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Leaving

Christopher left today to begin his new job in Sacramento. This felt different from other leave-takings—he is no longer in school with all the structure—and expense to us—that college education involves. He won’t have the luxury of coming to visit during long breaks from school, and we won’t have the treat of seeing him that often.

After he graduated from UC Davis in June he spent a month in Europe, biking from Prague to Vienna, seeing the sites in the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Spain, France and Ireland, having his possessions stolen from a hostel in Nice, connecting with friends here and there along the way, and arriving back in the U.S. dead broke.

He was here for 10 days before taking off to start his post-grad career, strewing his belongings about, eating gargantuan amounts, and making us realize again, as we have every time he has come and gone, that we will miss him terribly.

 

CJD in Barcelona

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Mind the Rules

The purpose of our road trip was to drop Christopher off in Davis for his sophomore year. He declined our offer of help in scaring up used items to furnish the house he’ll share with Francis, Evan, and Ryan, so we hightailed it out of town.

We observed that no one wears bike helmets or uses bike lights at night in Davis.  I guess it’s that college town bubble of supposed invincibility. I refrained from hectoring Christopher about this.

Davis Bike Parts

We had a vague idea of spending Saturday and Sunday in San Francisco before heading home, but swerved at the last minute and drove to Yosemite. Great stop in Chinese Camp on the way.

Chinese Market Sign

We met 81-year-old Frank Yap, a retired physicist tooling around on his own in his Prius.

David with Frank Yap

He told us about coming from Hong Kong at a young age, speaking the dialect called “hakka,” which means “wanderer,” and putting himself through Brandeis and Johns Hopkins.

Frank Yap Ring

Mike, the Kiwi owner of the market in Chinese Camp, recently bought a bucket of dirt for $20 from someone who swore there was gold in it. He found a fleck or two while we were there, but not the egg-sized nugget that David predicted.

Panning for Gold

The little garden area next to the market had multiple rules, suggesting that perhaps things get out of hand there. We weren’t making any trouble that day, nor were Frank Yap or the other travelers we met, a Welshman and two women on their way to their high school reunion.

Mind the Rules

This hut was one of several we saw in Chinese Camp that appeared abandoned.

Chinese Camp HutThere must be some activity in town because the Post Office still operates.

Chinese Camp PO

Here is Yosemite (No) Falls, disconcerting and eerie. The spot where the falls normally rush and roar has gone completely dry.

Yosemite No Falls

We hiked up to Vernal Falls, which has slowed to a trickle. Seeing the dry falls and all the dry river and creek beds along the way made the drought more real than it has been.

Vernal Falls

One of the things we thought we’d do in San Francisco was swan around in some good restaurants. With all of us working so much these last few months, our dinners have been well, sketchy.  Our food on the road to and from Yosemite wasn’t exactly five-star, but it made us laugh a lot. Sour milk in the coffee in one café; dry sourdough bread out of the bag on the trail; lousy red wine in a lodge, which we drank in blackness after a lightning strike blew out a transformer and plunged everything into the dark; purported sausage that may have been old hamburger with lots of spices to disguise the swap; and a few tacos that gleamed with grease. Not exactly the stuff of fine dining, but we enjoyed it nonetheless

Home today to sort through (unpleasant) email, get back to work, close the door to Christopher’s room so we don’t have to look at its emptiness, and appreciate all we have.

With Coffee Spoons

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That’s not how I’ve measured out my life, but rather with brown lunch bags. I figure that in 20 years of marriage and Christopher’s 13 years of school, I’ve slapped together nearly 8,000 sandwiches. Usually I go down to one lunch bag a day in summer but Christopher has worked full time this year, so the two-lunch routine will continue right up until he leaves for college, which will be soon.

The benefits of taking your lunch to work or school rather than buying it include eating healthier food and saving buckets of money by avoiding the cafeteria, fast-food joint, or roach coach. I’ve joked that I’ll accept an easy payment plan if Christopher and David would care to start paying me the roughly $45,000—calculated according to the money gurus—that I’ve saved them over the years.

I can’t get too corny about a fledgling leaving the nest since Christopher is 6’4”—that’s more on the order of a pterodactyl flying out. But as he prepares to leave home I’ve done what every parent probably does, which is to sift through the parental accounting sheet I keep in my head. I hope that the “good” column outweighs the “bad,” and that he’s equipped and ready to face the world.

Christopher is an only child, or “single child” as these children are somewhat coyly referred to. David and I have tried not to spoil him, and made conscious, repeated efforts to help him understand that his words and actions affect others, and to be mindful of this in all he does. When I worriedly filter through the last 17 years of being his mother, an incident of clearly spoiling him stands out, and it relates to his lunch.

“Hi Mom,” his clear, bell-like second-grade voice came over the phone. As I did every day, I had sent him off to school that morning with his lunch bag marked “Dingman, Grade 2.” He had gone to the office at St. Barnabas to ring me up with important and grave news.

“I think you gave me Dad’s lunch by mistake. It has tomato on it.”

In Christopher’s second-grade world, this egregious error rendered the sandwich inedible. In hindsight, of course I should have said, “Just take the tomato off.” Or done as my mother would have and said crisply, “If you don’t like it, throw it on the floor and step on it.” But since St. Barnabas is only a six-minute walk from our house, I threw together a tomato-free sandwich and took it over there. Maria, the school secretary, chuckled when I walked in.  I retrieved the offending sandwich and walked back home where I ate it myself.

You can’t protect your kids from everything of course. Mistakes, failures, and heartache ambush us regularly, along with life’s joys. It’s unrealistic, but I’m secretly hoping that Christopher doesn’t face anything out there much worse than a sandwich with tomato on it.