Three of us gals who’ve known one another for more than seven decades, ever since the first grade, decided we should have a reunion on a short cruise from Long Beach to Ensenada last week.
WE had enjoyed friendships since our school days, but after marriage. children and jobs, we were busy and only visited each other rarely, so now it was time for a good reunion now that we are retired.
Our backgrounds were very similar in many ways: WE each came from large, poor immigrant farm families in the same rural village where “everyone knew everyone else” including the parents, kids and their respective names. WE all went to the only church that was the meeting place for the community, and for twelve years caught the bus at the highway to the same elementary and high schools.
Following high school, we each studied to be teachers ans though we taught in different schools in HI we decided we needed a break in the same year and took our leave from the state school district to teach in Southern CA.
Within the first year we met and quickly married wonderful guys and never returned to Hawaii except for visits to family.
I was the first to have children while the other two waited a few years, but we each had two boys And although our homes were not far away, we needed to to drive on congested freeways to visit so that was the excuse we used not to get together besides the excuse that running our households and working kept us busily occupied so for at least fifty years we rarely visited one another and contacts were via Christmas cards.
Our first reunion was two days in Monterey, but that proved to be too short as we had to drive several hundred miles from our homes to meet there because we had moved to Chico while they stayed put in Southern CA.
This year another reunion was proposed, and I suggested venues in northern CA but they nixed them claiming the five hundred miles distance too far to drive. The problem was solved by Sandy, who still lived in Los Angeles, found a four day cruise from Long Beach to Ensenada and back for an incredible price! It included everything that we would otherwise pay separately–motels, meals and entertainment–on a land tour, so we agreed we’d drive the long distance if the dates included time to visit an old now ailing friend before the cruise and another old friend the day we returned. . A bonus was seeing a former student who’d been my aide in the eighth grade and now, twenty years later, was the mother of a toddler.
Sandy invited us to stay at her home before and after the cruise,and her son drove us to the port so that saved us parking fees too.
The other couple, Joe and Helen, drove from their home to meet us at Sandy’s the morning of the cruise.
On the cruise the ship made port in Catalina first, It’s harbor is too shallow for a large ship so we took tenders to go ashore. WE could’ve bought tours on the ship but being seasoned travelers, knew that independent purchases on shore would cost less, saving thirty dollas to ride a rickety old bus up to the airport on the steep hilly and rough roads. The ancient bus had no power steering and the driver had to really work to move the steering wheel around S-turns, the door opened manually and he didn’t have a seat belt to keep him safe. Although bumpy, it was still fun to enjoy the view of the harbor and its famous Casino landmark from above, and the driver who was an inveterate punster regaled us with non-stop jokes.
While meals on the ship were satisfactory and nothing to brag about, the wait staff of Filipinos gave us outstanding service that surpassed any we’d experienced on land tours, but the entertainment was a disappointment, geared to the younger crowd that favored loud,contemporary music rather than the musical shows and dancing we’d expected.
The final docking in Ensenada had us wondering what we could do during the eight hours there; we didn’t want to shop and people who’d been there said there was nothing much to do but shop. After taking the city bus to the plaza,however. we found a tour to La Bufadora, a magnificent blow hole a few miles to the coast. Not only was it a reasonable fifteen dollars each, it included a narrated tour of the sights along the way, and several hours watching the awesome blow hole spew sprays of sea water at regular intervals like Old Faithful. The guide claimed it was the “most beautiful” of the four blowholes in the world, though a tourist told her there was another in Kauai she hadn’t known.
To reach La Bufadora, we had to walk through a crowd of vendors, each hawking their various wares: candy, drinks, bags, clothing, hats and other items common at any tourist site no matter its locale. There was a stall that also hawked medicines that would require a prescription in the U.S. WE resisted each peddlers plea and returned to the ship empty handed. We should be downsizing and not adding more stuff of what we already have too many.
We also had to pay fifty cents U.S to use the restroom the guide said was the only clean restroom there, not much different from European ones with an attendant in the lobby taking the money and handing out a small piece of toilet paper to enter the stalls with flush toilets and slow running basin water.
At our meals we caught up with what each of us were doing. Sandy was widowed and now traveled a lot with her unmarried son, and enjoyed doing activities with her two young grandkids. Helen and Joe baby sat an infant and a toddler grandchildren once a week, and he was seemingly a very successful day trader, ordering wine, something we teetotalers didn’t, except for an occasional beer by my husband when we dine at Sierra Nevada’s.It was incongruous, however, that he didn’t drink coffee but instead had milk! And although we were contemporaries, our grandkids were already college grads while theirs were much younger. We were not the bragging types and no one passed around pictures or told how they excelled in whatever they did.
The return to Long Beach was early morning and uneventful. While we quickly disembarked, we learned the wait staff and housekeeping and other crew had to prepare for a new group of tourists who’d set sail at six o’clock the same day.
Soon after we arrived at Sandy’s, we drove to another part of the county to visit with my friend, a ninety-five year old former teaching colleague and happily found her just as spry, in fairly good health, and with an excellent memory as before. Would it be so for us?
After over nighting at Sandy’s we drove home the five hundred mile home with only a few rest breaks. She had made us a lunch so we ate it during one of the gas stops and drove the ten hours home. We had considered stopping at a motel along the way but the only city that runs along I-5 toward Chico had a high crime rate so we drove on. The McDonald’s there required a pass code to use their restroom so we decided an indication not to stop.
We had enjoyed a successful and fun reunion, perhaps our last as we are now octogenarians, but the memories of rare friendships will sustain us, if only through e-mailing.
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