They say a Gordie Howe hat trick consists of a goal, an assist, and a fight. Today was no exception, as we did end up making it to Monterey (just an hour away) for a visit to the aquarium — the goal — with a stop for lunch where I bought wildly overpriced noodles that figgy ended up rejecting anyway — the assist — and not before quarreling with theVet over reading each other’s minds — obviously the fight. Three adults and three children fit neatly into our little van, but at the end of the day it’s the adults who are exhausted and the kids who need judo to work out those last bits of aggression — twelve hours of fun make for a long day.
In between we had the chance to go strawberry-picking, one of those activities that seem faintly ridiculous — don’t we pay other folks to do that for us? — until you see the effect it has on kids, entranced with heavy fruit, the sweet scent filling your head, and the obsessive quest for the best berries. We passed by the supercritical plant at Moss Landing on the way from Aquarium to field, a fitting reminder of how the industrial world keeps intruding on what was a rural network of farms and towns. I had a vision of San Jose being an impenetrable maze of similarly-named freeways and houses huddled behind concrete sound walls, but the truth lies somewhere south, in the garlic-scented air of Gilroy, by the roadside stands lines up from Watsonville to Castroville; like the Boston of my mind, the edge between city and country is abrupt and dramatic. Beauty is never where you expect it.
My nephew is quite fond of pigeons; the last visit to San Diego, we found him chasing the ones in Balboa Park without much luck; at the time I assumed it was the cruelty born of youth, but now I suspect it may have been to hear the dry rasp of feathers ruffled through hurry. Today sitting on the wharf and eating our leftover ham sandwiches (he, feeding the strays with bread crusts) our fellow picnickers disgorged a child who was, with limited success, actually trying to kick said pigeons. My first instinct was to see what kind of parents would encourage sociopath-in-training tendencies, but as it turns out, they either didn’t care or didn’t notice — not sure which was worse; so while I sat and fretted over what to ask them, my eight-year-old wise nephew told the kid to stop, asking how he’d feel with a giant pigeon kicking him (come to think of it, said pigeon would probably just eat the kid raw — at least that’s how Roald Dahl would write it). Smart. Our future is secure.
After dinner we headed off to watch nearly the whole family participate in judo; figgy sat on the bench and snapped her arms in unconscious imitation. The life — her life — is fast-approaching and it’s not always clear where we should be going next; just as the class started shuffling in orbit of the mat I was struck by a clear memory of that morning, watching a small school of fish flying in formation through the big kelp tank. We could do worse than to encourage the group dynamic, pushing her in boisterous celebration of life.