Thanksgiving always brings back memories of my childhood in West L.A.
I was there on my own for two weeks in February and two years before that with my entire family.
But with three children it is getting harder to travel there from our home in Argentina.
I can still remember most of the details of our old house, a bungalow with a huge bougainvillea out front. The house was torn down in the 2000s and replaced by another. The new house was trucked in during the night. The movers cut the new house – a two-storey house from Santa Monica – into four sections and moved each part on a separate truck. They had to disconnect and reconnect telephone and power cables to get it across town, from Santa Monica to Brentwood Glen.
The neighbors all wanted to know the night of arrival to watch the marvel.
They didn’t need telling.
They could hear the big trucks move in and unload the house and put it in place.
An elderly couple set up chairs out front to watch, with big mugs of coffee, so I am told.
The garden is still the same, the sidewalks and the views. The last time we were there physically as a family I showed all of this to my children and told them about where I had learned to ride a bike. This is where I wiped out on my first solo ride, in a cactus patch, I told them. This is where we rode Big Wheels, played football, raced around on skateboards thinking we’d be the next Tony Alva or Jay Adams.
Once we even hooked up a rope behind a friend’s pickup truck to get pulled behind on our skateboards until my brother wiped out real bad.
This is where we had a half pipe, and these are the streets where I delivered newspapers by bike, my first job.
This is where we pretended to fight so effectively that motorists would stop and tell us to break it up with beseeches of “Boys!” and “For goodness sake.” We’d run away and laugh and then do it again.
My children like hearing the stories and they like playing in the house and the garden. They think the sides of the house are paths for secret agents. They fetch the paper for granddad and ask grandma to read them stories.
Then on my own, walking down the street or sitting in the garden or having a coffee, I start remembering all the dreams I had as a kid, dreams of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, surfing Ireland and writing a book as well as Ernest Hemingway, dreams of standing at the foot of a giant redwood tree.
Some I have done, some not.
But I am happy. And why not? I can still do many if not all of my dreams, and better yet, I can do them with my three kids and wife.
There’s time and I am healthy, even if I put an extra dab of whipped butter on my English muffin. I’m going to do it, get with it and press ahead and do what I dreamed of doing when I was a kid. I am going to write as well as Hemingway and David Peace (he’s only a year older than me!) and Ray Bradbury and Junot Diaz (he’s my age!). I’m going to surf good waves and be a good father and husband.
So I sit back and relax with my thoughts on future dreams and I reach for a copy of Surfer magazine to chill out and look at the photos of good surf and faraway spots. It’s not too late to surf Australia, Fiji and Tasmania.
Then I stop. I look closely at a photo in the center of the magazine. No, it can’t be, I say to myself. But yes it is. My childhood buddy is in a large photo surfing a huge wave off some exotic island, caught in print in the premiere surf magazine. A glorious photo, a glorious wave and my childhood friend hooked in and – I have to admit this – looking very happy and thrilled as he gets stuffed on a great wave.
He got there first.
I’ve got some big waves yet to catch, I’ve got ground to cover to get my photo in the magazine.
Or maybe I will just stick with the writing and steer clear of the bookstore just in case other childhood friends have already written a bestseller or literary wonder.
Or maybe I’ll just head up to Northern California to see the giant redwoods with my three children and wife.
That would be more than fine for me.