I stepped out of the car and breathed deeply the air around me. It’s not the LA smog that I smelled or the December air of Southern California, but the scent of gardenias, still blooming even though it’s winter, that actualizes our destination: Pat and Matt’s house; gardenias always remind me of my aunt and uncle’s home, and there we were at last.
Mikey and I have been enjoying a California Christmas with my family this year, but because my parents were still working the first few days that we arrived, we decided to explore down the coast of California and end with an all-day extravaganza at Disneyland before Christmas. What a trip it’s been! Borrowing my parents’ Subaru (thanks, mom and dad!), we had not only a vehicle to go south but a place to sleep too, and took it to the side of the road in Big Sur after a day trip exploring the Monterey Bay Aquarium and also parked it on the sand after a joyride on Pismo Beach.
It drove us to the base of Hearst Castle for an incredible tour of an interesting man and stunning ranch. Sleeping with the sound of the Pacific Ocean crashing at our feet (back door opened all night, of course) and waking up with a view of the sunrise hitting the water was an absolute delight. The smell of the ocean, the feel of the salt water on our skin, the cold sand between our toes as the sun started warming it up made for so many sensory experiences and not just a road trip to kick off our California Christmas.
And then we got to Pat and Matt’s. There were kids running all around, most of whom I didn’t know, in the slowly setting California sun, throwing footballs and tackling each other, clutching goodie bags of Christmas baking and treats made for them lovingly. I recognized a few cousins whom I am directly related to and greeted others I met when I was wee but haven’t seen for years. After much hospitality from Pat and Matt and great, intentional talk with my cousin Jake, Mikey and I hit the hay in a comfortable bed with our Disneyland tickets printed and our alarm set early.
Flash forward 15 hours and we had thoroughly explored Disneyland – from the classics like Space Mountain, Captain Eo and It’s a Small World to the newer rides like Indiana Jones and Tarzan’s Treehouse. From the mega-sized ice cream cones to the over-priced sandwiches, from the parade to the Castle lightshow, it was a full day of, again, sensory experiences. For years whenever I smelled sugar I would think, “That’s the smell of Disneyland!” and I was thrown right back into those memories with the scents of bakeries and ice cream shoppes floating down Main Street and drawing me in.
We balanced out walking from 8 am to 11 pm with some good doses of sugar and were like little kids, eyelids blinking slowly and heavily toward the end of the day after the fireworks, squeezing in one more ride but ready to crash at the same time. And that brings me back to the gardenia I have in my corner of my ear, falling out frequently as my dreads shift around with the bounce of the car on the highway. It makes the car smell delicious and reminds me of Pat and Matt – of generosity, hospitality, good conversation and community, of family. More sensory experiences because life is meant to be felt and experienced and heard and seen all at once!
As we headed back to the Bay Area for Christmas Eve and the remainder of our holiday with my immediate family, I was praying that this Christmas and into the new year you experience every day fully. Bring that kettlebell for a workout on the beach, you go for a walk in the hills, you taste that wine and savor the chocolate and drink deeply from good conversation with others.
Live fully. Embrace your days. And honor God with your fullness of life because it is all a gift to be lived for his glory – he came, as a baby whom we recognize at this time of year, to give us that full life not only here but in Eternity. May Peace and Joy – in their fullest extents and with all the senses that accompany them both – be yours in abundance this year. Merry Christmas!
Live well & be well,
Bonnie (and Mikey)