I enjoyed our recent trip to Southern California. Mali and I traveled down separately, and broke the road trip in two by having lunch with Seymour's Fresno-adjacent aunt and cousin (she's actually a first cousin once removed, but my husband's Portuguese family does not make distinctions between the various degrees or strata of cousinhood).
Then Mali and I went to Hollywood, and were given a personalized tour of the studio where Leo's godmother produces kids' TV shows. I got to take a picture with a real Skeksis! The various talented and kid-loving creatives adored Mali (who had turned her personality meter to 11) and made her custom character drawings and gave her show-related toys. Then we had dinner at Versailles (NOM) and got to meet the newest Rosenberg girl baby (CUTE).
In the morning our friend Skip treated us to a Westwood breakfast and recent medical media gossip. I then had lunch with Roo and Linda at Mexi-Casa in the O.C., and got to marvel at how well my friends are taking care of their health despite everything else that's going on in their lives. (The gym is a valid priority. Who knew?)
Then to my mom's house in San Diego where I saw Iz for the first time in almost two weeks, and got to also hang out with my mom, baby brother, and teenage niece Nicole. The six of us had three days of lazy beach dazing and Fair-going, cooking and socializing.
Then Seymour and Leo arrived, via the much-crowed-about successful one-way SJC-SAN flight. Seymour said that Leo had had a great week, temperament-wise, so we decided to take our entire group of eight straight from the airport to a local locals' Mexican restaurant.
Leo wasn't pleased to be trapped in a car with bickering sisters after a two-week break. He was less pleased to arrive at an unfamiliar restaurant, and started to make unhappy noises. I realized with growing panic that it was lunch time at a busy seat-yourself restaurant, that most of the tables were full, and that seating an octet would be a challenge even during a slower time of day.
Then I spied a table for eight in the back corner. There were two young women seated in the middle chairs, but they were next to an empty table for two. The restaurant seemed like the kind of neighborhood place where people would naturally rearrange themselves to ensure everyone who needed a seat got one, so I grabbed Leo and walked over to the two women, and tried not to look too wild-eyed as I asked, "Hi, excuse me, but would it be okay ... we have a large party and were wondering if you would mind moving to that table for two? We'd be really grateful."
The closer of the young women swiveled her head around, putting me face-to-face with a strain of SoCal vapidity I'd almost forgotten about:
"Yah, well, you know, we're kind of really in the middle of eating right now? But maybe you could sit next to us if you want?"Eight people in the spot for two people? Really? Fine.
My family stalled, not being able to fit six people into the available seats, while I sat Leo down next to her -- though not so close as to imperil her -- and started taking out some of his activities and snacks. He was not impressed and started hitting his head. BAM-BAM-BAM.
She looked horrified and leaned further away, not understanding, I suppose, the nuances differentiating a tantrum and a meltdown. I apologized in faux-saccharine tones and switched places with my son. Then my not merely socially-enabled but charming and handsome brother asked the women one more time if they wouldn't mind switching tables, and the two practically jumped over the aisle into the empty seats. My brother transferred their trays with a smile.
I smirked. Because you know what? I am all done with people who refuse to help others -- whatever the need -- because they just don't feel like it. We need to be better than that, and if some people need slight unpleasantness to motivate ultimately positive behaviors, so be it.
Leo settled down once we arrived at my mom's house. The rest of the trip was the best vacation our family of five has ever had: beach excursions, walks, family meals, and Independence Day fireworks. Leo remained chipper.
We had another mid-trip lunch on the road trip back -- this time with my L.A.-based brother- and sister-in-law and their trio of girls. My BIL loaded us up with fifteen pounds of his custom charcuterie (we have since been swooning and sighing over and nibbling on eight different cured meats varieties, bacon included). I got to hold my new niece a lot a lot, and my SIL showed me the fantastic new fenced playground and bluff-top walking path in her neighborhood. I think we might be able to bring Leo back there. Another full-family trip option.
We hit sticky I-5 traffic as it was the last day of a holiday weekend, but Leo somehow maintained his cool even as the girls devolved into stereotypes, whining "Are we there yet?" every five minutes. I did not again need to get passive-aggressively self-righteous on any other strangers. Which is what I prefer.