I love California.
I love Southern California, to be more specific.
I love it a lot.
So you can imagine my excitement when it was decided that we would spend Thanksgiving in good ol' SoCal.
Not only did this mean good California weather (of which I am most definitely a fan), close proximity to the ocean (LOVE), and Disneyland (double love!), but it also offered a chance to take a couple trips down Memory Lane.
It's been a long time.
Excepting the yearly music trips to Anaheim all through my high school career, I haven't seen Redlands, CA, in over 10 years.
First thing we saw after finding the rental car and the hotel.
How much I would give to live in one of the houses
that line the streets that lead to this....
'Tuney and I found the remnants of what must have been the Little Mermaid's birthday party
Our first Redlands house, on Dearborn Street.
In between the nice old man who loved old cars
and the totally cool couple (he had a long, black ponytail) who owned two really big dogs.
In front of the bitter old feller who called the cops on us 3 times one night because our
brand new puppy was barking.
With the TV room in that corner window you can see there, where I remember watching
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" on Christmas Eve
and "America's Funniest Home Videos" on weekends.
The Padua house.
There used to be nasty "rat"-trees lining that front side of the house.
Where that medium-size excuse of a tree is now, there used to be a bigger one, with long, sloping, reaching, twisting branches that were perfect for climbing on and sleeping in.
This was the house with the squishy church doors that divided my room from my brother's.
With the fireplace and colored-brick hearth we so rarely used.
Where I had seashells painted on the walls of my room,
and sang Eagles hits into Big Pops popsicles.
Where the avocado tree from next door reached in just far enough
and the dad-made fort in the backyard was just high enough.
This house was only a few numbers down from where Sterling the schnauzer lived.
The site of the now-infamous mandarin orange incident.
(....More about that at a later date....)
Where we made berry-soup with the needles and nasty, stain-prone blue berries from the rat-trees.
Where we owned our very first, ancient computer.
Where we had taco-eating contests and fell asleep to Disney movies after long days at
'Pharaoh's Lost Kingdom' or the beach.
The front lawn, where I remember standing one night with my mom, blinking as the beams of a helicopter searchlight swept across our street, looking for the man who was running up and down our road.
The back yard, near the fence, where I remember seeing glittery eyes and hearing the disgruntled grumbles of the possums that frequented our home.
The garage, where I remember storing all of our boxed up things before we left that house to move on to the next, great adventure.
Our church building.
They don't make them this pretty in Idaho.
My first elementary school.
The good ol' Crafton Cougars.
The flagpole, where we had a flag raising ceremony every morning.
After the National Anthem, we'd sing things like the Pizza Hut/KFC/McDonald's song
and 'Yankee Doodle Dandy.'
This little area, where I'd wait under those huge trees for mom to come pick me up.
Where I met the local weatherman, who signed a copy of his book for me.
A couple of the classroom buildings.
The best was on a rainy day, walking under the covers to class, shielded from the rain,
but still able to smell it, to see the gray sky, and to feel the cool air.
Though it was built after we'd left, it's still my favorite temple.
Would love to go inside it one day.
The coolest library ever.
and story-time on the rug in the kids' section
This is what hometown libraries are supposed to be like.
Yeah, I'm looking at you, southeastern Idaho.
Spending most of the day visiting familiar places was pretty amazing,
but being able to spend some time visitng with familiar faces was even more special.
On a split-second decision, we headed to Corona and,
with a little help from Google,
and the rented car's GPS,
we were able to find Uncle Tom's house.
Ok. He's not really my uncle.
Tom was my dad's best friend in med school.
And, though they've kept in contact over the years,
--holiday cards & letters, emails, birthday phone calls--
it had been over 13 years since they had seen each other in person.
We planned on stopping by for only a little while--an hour, tops--since we arrived so unexpectedly.
We were there for over 5 hours.
There's a reason I--still to this day--call him "Uncle" Tom.
We spent the whole afternoon and evening with Tom and Carrin and their four beautiful kids.
We played video games, we watched movies, we ate pizza, we laughed (a lot),
and, most importantly,
Do you know how rare friendship like this is?
It's the stuff of legends.
I hope to be a part of a friendship that can spend 13 years apart,
then spend over 5 hours talking like it's been only 5 minutes.
The Minahans are definitely family.
It was great to hear and tell stories;
It was heart-warming to see The Littles and the Minahan clan become best buddies so quick;
but, honestly, one of my favorite parts of this story was watching the interaction.
It's hard to describe how nice it is
to see people love the people you love
as they should be loved.
To put it more succinctly,
with all the crummy people we've had the
of meeting, to see people whom my parents love
treat ma & pa the way they deserve
was truly awesome.
The last time I saw Tom,
I was dancing under the twinkle-lights at his and Carrin's wedding.
But no matter how old I am, he will always be
The guy who took us deep-sea fishing and sailing,
and alternated answering the phone with babbling Spanish
and mooing like a cow.
We are so grateful for the Minahans.
Hopefully it won't be another 13 years before we see each other in person again.
All right, all right, all right.
Now the real reason I love California.
I know, I know, I'm incorrigible.
What can I say?
I got started young :)