February 6 was the 2nd anniversary of the day we met Jarrah, the day a nanny in a pink track suit placed her in our arms--a huge, overdressed baby, not crying because crying would have meant taking valuable time away from the hard candy she was sucking (at 13 months! Oy gevalt!) Two years from the day we took a bus, with Paul and Mary and six other families, to the Chongqing Children's Home, and took the same bus home with eight more people.
Last year, to celebrate, we took a train with the Rupperts (the girls were newly interested in trains) to San Juan Capistrano for the day. In a fateful moment, we met another adoptive mom in the depot who told us about Zoomar's, the magical petting zoo where guinea pigs run free. We had such a good time, we decided to make it an annual tradition.
You know what they say about the best-laid plans. The morning got off to a rocky start when our other half almost missed the train in Solana Beach. (Last year, it was our faction that brought it down to the wire.) After some tense circling of the parking lot, a lecture on terrorism from the station agent, and a last-minute dash, we kicked back on the upper deck of the Pacific SurfLiner, noshed on bagels and marveled how, in one year, we'd gone from a single sentence about the journey (that would be Joy's "Choo-choo coming!") to non-stop chatter and questions like "Why are we going backwards?" and "Why is the sun out?" and "Why is your hair gray, Mommy?" Jarrah even told a bemused older gentleman that the train is going "too fast--we have to leap out!" I wonder where she gets her gift for hyperbole?
Before we knew it, we were at the station, where we were all surprised to find that our many destinations of last year were all within 50 steps from the train. Paul noted [and I am probably misquoting him here, as well as projecting like crazy] "Last year I remember feeling that we had just survived something." Now, we agreed, it just felt like a day trip--in a good way. No stroller to schlep, no running up and down the aisles, no worries about naps. We *knew* they weren't going to nap, and that was okay.
Zoomar's was everything we remembered and more (for instance, I hadn't remembered quite so much aroma--I think last year all my senses were blunted by sleep deprivation) and the girls were total pros with the small, furry ones. We all loved being back in the pen, and I enjoyed knowing there were about six bunnies around my shoes while I lounged with my coffee, not counting the one on the bench who was checking my pocket for carrots.
There was some discussion of trying a new restaurant, but in the spirit of nostalgia we headed back to Tricky Dick's fave, El Adobe, where Mary reminded me I'd ordered a hamburger last year. Now why did I do that, in a famous Mexican restaurant? More evidence I was not totally in my right mind. Also in the spirit of nostalgia, the girls threw a joint tantrum, complete with sobbing, at our table. Last year it was over strollers, this year over chairs, but the song remains the same.
There was mutual agreement (and perhaps some accompanying relief) that we could skip the Mission this year--it's a lovely place to stroll, but the privilege does not come cheap. David and Paul generously took the girls across the street to a sort of greenbelt (not quite a park) while Mary and I shopped at a Farmers Market and a swank gift store called Whim. "Are you guys brand new?" I asked. "We've been here about six years," the gal said. More proof that the haze has lifted! Apparently last year I walked around a two-block town without ever noticing it had shops. I bought a book called I Was a Really Good Mom Until I Had Kids, and they wrapped it up like I was bringing it to a baby shower.
We arrived at the park bearing Italian wedding cookies, and everyone took a little break at a picnic table. The afternoon sunlight was almost unbearably gorgeous for February (come to think of it, we had perfect weather last year, too) and the hills surrounding the town were as green as Ireland from our recent rain. I felt a little sleepy from my lunch margarita, but pleasantly, not haggardly, so.
We never made it back to Zoomar's, even though we had an all-day hand stamp. And that's okay, because the day was about getting away from obligations. We could celebrate just as well dancing and singing on the park stage, and doing helicopters on the lawn. This year, the J girls knew it was Family Day, and even what that meant (Jarrah announced the day before, "Tomorrow I'm going to be Chinese!") After two years together, it's also really easy to be with the Rupperts, the six of us. Just like family.
On the way to San Juan, I visited the bathroom downstairs and happened to pass a tall window which, if it opened, I could have reached out and touched sand--that's how close the tracks are to the ocean. There's a stretch between Oceanside and Mission Viejo that's nothing but beach, grass, rocks and blue, blue water, and it goes on and on and on. There was no one near me; I had the whole window to myself, so I just stood there for a few minutes, watching the waves. I thought:
How weird, this view was exactly the same last year, but I never noticed it. It's been the same all this time, but I've been changing. And of course it hasn't really stayed the same, either. Nothing does. Last year I fought and fought and fought to stay the same. This year I let change happen. And it's good.