except in DC when my husband and I were helping our daughter move into her apartment, and
also, in San Francisco two weeks later, where we were visiting our son and his lovely girlfriend after not setting in-real-life eyes on them since January 2, 2020, but who is keeping track. The people in San Francisco wear their masks outside, and so, we do too, except when you’re eating in a restaurant, and then it’s okay, also,
in the airport, where you must keep your mask on while checking in, except when you have to take it off so the gate checker-inner can match your bare face with your ID. We don’t wear masks at Yosemite, except when we go into public restrooms. Meanwhile, back home in Ohio, the masks are off and then on again, and now, maybe off,
but we aren’t thinking about Ohio. Our son hasn’t changed a bit after 17 months of not setting actual eyeballs on him, and yet, he is entirely changed. He and his girlfriend have their routines and favorite meals and nightly walks, and for a few days we are part of his life, marveling at the house styles in his neighborhood, the roses in the front yards, here and there a redwood tree, and amazing hellstrip gardens, those slices of land between the sidewalk and the street where Ohio people usually grow boring grass, but why not something fun like
cactus or an enormous rosemary bush? My son takes us on a bike ride around a bay and I laugh because I have not been on a bike in years, but these bikes are electric and whenever you pedal, you can feel a super charge kicking in and propelling you forward. We drive up to Napa and there’s more laughs at how much wine comes with the wine-tasting. (28 glasses! Which is nuts! But we do our best to drink them!)
Everything about this trip is equally awesome, from the walk to the farmer’s market to buy cherries to the view at Yosemite, the enormous faces of granite and how can it be that one of these rocks is the size of three empire state buildings stacked on top of each other and our son climbed one of these massive domes and thank God you were not there to see it! We are old. He wants to take us up 600 steps to see a waterfall.
But first you have to hike nearly a mile uphill and we can’t do it. Instead we drive up to a lookout and my husband nods off and I tell my son stories and he keeps interrupting to tell me he’s heard all of these stories before, so we listen to music.
I keep saying, This air is so fresh! Until my husband says, How many times are you going to say that? Our son’s face is so familiar and unfamiliar, the little boy he was and the man he’s become, picking out the cherries at the farmer’s market and asking questions about wine varieties at the vineyard and stopping to crack-climb a giant boulder, wedging his hands inside a split in the rock and shimmying up, swinging across, the next day making us breakfast.
At Yosemite he points out something he keeps calling a boot flake and I have no idea what he’s talking about, the wall of rock is so massive, but then he shows me on the picture on my phone and there it is,
And then, all too soon, the visit is over and my husband and I are back in the airport, masks on,
heading home, where there are no mountains to climb, no random redwoods in front yards, our kids settled on opposite coasts, the world we are returning to
entirely the same, all together different.