Travel and Family

Photo by Gage Paine

Last week, I got a text from my mom asking if I was ready to travel with “to act Italians.” Now my family has known for a long time that Siri doesn’t speak “Oklahoma” and we’ve become reasonably adept at deciphering my mom’s text messages. Usually, reading it out loud makes it possible to understand, but not that day. When I had a chance to ask her about it, my mom had to go back to her phone to figure out what she meant. It turned out that she was wanting to know if I was ready to travel with “two octogenarians!”

I didn’t answer the question because the die was already cast. On Wednesday last week, I boarded an Amtrak train with my mom (89) and my uncle/her brother (90) and we headed across the southwestern part of the United States to LA. As you might guess from today’s picture, our final destination was Santa Monica. We were there for the wedding of my cousin’s daughter (my first cousin, once removed.)

Some random observations from this week’s trip:

  • 73º in Santa Monica feels vastly different from 73º in San Marcos, Texas. Especially since one is the daily high and one is the daily low.
  • Sea breezes make everything feel better.
  • A community that makes walking to restaurants and eating outside possible in August is a joy to experience.
  • There’s not much better than sharing food, stories, and laughter with family and friends.
  • You never know when you are creating a memory. A long-time friend of my cousin’s was at the wedding. She joined my cousin on a family trip to San Antonio to visit my parents. They were in high school and I was in college. I drove the three of us to Baskin-Robbins. Her memories of that jaunt are her introduction to mint chocolate chip ice cream and that I was “so cool.” Sometimes the age difference can work in your favor – it did for me that time, cuz I was never “so cool.”
  • Listening to my mom and uncle talking about their parents and grandparents was priceless time. I heard some familiar stories and some that were new to me.
  • Standing in the Pacific Ocean and walking along the beach in the early morning doesn’t happen often, but it’s always good for my soul.
  • Being able to sit and watch the changing landscape as the train crossed through orchards and deserts, over rivers and through mountains, stopped in small towns and large cities, is one of the best parts of train rides.

The wedding was beautiful and the beach wonderful, but whether I was ready or not, the chance to spend time with an octogenarian and a nonagenarian was a highlight of the trip. Travel on Amtrak, whose trains have to give way for freight trains, is not for people in a hurry or on a tight schedule. That’s partly why I like it. Time on a train across the wide open spaces means time for conversation, naps that sometimes feel like a gently rocking cradle and sometimes a bit bumpier than that, and the chance to reflect while watching the world stream by is time well spent.

I hope you find the time to do something similar one day soon.

Take care,


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