Day 1: Friday. Fly down to California, arriving about noon. Begin Advantage Rent-A-Car adventure, where a minivan came to pick us up at the tiny, calmly-moving Burbank Airport (officially called the Bob Hope Airport). Hottest day of our visit, clocking in around 94°, we waited for about half an hour in the toasty shade to be whisked off (with a minimum of jokes about the placement of shuttle-driving jobs on the job-status ladder). When the van dropped us off on a corner reminiscent of Worcester, just with different architecture, we began to speculate on the likelihood of mugging.

Let’s put the rental place this way: we asked for a minivan and got a Chrysler Pacifica, which consistently alerted us to the fact that it achieved a fantastic 18.1 miles per gallon. The sleazy used car-dealerish man renting the vehicle tried to tack on an additional $100 insurance, which Mom politely but firmly declined. Ian and I noticed a fine calendar adorned with S’s surrounded by hearts and other manly doodling…but no pressing appointments. Finally the sleaze escorted us to our vehicle, and as we pulled away we found the final straw—the tank was empty, in the red zone.

Additionally, we saw at least 6 employees and maybe an equal number of cars for rent. I cannot imagine how they support all those employees by renting out so few cars so cheaply ($30 a day for our Pacifica; the internet may be a wonderland for finding “good” deals, but it never guarantees the establishment’s quality).The rest of the trip was pocked with occasional jokes regarding the classiness of our rental agency.

Arriving at Nana and Grandpa’s home in Alhambra, we were met by Uncle Bob, Aunt Pam, and their child, my newest cousin Emma. She is 2 ½, proving to ultimately serve as the star entertainer of the event as well as everybody’s excuse escape-excuse: “Oh, gotta got Emma…”—dash off.

Also: huge dinner at Twohey’s (Nana’s maiden name) with all the Koskovich kids and their children, plus Ian—lots of love, talk, and chocolate fudge sundaes. I ate a huge, impenetrable salad.

Day 2: Saturday. A day almost completely devoted to Nana and Grandpa, we got up and dressed in spanking-new skirts (the shortest I’ve ever worn, though not culturally particularly risqué) and blouses to look beautiful out of respect. Why does one’s appearance reflect on the amount of value you place on an event? I try hard but usually end up appearing casual, mostly as a result of my complete lack of skill regarding makeup, which I loathe, and hair, which I have. So my appearance doesn’t actually have anything to do with how important I think something is; it’s simply another manifestation of my ineptitude.

Anyway, we tootled off to have an hour and a half of pictures taken by a photographer even I recognized as uninspired, followed by an hour of waiting and trying to stay clean and unwrinkled. Colleen, Dad, and I wandered the banquet/reception complex’s grounds and took pictures on my digital camera. As we waited, a bride in a long white limo arrived surrounded by doting, anxious-looking relatives. She had a beautiful dress. Another party of bridesmaids also made themselves obvious, so at least two weddings were scheduled for the very time of Nana and Grandpa’s event—somewhat fitting; they celebrating a successful 50 years as these two couples start out, hopefully, on an equally successful journey. Finally at 1:15 all Nana and Grandpa’s friends and family began arriving. Average age: 70 – 75.

Overall, the reception went well: my grandparents saw, in one place, many of their oldest and dearest friends—76 or so of them. Add the 16 immediate family members in attendance and you get a crowd of 92 loving people all focused on Nana and Grandpa. The two of them appeared happy as they “made the rounds,” and they claim to have enjoyed themselves well enough. I am glad; Mom and my uncles sweated blood and money to bring this thing together.

Mom, Uncle Bob, and Uncle Gerard acted as bouncers and repelled schmoozing, self-inviting hillbilly relatives. Much scorning of aforementioned “hillbilly” relatives occurred, whose obnoxious behavior and noticeable accents hardly justified the rough verbal treatment they received.

At 4:00, five hours after we began photo-taking, everybody finally straggled out and we heaved a collective sigh of relief. Rest, no more socialization, and a long nap appeared alluring to us all. Exhausted, we limped back (carrying Nana and Grandpa’s heavy gifts, most of which were revealed to be tacky picture frames or “crystal” objects such as strangely shaped bowls) to sleep… but disturbingly, at 4:30, the doorbell rang quite insistently. In tromped all of Nana and Grandpa’s relatives, including the “bounced” ones; not all their relatives could come, but a significant fraction of Grandpa’s 10 living siblings and many of Nana’s, as well as many of their friends did magically appear. After living 50 years together, you get to know lots of people, I guess. As a magnet on Nana’s fridge says, “Judge your age not in years but in friends.”

