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A year in three weeks

So, my life is pretty much complete. I say that with no sarcasm whatsoever. You know how I can really wax sentimental sometimes.

I'm still in San Francisco, now on Valentine's Day, awaiting Ashley's return this evening; and I fly back to Cambridge in five days. In the last three weeks I've been to the the ballet, the symphony, Kodo drumming, art openings, the museum. I've seen Gina, Stefanie, Indra, both Angelas, my brother David, and my dominatrix friend. I've shopped, clubbed, danced around fire, seen movies, and been to the theatre.

Last weekend I visited my Dad (and stepmom) in Fresno, and the weekend before I spent with my Mom (and stepdad) down in Camarillo. I really seldom see my parents (however many of them there are); they're just in so many different places! I really love (and dig) both sets, so visiting them is usually a joy, not a challenge like it is for some people.

Coming home from Fresno on the train Monday, I reflected on both visits... and felt my heart overflowing. This trip to San Francisco has really been like a mini-lifetime! I've done literally a years' worth of activities (for me) in three weeks.

When I went to see my Mom and stepdad, we ended up driving up to Santa Barbara for a gorgeous afternoon in the sunshine, eating ice cream on the pier and watching the boats, with monstrously large pelicans soaring overhead. That part of California is really exceptionally beautiful, with the dark brown cliffs and mountains parallelling, and looming over, the glittering ocean. And down there the sun is so golden and warm, compared to the clear blue glow of San Francisco's somewhat more northern sunshine.

It was about 80F degrees in Southern California that weekend. In contrast to that, my visit to Fresno, in California's Central Valley, came during a cold winter storm which dumped snow all over California at record low altitudes. So my Dad drove me up to a little town in the Sierra foothills, only about 45 minutes away from his house in flat Fresno, and it was snowing and snowing the entire time. We filled up the bed of the pickup truck with snow and drove it back for my step-nieces, aged 9 and 12, to play in. We had a massive snowball fight in front of their house later.

While in Santa Barbara, I was approached by a woman who asked, "I love your hair, what color is that?"

"Hmm," I pulled up an end and examined it. Hard to answer that question, really; the bottle I use says "Candyapple Red" and I describe it as blood red. But about half the time other people describe it as "magenta" or "pink" which I don't see at all.

So I pondered my answer, and the woman added, "I'm a painter. I know color. It's 'cerise'."

I thought to myself, "cerise"?? That's just, like, French for "cherry". That's not an artist's color; I was thinking more like Alizarin Crimson, which is.

I looked at her doubtfully and said, "Well, it's called "Candyapple Red."

She looked at me down her nose, and knowingly raised her fingers into a "pinching" gesture: "Cerise", she says again.

Ok, "cerise" it is. The only paint called "cerise" you'd ever find would be next to the flocked floral wallpaper at Home Depot. Sigh. I'm beginning to see what my friend Jamie hates about artists.

Riding the train home from Fresno, I get to see parts of California that I seldom do: big open reedy wetlands, with white herons flying low; flat brown plains edged with distant snowy mountains in long rows; partially collapsed sheds on muddy farms, with black and white cows standing around looking bored. The only thing is, what is with the tendency for humans to leave old cars and appliances lying around in the wilderness? You're riding along, thinking, Wow, this must be how California looked to the settlers in the 19th century... pristine and untouched -- well, except for the stove. And the ruined mattress. And the burnt pickup truck.

Missing my Dad, and feeling like he isn't as much a part of my life as I'd like, is probably the only thing that can truly haunt me... and it does, it makes my heart ache. It's like, in regards to him, I'll always revert to being a 7-year-old girl again, trying to cope with why daddy's leaving without me.

I loved him more than words can describe when I was a little girl -- before he left, I actually have very few memories of my Mom or my brother, only my Dad. And then, due to geographical distance and the demands of work and his new family, the rest of my life has had very little of him in it. Mostly just brief (joyous) moments and I cling to him like a 7-year-old while trying to act like a grownup, and one that he'd be proud of.

And the 7-year-old cries her eyes out every time I have to go home without him again... and she wonders how it is that these other little girls, my wonderful step-nieces, could be growing up (past 7 years old and he's still there) with my Dad as their Grandpa, utterly (blissfully!) unaware that in my eyes they are the luckiest little girls in the world. They were born into possession of the thing I most want.

I see him aging, turning grey, and I'm reminded that one day he will completely exit my life forever, and I will never really have had him.

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