Big Sur

Yeah, them trees seem so much sturdier these days.

We’re on holiday on the Central California coast.

This is my old haunt, at least the southern half from Santa Barbara to San Diego, and a bit less the central coast of Morro Bay, Cambria, Big Sur, Monterey and up to San Francisco.

It’s a coast swelling with sea life, hidden beaches, coves and lagoons with ducks and high grasses. There also are pine trees and big redwoods.

I took a deep breath in Cambria and it smelled much like Pinamar on the Argentine coast where we once lived and now spend the summers. A difference is the kelp and the seaweed that emits an aroma that I grew up with and still cherish. There’s no such smell in Pinamar.

We checked into a hotel in San Simeon near Cambria and headed down to the beach for a walk as the sun started to set. My three children ran ahead and carefully walked over beds of pebbles and larger rocks, the sand too easy for their eager feet and legs. They picked up driftwood and explored the kelp. They looked for starfish and sea anemones at the bottom of a cliff that barred further progress up the beach as the tide pushed in.

Then it was back to the motel room, the kids giddy about the beds, closets, tables and the bathroom, the free soap and shampoo. The small fridge and the television.

In five minutes flat they had touched everything.

Except the pillows.

I smiled because that’s a sign of, well, I don’t know, other than that my two brothers and I when we were kids might very well have started a pillow fight. We once did with a cousin and the consequence was a broken lamp at a motel in Big Sur or Monterey. My father fretted about the replacement cost. Our cousin said not to worry and turned the lamp around so that the chip no longer showed.

I remember it all so vividly, from the giddy fight to the terrible crash of the lamp and my father’s gasp and my cousin’s solution and our narrow escape. Yes, we should have owned up and paid up, but somehow that wasn’t done by my father. He’d often check us in to a four-person motel room even when we were a party of five or even six. He’d just tell us to duck as we drove past the administration office so that they wouldn’t see the true number.

I remembered all of this while watching my children play hide and seek in the motel room, thinking that they will remember this for years to come even without broken lamps. This motel has wised up and bolted them to the wall.

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