Valley News – Column: SoCal offers the release of the COVID blues
Published: 04/10/2022 05:11:15
Modified: 04/10/2022 05:10:04
“Let’s block out time in early March on all of our calendars and hope it works out,” my husband offered. The conversation was part of a mid-winter Zoom call with our daughter Libby, an art historian based in Los Angeles this year as a Getty Scholar. We had originally thought of visiting Libby and her family for Thanksgiving, but given the conditions with COVID-19 last November, we thought better. Even when we first envisioned March, it was with our fingers crossed.
Although vaccinated and boosted, we were uncertain. Even with the precautions put in place on the airlines, we hesitated. After all, it’s been two years since we’ve had a big trip.
However, in early February, my husband and I realized that our watchful ways were taking a toll on us. We felt somehow isolated and incomplete. Yes, he had his job and I was engaged in voluntary activities. But we are not home people. Living bigger had been our modus operandi since we left the Midwest as college graduates to become New Yorkers. At this point in our lives, leaving home was necessary again. Seeing our daughter and her family was long overdue. We agreed to go there.
As February progressed, we secured dates, booked round-trip tickets to Los Angeles, and found the best airport parking in Burlington; from there we could fly to LAX with just one plane change in Newark. On the day of departure, between the two of us, we fell back into the routines of baggage handling, security quirks and boarding procedures. Comfortably seated, we began to relax and anticipate what lay ahead.
When we arrived in Los Angeles, we took on the challenge of bringing an Uber to our hotel, but we were then in “travel mode”. Nothing was too much. We were out of the confined spaces of our lives restricted by COVID-19.
The Los Angeles area’s identity as “SoCal” was new to us, but it didn’t take long to get a sense of its distinctiveness. Southern California is young, expansive and fast. There is a population density; a vast car transport culture; a focus on the arts – museums, the film industry, the LA Philharmonic’s exotic Disney Concert Hall. And further east, desert beauty in Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park.
SoCal has a physical beauty that was unknown to me before. It offers sensual pleasures that in early spring in Vermont are often elusive. While staying in Santa Monica, we descended the steep stairs and railings of the palisades for walks on the beach paths, where the sun and a light breeze invited us to throw in everything but our long-sleeved t-shirts. One morning I walked barefoot through the hot sand to put a toe in the Pacific. I picked up two small rocks as keepsakes, and they are now a small cairn on my kitchen windowsill. Discovering the neighborhood around our hotel, we reveled in the architectural influence of Mexico: adobe-colored walls, tiled roofs, swimming pools and fountains as centerpieces of gardens filled with cacti and colorful flowers. Seagulls flew overhead.
Most rewarding, however, was the time we spent with our daughter Libby and her husband, Tobias, as well as our 14-year-old grandson, Sascha. Hearing stories of their lives in California – Libby at the Getty Research Institute, Tobias continuing his remote work on the East Coast in Los Angeles, and Sascha being a ninth grader at a local high school and about to head to a football tournament in Las Vegas – renewed our cohesion as a family. How did we miss them!
One evening, while having dinner at their apartment, Libby asked me if I would accept a birthday present from her, which she had spontaneously bought especially for me when she had visited the island. neighbor of Catalina. Nodding eagerly, I was handed a perfectly sized leather journal with the imprint on the front, “I believe it’s time for another adventure.”
From daughter to mother, here is the reminder that I had to stay on the path I had taken, the mandate to leave behind my fears and the constraints that can too easily lead to loneliness and fragility.
Opening the journal later that evening, I began to write specifically about the sights, sounds, events and connections of our visit to California. I assumed that night that our stay might be restorative. And it was.
Looking back now from my home in Vermont, I feel liberated. I’m a slightly different person than I was when I boarded the plane for SoCal.