Every year in late summer, while the beaches are still chock full of vacationers, parents across the country take time to pack up and send off their precious babies for college. This past August, Tim and I did it times 2: we gathered up the family in the trusty Honda minivan and drove to the Munich Intl Airport to farewell Lindsey, bound for Raleigh, North Carolina (UNC-Chapel Hill for her senior year) and Lauren, flying to Los Angeles (starting her freshman year at Azusa Pacific University). The whole procession was fraught with apprehension and a bit of panic (Lindsey lost her favorite sweater somewhere between McDonalds and the surfing competition; it looked to us that Lauren almost walked away from security without her brand new MacBook Pro in tow) but the girls made it across the pond and started school in fine spirits. Mom and Dad had to rely on Skype conversations and random Facebook posts to keep up with their whereabouts.
Our move back to Ft Bragg this past fall put us close to the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, a quick and easy 90 minutes to Lindsey’s apartment. To say that Lindsey was less than enthusiastic having us “stateside” again is an understatement. First, she lost her special status as a student with parents living in another country. Second, there would be no more trips to Europe for Christmas or summer break. On the plus side, laundry can now be done “free of charge” at mom and dad’s house; definitely not anywhere close to making up the difference.
Lauren, on the other hand, is still a 5 hour plane ride away on the West Coast. By early October, she had just about completed the “suggested” 6 weeks separation period–the amount of time colleges believe is necessary for incoming freshmen to adjust to successfully transition from home to college life–and I was more than ready to leave the unpacking behind and jet over to Southern California. I planned on a week long visit with Lauren and also got the added benefit of seeing my parents, sister, bro-in-law and awesome niece and nephew who live nearby.
On the day I arrived, my flight came in at 10:30am, convenient for touring downtown LA and the impressive cathedral, Our Lady of the Angels. Dad and I enjoyed coffee first in a local park where we stumbled upon a group of 50 Angelinos doing yoga right there in the middle of the park. Totally LA, I thought to myself. After a free organ concert and guided tour of the cathedral, Dad and I had lunch at the world famous Philippes, Philippes home of the original French dip sandwich. Boy, was that tasty. And if you ask for the sandwich “double dipped,” it will be nicely soaked in the juices and ready to devour.
For our evening entertainment, I picked up Lauren from campus and we caught a double showing of our favorite California students: Troy and Quinn were both performing in a band review. I can verify for all former marching band members and drill team/flag members: Field shows have come a long way in the past 25 years and it’s WAY more than spelling out the initials of your high school on the field. Think TV shows mashed up with Broadway tunes and you’ve got an idea of the drama and dance spectacle in store for the viewer. I was impressed.
In this blog, I rarely write about food but after this trip to So Cal, I can’t help myself. The food and atmosphere at several restaurants were phenomenal. Each day of my visit just got better and better. During the week, my sister and I did some general window shopping mixed in with two visits to SueAnn’s American Kitchen in Placentia. Sueann’s is a must stop. The hot mini donuts served at breakfast are divine. Read this review in the OC Register to whet your appetite before you go. SueAnn’s Restaurant Lauren and I dined with my parents at Il Garage, a tiny jewel tucked behind the Park Avenue restaurant on Beach Blvd. The place is located in a “for real” garage, with a tractor, weather-beaten fireplace mantle and a huge mirrored bar. With only three walls forming the garage the outdoor heaters were a welcome addition. The menu changes frequently and many herbs and veggies are grown in the garden located right in front of the dining area. While you don’t pick your own for the meal, you can imagine that the chef does just that before you arrive. Finally, Mom and I had a leisurely lunch at Seasons 52 at South Coast Plaza, a place that features fresh, market-inspired dishes and, as the name alludes to, changes each week to bring you the best. I recommend selecting at least one of the mini-desserts that will be brought to the table at the end of your meal. They are so little, it can’t hurt to have just one (or two).
On Sunday afternoon, Lauren gave me a tour of her campus. My first impression: California landscaping is drop-dead gorgeous. APU is filled with tall palm trees, lush grassy spaces for sitting, flowering trees that provide thick canopy over the walkways, and even turtles sunning themselves on rocks. And, true to Southern California culture: tons of students on skateboards whizzing by me.
Later that evening, I took Lauren, her two roommates and another close friend for dinner at Red Robbin. No need to write up this West Coast eatery known for their huge burgers and bottomless fries—I dropped off the girls after dinner with 3 to-go boxes; the meals were too large for them to finish in one sitting. The conversation over dinner was what I will remember most from the visit. I was impressed with the girls and their reflections of the first months of college life and what they hoped to do in the future. Although Tim and I miss our girls, we are thankful for the friendships they’ve made and the opportunities we have to reconnect with them in their new communities.