Last weekend, we took a drive down south to Orange County to spend the day at the South Coast Plaza. Being from the OC, my better half always enjoys spending time back in the old neighborhood, and I jump at every chance to go because I’m a big ol’ sap. Even though I grew up 2 hours north, Orange County is where I lived for many years. When bundle of joy #3 arrived 5 years ago, we moved back up north for a better career opportunity. We bought a home in a neighborhood we never imagined we could afford, and the feeling of community has been unbelievable. We can’t appreciate enough what good fortune we’ve had to be able to raise our kids in this kind of environment.
But I still miss Orange County.
I miss the average of three freeways it would take to get anywhere (and everywhere) I wanted to be.
I miss Shirley’s Bagels on 17th in Costa Mesa. And that Chinese restaurant with the red door in Brea. Pumpkin City in Laguna Hills, the Back Bay in Newport Beach, and Wild Rivers in Irvine.
For the select few of you out there who can appreciate my unnatural attachment to an entire county, I’m so glad we’ve found each other! For the rest of you, I'll try to explain it. My adulthood was formed in this place. I had no ties, my responsibilities were my own to manage, and I was completely self-sufficient. I started my career, my marriage, and my family here. I’ve got many positive memories of this place, punctuated by lots and lots of good food. We’re talking authentic, ethnic, hole-in-the-wall eats. Ahhh, the memories of it gives me the warm fuzzies.
Our connection to this is place is strong, and our kids are not immune to the feeling. At 12 years old, P is starting to get too old for the day-cations, but L and M are still 100% on board with any trips back home. So last weekend, when M asked if we could go to Orange County to see Santa (because that’s where he thinks Santa lives), we were all over it. We’d make a day out of it, visit Santa, go eat somewhere fun, and make a stop at our favorite toy store.
The day started off better than I had hoped: traffic was light, and the mall wasn't too crowded. Everyone was having a good time, and I was wandering around, looking for gifts, when I came across a trio of friends in their twenties. I hovered, hoping they’d notice and move so I could walk by. One of them noticed, and said to his friends, “move over so the (old) lady can walk by.” Ouch. It stung a little. That happy “I’m having a great day” feeling went a little gray. Really? From something so benign? Yes, really.
I was totally unprepared to be faced with the politeness of a twenty-something as he sees me: an older woman. It kind of sucked. So I did what any normal, neurotic female would do in such a circumstance. I took a sad-face photo of myself to commemorate the moment. And then proceeded to delete it, because the lighting in that store was not being my friend. Now I see what prompted his respect for his elders. He was literally faced with one (an elder, that is). Tragic.
I shook it off, determined to enjoy my day. We spent hours, going from toy store to toy store, enjoying the sights and stopping for lunch at the Rainforest Café, before we finally headed over to see Santa. Along the way we lost a jacket, went for a ride on the carousel, and got separated from each other (without a phone…what on earth did people do before cell phones?).
Santa was a little uneventful, probably due to the hour wait. P refused to pose with him. L thought his yellowed beard was kind of creepy. M asked him if he remembered the chocolate milk we left him last year.
By the end of the day, we threw in a train ride and hot apple cider before heading back to the car. On the way out, we passed through the money wing of the mall, where the Tiffany, Valentino, and other expensive stores reside. It’s here where M decided to show his blue blood upbringing.