jacob, apparently.)
As you may have figured out, signs really impact me on trips such as this. I can remember driving from Fortuna, CA, to Santa Cruz as a child, and the peace that filled my heart when we got to 41st Avenue, where (my Grandma) Lydie lived. I'd have to say this particular trip was the most monumental of my life, since her passing, and seeing the Santa Cruz City Limit sign was when all my off-roading, wanna-be testosterone gave way to sentiment, and I began tearing up at the prospect of seeing my entire family, some for the first time in eleven years. The only absentees were my brother Chris, and my uncle Daniel, who lives in Ohio. My mom is one of six kids, three sisters, followed by three brothers. (She's the youngest sister.) After she and her eldest sister, Donna, bore the original four grandchildren for the matriarch of our family, Grandma Lydie (Maria, Catherine, Sky, and myself), there was a ten year gap until the younger siblings began breeding. In the late 80's a new Wilhelm was born seemingly every other day, until finally Lydie had 13 grandchildren, all boys after me. From the age of eight, I spent nearly every holiday in Santa Cruz, and reveled in my boys (one of whom was my brother Chris). They were all my favourite, and I would pester aunts and uncles incessantly to bring all the boys to me. Nikolas, Joseph, Chris, Matthew, Aja, Jonah, Izaak, and the twins, Jacob and Zachary. Nothing brought me more happiness than to be up to my neck in these boys, each so sweet I sometimes bit them. For reals. Last time I saw the older boys they were Quinn's age, still welcomed my kisses, still my boys. Now I was about to face men, some of whom were rumoured to be taller than I, one of whom recently joined the National Guard, until the entire family united to oppose his choice, and convinced him not to sign the commitment papers. That's my Matt-Mo, so-called because Joseph couldn't say Matthew. He ended up not making it to Eric's either, due to some cell phone debacle, and I was practically bereft not to see him. He's 6'4"! But I still would have kicked his ass over this military shit. I will not lose one of my babies to George Bush's war.
Anyway, it had gotten too late to go to my uncle Eric's house, where everyone was staying, so we went straight to my cousin Maria's. She and Max, 12, gave up their entire, sprawling, 600 sq. ft. (super cute) house on the beach and they stayed in a friend's mansion next door. As soon as I saw Maria, my beloved, I got all shaky and tearful. Yes, I may be a loudmouthed heathen at home, but I am all heart with my family. Her embrace felt like a salve on my heart I'd needed for seven years. And she was the same, only now she's an A+ beach volleyball star on West Cliff, and so thin I tried to be bitter, but I couldn't. She's also an acupuncturist, like her mom (Donna). And there was Max! Oh, my Max. Max was the first of the babies to send a viable signal to my uterus. I loved him with each and every cell, so hard I got pregnant with Quinn. (There may have been more to it.) Both Maria and Catherine married Brasilians, so their children are delicious golden brown. Max looks the same, only giant, and gave us the sweetest hugs, even with his three uber-cool skater friends right there. It's hard to imagine anyone taller than Quinn, but Max has him by three inches (and almost two years), and it was just perfectly familiar to see his immediate, natural love for Quinn and Reilly, just the way it was when Maria and Catherine toted Sky and me everywhere back in the day when you could rent roller skates at the Boardwalk, and skate around town, with Tiger Milk bars in your pockets. Maria is three years older than Cat, who is three years older than Sky, but I am almost five years younger than Sky, so dragging me along just goes to show the inherent love we Wilhelms have for each other, seemingly the younger the better.
To quote my non-cousin-Jacob, I'm not gonna lie to you, I was shuddering with love. Literally. I nearly reenacted his Thanksgiving toast, to no one. I'm not sure, as I write this, why I always measure my love for my family in terms of the ferocity with which I want to bite/gnaw/eat them, but it's true. One time, when Chris was little, and I used to dress him and keep his hair short, I sort of bit/sucked (this is getting embarrassing) his cheek so hard he got a huge hematoma. Oh my god my mom was so pissed. We couldn't take him anywhere for a week because, as I had failed to anticipate, a sister can't giver her three year old brother a hickey. Except maybe in Kentucky. Don't worry, this chapter doesn't end with me at the kitchen table eating Maria and Max with some fava beans and a nice Chianti, but they are scrumptious.
Max took his Santa Cruz-named friends (Sequoia, Dava, and I think the third one was maybe like Reef or Breeze or something) and Quinn to the mansion to play Halo (Quinn's favourite game), and I stood in the living room, which concluded the tour of Maria's house. I couldn't help translate all the real estate I saw (or lack thereof) into Oregon prices. Her house was small and super cute, and we proceeded to make ourselves at home.
