My mom calls me, a few times, to remind me that she is taking her much needed vacation at my house. She calls the day before her scheduled departure to ask if my sister and her kids can come along. I’m fine with that, but plans change in the next hour and I get another phone call. She leaves her house in Florence, TX at 6:00 am Monday morning, sleeps overnight in Deming, NM and arrives at my house in Imperial Beach, CA at 5:30 pm. We start the tour of the house in the backyard.
She remembers parts of the house from a previous post but Barry, her husband, is stumped at the lack of furniture in our living room – where we do the least amount of our living. We were told to pick a place to eat tonight in honor of Caleb’s birthday last month as a ‘better late than never’ gift. They are trying new meatless options, but Barry is still a picky eater so we have to talk it out some before the decision is made. We will dine at Bite M.E. in the Gaslamp District of San Diego.
On the way to the restaurant, Barry begins asking Caleb about the best route to take back to Texas. We are able to find a parking garage within sight of the restaurant, but after parking come out around the corner. Caleb is able to navigate us to dinner. Tea for three and a mint lemonade for me. Some salads, eggplant, veggies, and rice for dinner. Dutch, our mustached waiter, keeps our cups full and our bellies wanting more. I ask about the baklava and Caleb and I will have our own; mom will share with her husband.
Caleb and I recently had baklava with my dad and his wife in Phoenix at Saba’s, another Mediterranean place, and it was so good that I ordered seconds; it was a warm triangle of sweet heaven. What I got at Bite ME was a cold roll covered in crumbled pistachios. With empty plates and full bellies at 7:45 pm it was time to explore the area. We went to two art galleries, saw a dog driving a car, did some window shopping, talked to a drunk guy at Dick’s back door, watched a bachelorette party – sailor themed, stumble on the street, then had fun in the mall and got our parking validated.
The drunk guy was slurring his words and was on his way to another bar. We went our separate ways at the corner and then I hear Barry asking my mom if we knew the guy. Mom was interested in one of the paintings, that is, until I pointed to the $10,000 price tag. We saw a rainbow painted zebra, some ladies posing, and some animals and landscapes. In the other gallery was Comic-Con artists and some artwork of Chuck Jones. We could have continued our photo ops in the mall, but I noticed an employee locking the door and we left at exactly the second they closed – 9:00 pm.
Back at the house we let the dogs out and mom is anxious to put her feet in the sand and see the pier before the firework show crowds cover the scene. We walk the 0.8 miles to the end of Palm Ave, but the tide is too high to attempt the jetty so we walked the 0.3 miles to the pier that was closed on approach at 10:00 pm so the city could set up for tomorrow night’s firework show. On our mile long walk back to the house Caleb decides to tell them about the home invasion that happened in mid June as we walk only a block away from where it happened.
Home safe, the girls talk why the guys listen. Shoes come off and jammies are put on. Soon midnight is upon us and I’m the one to halt the conversation and announce that we will resume at 7:00 am. Breakfast is had at the Seacoast Grill, a newly renovated restaurant on the beach. Three orders of pancakes and Caleb gets eggs and hash browns. The pancakes are about the size of my hand, three to a plate, and filling. I wouldn’t have finished them, but our next stop was Cowles Mountain and I knew I would quickly burn the calories.
Usually we are able to u-turn in the street leading up to the trailhead parking lot to find parking. Today we are able to park closer to the entrance by parking in the shopping center on the corner. We begin the hike at 9:27 am and Caleb leads with a quick pace. We will slow down and take three breathers on the way up to the 1,592 foot peak – a 1.5 mile hike. Issues of age and weight are brought up, but there are older and heavier people on the trail. It’s just a matter of practice, but no excuse is good enough to keep us from making it to the top in 53 minutes.
We see the sights, read the signs, drink some water, and start on our way down. Some people run into us and others wait for us to notice them and move out of their way. Some parts of the trail are lines of people – like hiking in formation. Note to self: when place is packed during working hours it’s going to be ridiculously full on a holiday. Down the mountain by 11:00 am and then back to the house to change from dusty to sandy clothes. Mom is ready to go back to the beach in the daylight and to see the holiday festivities.
Mom is intrigued by the flowers and our neighbor, Dan, gives her a tour of his yard. I show off the famous Imperial Beach surfboard sidewalk sculptures as we see bikes and balconies in their red, white, and blue attire. We’re expecting live music, food for sale, and face painting. What we get is a bunch of family barbecues, children buried in sand, and people swimming. We talk to a local artist who, with permission from the city, paints murals of mermaids and ponies on buildings and electrical boxes throughout town to help keep gangsters from spraying their signs of possession.
Near the water, again, Mom takes off her shoes and does a dance of cold water on feet, and joy, for her first time in the Pacific Ocean. I wish we would’ve had more time, more celebration. Moments like this show me how lucky I am to be taking advantage of the opportunities I’ve been given. We dump the sand out of our shoes and head back to the house. Our next choice is to take a siesta, find out how close we can park to Coronado and walk around there, or drive to Balboa Park to see if they celebrate the Fourth.
Instead Mom gives me a shirt, some plant food, a 2GB memory card – too big for her camera, some pictures from her camera, and poses with my newly made scarf. It is 3:30 pm, drama is calling, and fireworks don’t start until 9:00 pm. They will take Hwy 5 North to 54 East and that will take them to Hwy 8. I gave them our old Tom Tom GPS and said goodbye. I’m dumbfounded and decide to spend the rest of the day with our neighbor. We return to let the dogs out, close windows to reduce noise, and feed them before the show.
There are supposed to be some 500,000 people in the San Diego area sitting on lawns, beaches, roofs, boats, and couches to watch the show. We decide to watch from the street. We are at the neighbor’s house dog sitting their Mastiff, in case he decides to attack the noise, when we start to feel a rumble. I look out the window and five minutes before the show is scheduled to start there is this large burst of white light. I’m excited and sad at the same time as I realize that was the show.
Twenty minutes later the streets are packed with cars. Palm Ave is still full of traffic at 11:00 pm. I guess it’s a good thing my mom and Barry left early. They didn’t want to wait for a 17-30 minute show of fireworks. I can just imagine their disappointment in one lasting mere seconds. I feel bad. It’s one thing not to have fireworks due to wildfires or bald eagles. It’s another to have special pyrotechnics and months of planning go up in one big boom. I’m sure we will still have our freedom next year and San Diego will plan, and practice, and get our tradition back to rave reviews instead of sour moods.