"Where shall we go on vacation?" I asked myself as the summer of 1994 approached. My husband and I had an almost 2-year-old boy, a 4-year-old girl, and an almost 6-year-old girl at the time. But, my adventurous spirit was undeterred, and I hatched a plan for the family to vacation in Santa Monica for a week. A full seven days in one hotel room. You would have grounds to question my sanity.
We traveled separately. My husband drove from the San Francisco Bay Area in our 1984 VW Jetta, with all the necessary equipment for life with small children, including a stroller and a porta-crib. I flew down with the three kids. I hate long drives, as does my middle child. So, an airplane ride seemed as though it would be easier. Ha-Ha. Actually, the flight was uneventful, except for the part when daughter #2 announced, very loudly, to a very packed aircraft, "I AM GOING TO THROW UP." I have never seen a flight attendant move so fast. Thankfully, said daughter did not throw up. A few sips of water were all that was necessary to quiet her upset tummy. The really exciting part was the cab ride from LAX to the hotel on Santa Monica Blvd. I had absolutely no idea how to get around LA, so I put my life and the lives of my children into the hands of a cab driver who barely spoke English. He literally slammed on the brakes on the freeway when, again, my second child loudly announced her feelings of queasiness. But, again, we were spared any tragic events and eventually arrived at our destination. Hubby arrived a couple of hours later with the car and all our stuff. So, I told myself, we are in for a fun-filled, rejuvenating week in LA. So exciting! Ha-Ha.
We did see many sights in the LA area and ate wonderful food. LA may have crappy air and traffic galore, but it has the BEST food. Healthy, fresh, flavorful -- even when you're at a place that serves quick informal meals, pizza, or take-out. After all, there has to be some motivation for all those talented people to consent to live there.
The bottom line, though? This turned into the vacation from hell. One toilet in the hotel room that clogged at least once a day. A 4-year-old girl who refused to eat ANYTHING except small packages of cheese and crackers or peanut butter and crackers, until I fortuitously located an IHOP, where she proceeded to make up for lost time. This 4-year-old girl also got really sick, which necessitated me spending at least an hour on the phone getting an o.k. from the Northern CA Kaiser beauracracy for my little girl to see a doctor in the Southern CA Kaiser beauracracy. The journey to this approved doctor was at least a 2-hour round trip, in all the traffic. It turned out that she had Fifth's Disease, which I came down with the following day. My poor hubby, with all this stress, developed a very painful cold sore. And, needless to say, with the one toilet constantly clogging up, everyone's pipes became a tad bit unhealthy. TMI, I know. There were also all the "normal" stresses of having two adults and three little people in one hotel room for a full seven days -- lack of space, lack of toys (which inspired the kiddos to turn the two double beds into trampolines), and lack of any privacy for the two adults. And this plot had all been cooked up by me. My Bad.
But, in the midst of it all came a little miracle. My Hollywood Miracle. As I have mentioned before in this blog, I went through a pretty painful faith crisis when my kids were small. And I was in the middle of this difficult time when we were on vacation in Santa Monica. I was hanging on by a very thin thread to my Catholicism. When Sunday rolled around, though, I took a deep breath, and the five of us headed off to Mass -- at Saint Monca's Catholic Community in, of course, Santa Monica. The Mass that day was held in the gym or parish hall (I can't quite remember which), because a recent earthquake had damaged the beautiful older church. And I had an experience in which God touched my heart and reminded me that I didn't have to be perfect to be loved by Him. There were many people there and, for the most part, they were very enthusiastic and welcoming. And there was the most wonderful choir and band. It was composed mostly of young adults, who actually sang on key (after all, this was the Land of Talented People). The selections were primarily modern praise and worship music, which I have always found to be uplifting, comforting, and conducive to prayer. Many people object to the use of this type of music at Mass. I will not argue with their reasoning, but these songs were a balm to my weary soul. And the instrumentalists were amazing. I will never forget the drummer (I LOVE drums at church) and the bass player who looked like Encino Man. So cool! And the priest who said Mass. Wow! He said just what I needed to hear that day. His sermon concerned the twelve apostles -- and he had twelve puppets, one for each of these men. How I love this Land of Talented People! And he spoke about each apostle, one by one. He described each of their individual struggles and faults; his point being that Jesus chose them in spite of these struggles and faults. And he pointed out that God loves and chooses each of us, too, in spite of our own shortcomings. On that day, the Lord held onto my hand, even though I was tempted to let go of His. I have never forgotten this Mass and how it was instrumental in saving my faith.
Saint Monica's still has this amazing musical group. They play each week at the 5:30 Sunday evening Mass. I think the same priest might still be there, as well. I found a sermon online that was recently given at St. Monica's, and it sure sounded like this wonderful person. His is a voice that I will never forget. Someday, maybe I'll make my way back there and give a little thanks in front of the altar.