600 well-decorated square feet of Pleasure Point's very best beach front dwelling, for $1,500 per month:
See? There wouldn't even have been room to eat them at this table:
As Mom and Rei brought in their bags, Maria was familiarizing me with her house's little quirks. (Um, yeah, like costing a million fucking dollars? Oops, did I say that?) The garbage supposedly goes in one of those charming, ubiquitous, little chrome cans with the swinging top. Except this one was built for Stuart Little's room, so when you toss a tissue in, it's full. As we all know, when these must-have garbage cans (these, along with the uber-popular pedal ones) get full, we all act completely ignorant of the fact. As the rubbish forms a heap so dense it can scarcely be mashed down more than a millimeter, we continue to stomp and smash, because face it, wrenching the liners out of those ill-conceived, gimmicky bullshit cans is about as fun as a colonoscopy, so everyone just waits until finally, some gallant hero gets fed-up and changes the bag. Okay so there was the garbage, so full the swivel top couldn't swivel. And the recycling goes on the counter. (???) I made a new rule, because, again Jacob has my back here, don't nothin' go on the counter bitch. As expected there was little if any food in the refrigerator because my family mostly eats out, though I did spy Maria's classic contraband: Chips Ahoy. I also saw a bowl of avocados, which I knocked off one by one within two days. So, Maria doesn't have a coffee maker? I don't really know how that's possible. She has more energy than a locomotive. Her chi must abound in all the right channels, or whatever (sorry family, the joke is sacred). At one point, after, you know, driving 765 hours, I sort of wished I had one of those...what are they called again? Um, cl...cl...oh, cloves, right. Maria was explaining she had tea, and this and that creature comfort, and I sort of muttered, "I could use a clove," hoping my mama wouldn't hear. She's the only person in our family who smokes, and it's of great sadness to my kids and me, so I like to keep my very occasional treat on the down-lo, lest anyone worry. To my utter shock and awe, my Maria winked slyly (she's not particularly known for being sly--love you Mic!) and I knew. Mom walked away and I approached, covert-like, as if we were Special Op. I was afraid I misunderstood, so I clarified as delicately as a sweaty meth addict: "DIDYOUSAYYOUHAVECLOVES???" "Yeah, I'll set you up." Suddenly, in diva form so rare I can only attribute it to my frequent contact with Jacob, I blurted out, "But I can only smoke Djarums." Like some vagrant saying, "I can only accept 1967 quarters." Clearly some heavenly force was rewarding me for my harrowing drive, because Maria's glorious response was, "Yeah, Djarums, Bali Hais." My knees nearly buckled. Problem was, Maria wasn't in the delirium tremors state of need yet, so she was content to show us the mansion, each blade of grass in her yard, ask about mileage and shit, and I needed a goddamn clove. I expressed that, you know, sooner was r-e-a-l-l-y preferable to later so she sent Mom over to check on the Halo boys while Rei set up her bed/kingdom/menagerie. We sauntered every so casually into the shack out back that houses Max's 20 surfboards, and I feigned interest with, I'd say, 0% believability, and then we lit up. I feel superstitious comparing this to some sort of spiritual experience, but damn. I felt a deep stigma even touching a white clove, as it may as well be a Marlboro for all anyone knows, which means I may as well be doing meth. (It's my inner Jacobness.) But I was a beggar, and you know what? It was damn fine. Robust, crackly, burny with an attitude, it kind of kicked its slender black cousin's ass, at least in that moment. I've never enjoyed some surfboards more than I did that night. (I absolutely refuse to make a Hulk Hogan/Barack Obama analogy about the cloves, because a) I can't bear for Barack to get trounced by Hulk, and b) the implied sucking and everything...)
It's in my pathology to be a night owl, but that drive kicked my ever-loving ass. I meant to join my mom and Maria at the 2" x 2" table, but I accidentally touched the goose down comforter and the next thing I knew it was morning.
My beloved Maria and some bloated whale that washed ashore from Oregon (me):
I realize "Maxy" is a less than dignified nickname, but this is my Maxy:
Maria and Max, a little blurry, but I'd still eat them:
You must be this small to sit at this table. Maria's actually 5'11" but fortunately weighs a buck ten soaking wet and is apparently pretty bendy:
Even better if you're this size. How the hell Reilly figured that Mac laptop out I will never know:
You KNOW I'm not an animal person, but I am a Quinn person, and this is Quinn with Roxy, who is very affectionate, and, I'm kind of afraid, named for the brand?
Disclaimer: Maria doesn't actually smoke. Someone gave her that pack on New Years and I think she only lit up to ease the shame of my trembling, pathetic desperation. Still, it was bliss.