So at 4:30 we were simply not prepared to do another three hours of schmoozing with distant relatives from Sioux City, Iowa; therefore, Ian, Dad, Colleen, Uncle Gerard, and I beat a hasty retreat by all simultaneously needing a breath of fresh air. To that effect, we went for a long, long walk. This took us around the fancy, expensive golf-course/country-club complex just down the road as well as further afield to a beautiful Episcopalian graveyard. The sun shone, trees dappled green grass with shadows, and gravestones stood uneroded and proud, testaments to such greats as Mr. Valentine and Mr. Wigglesworth. Perfectly manicured trees and bushes blended to form a place less creepy than relaxing, especially compared to the prospect of long hours with people I barely know. Uncle Gerard told tales of extensively confusing French graveyards and we discussed our liberal views on various political topics while Ian wisely kept silent. (Uncle Gerard’s razor tongue and wit can quickly make mincemeat of dissenters). The walk both used up our final stores of energy and revitalized us, for the break from people has rarely been so welcome. (Early to bed, early to rise…)

Everybody was just leaving as we arrived back at 125 Hermosa Drive, fortuitous timing on our part. We ate sparsely and lay around exhausted until the earliest possible hour to reasonably contrive to sleep.

Day 3: Sunday. A dichotomous day in which we both attended a mostly-empty 9:30 mass at the beautiful and historic San Gabriel Mission and played for several hours at Disneyland (which we traveled to in our Huge Gas Guzzling SUV).

First, we put on our costumes again and the whole Koskovich clan amassed its strength at the church. For us non-Catholics who had attended before, this was not particularly painful. However, poor Ian struggled through—they use two different books, sing different songs from one of the books, appear to randomly flip from page to page—and by the time we escaped out a side door he had begun giving me mean looks and muttering about how this was “all Katie’s fault”. Our family took up a good solid three pews; everybody attended because at one point a tall, kind-looking, young priest called Nana and Grandpa up to bless them and commend them on 50 years of marriage. After church we said good-bye to many of our relatives, and as I hugged them I thought, “I may never see so-and-so again,” because at 75 who knows; plenty have gone on already. One’s husband is dying of colon cancer but she won’t accept it, always saying, “He’ll be fine,” and that makes me sad. He knows he’s dying and his wife won’t accept it.

The San Gabriel Mission interior radiates venerability: its five-foot-thick walls, hand-made adobe, the stations of the cross depicting conquistadors instead of Roman soldiers, the ornate back (front?) wall with its hand carved and painted statues of saints and Mary, the painting on the beams and ceiling…you find nothing like it in Seattle. Because the Mission was erected in 1771. There’s a sense of down-to-earth you just lose when a church is slick and shiny, clean-walled and carpeted with comfy stuffed chairs and perfect sound and lighting.

The second half of day brought a marked shift in activity and mindset, for we scooted from church to Nana’s for a clothes-change to Disneyland. A 40-minute drive brought us to the world’s second-largest parking structure in the world, the largest being at Tokyo Disney.

Man, Disneyland as an adult, in a group of adults, is a totally different experience than wandering there as a child or with children! I hadn’t been for probably eight years—who knows, really; just after the Indiana Jones ride opened in 1995—much changed for me between now and then, particularly my mindset. We went off into the aprk with this agreement: no big rush. Each person wanted to go on a particular ride, and by the end of the day we’d hit them all: Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Carribbean (the ride broke down halfway throuhg) and Big Thunder Mountain (all of us), the Jungle Cruise & the Teacups (Ian), the Tiki Room & It’s A Small World (Mom), Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin (Colleen), as well as Star Tours, the Matterhorn, the Haunted Mansion, and the Disney Railroad, since Mom just needed to see the “Grand Canyon” and dinosaurs. Too bad brontosaurii never actually existed… We ate TWO meals there, plus some tasty frozen lemonaide and cotton candy. Also Ian and I spent $95 on four stuffed animals and a T-shirt, most of which are gifts for friends. Money flows easily there, I guess, so maybe we should have deposited the $700 Eric gave us before we left rather than the $300 odd we have left after…heh…

Overall we had a wonderful relaxing time at Disneyland where we all just enjoyed each others’ company, and the total lack of extended relatives.

Day 4: Monday. Breakfast at Goody’s, a complete throwback to the 1970s—including prices! We enjoyed too-large portions and low prices. Mainly consisting of packing up and flying home, we stripped our beds and laundered their sheets as well as vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom. Nana consistently protested against these actions, but she would have resented our not doing them. Jokes regarding Advantage Rent-A-Car abounded, notably: “Should we give the shuttle driver a tip?” “Yeah, here’s a tip for him: get a new job!” Amazingly, with a minimum of trouble we found ourselves unceremoniously dumped back a the “Bob Hope” airport and waiting for our flight. Frankly, I wish we could travel via such small airports all the time! Friendly TSA people greeted us with, “How’re you today?” and agreeably short lines perked us all up. On top of it, they served Bear Claw ice cream as a snack on the flight. Does it get much better?

Today you could call Errands Day Number Two, since the 13th was Number One. I confirmed my summer school TA position at BCS, we dropped my engagement ring off for a checkup and learned that the warranty is invalidated if you don’t take it in every 6 months—and it’s been a year since we did it. Hmm…hopefully we can beg the “away at college” excuse. And went for a stroll around the Blueberry Farms. Also I have pursued a job lead that the NWABR lady suggested to me, and I can only hope for the best. Summer jobs grate at me frustratingly.

On the bright side, the sun is shining and we’re going to the Mariners game tonight. Hopefully they’ll win, since I’ve only ever attended maybe one or two actual winning games. Take me out to the ball game…

– KF –

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