The fields were green with row crops mile after mile as we worked our way east and then south through Ventura County. Workers bent laboriously over the short cilantro and parsley and cabbage plants, plucking then out of moist brown earth and packing them in perforated boxes that would be washed before delivery to distribution points throughout southern California. I wondered if some of these comestibles would find their way to Bahia de Los Angeles, our two-day-distant objective.
We drove luxuriously south with no agenda other than to arrive at the bay unscheduled. We would spend a month idling, visiting and working on improvements to our home there, acquired last year. There was so much to do. Once settled in, we met with friends from the village and the surrounding coastline. Mary Ann played a game called Train with friends every few days. The house kept me busy; that and visiting with a few friends from Camp Gecko, just down the road.
After a few days I was active but missing our boys at home in Ventura. Although they are now grown we still live and spend major time together. Mary Ann and I had dog Dito with us in Baja and we spoiled him over the month with affection normally expended on the boys. As time wore on the intensity with which I missed the kids continued to grow. We'd be home before I knew it, I kept thinking. But soon my life needed them like our fireplace needs a fire, something was missing and I could not help but to dwell on it.
As I knew it would, the time passed quickly, too much so in some ways but not others. We had a meeting in San Felipe where I was set to sign my new book. We met a number of wonderful folks, an existing friend or two, spoke, answered questions and signed a rewarding number of books on a Saturday afternoon. By Sunday morning I was anxious to get back to the States, see the boys, and hear what was new in their lives.
On our return to Ventura county the same men and women were hunched over the crops. The day was cold and damp. I thought about their plight, but knew there was family waiting at home to welcome them too, like mine.
Our boys knew we were arriving in late afternoon; both were there to share hugs and help us unload the truck. It had been a long and extended trip. We all spent several days just hanging together. It's not that the kids stopped their lives, rather that we all came and went as necessary but were together for mornings and dinner and evenings. It was a slow recovery for me from all the missing them stuff, but I made it. There is something in love that goes beyond other human sensitivities. Sometimes it can grow so strong it's almost unmanageable, but never quite.
I'm recovered now, from missing our children. Not to imply that it will be any less intrusive in my life the next time we're away for an extended time. I know my heart will always carry its full share of deep affection for selected others.
Just tonight Mary Ann and I went to dinner for the first time since we got back from Baja. It was just us; the boys were off with friends to see a movie - tomorrow they'll be SCUBA diving in the Great Pacific. The two of us opted for Chinese food and located a nice, quiet restaurant near our home. There was an ambitious Asian hostess who seated us, a Chinese head waiter and Chinese servers. The busboy was Hispanic, most likely Mexican. I watched him and his interactions with the remaining staff. He was likely the lowest paid person on the payroll. I wondered if he was sensitive to his relative position in life's transient hierarchy. It certainly didn't matter to me what his position was or how much money he made, as long as he was happy. As long as he knew his true value outside our artificial mechanisms for measuring what is sometimes insignificance.
I knew what love and affection are worth. During my time in Baja, the longest time we've ever been away from our children, somehow my values had changed. Loving and being loved in return was now at the top of my list. Come to think of it, they always were, I just need to be reminded periodically I guess.
Regardless of where we fall in societal measurements of value and wealth, I hope the busboy will be missed until he's home, loved when he's there, like me, that he knows he is heavily valued.
And the row crop workers? They too will have varying relationships waiting for them. In fact, sometimes I think rural Mexico holds the situation in higher regard than we might. In Baja the source of income is never far from the homestead. While education can be lacking, the children quite often grow up working with, alongside, their parents. Usually in these rural environments a small family-owned store or market is built directly connected to the principal residence of the family. Thus they are together much of the time and the home is the center of life.
How lucky we all are to have our options.