One of the best things in life has got to be a pleasant stroll down memory lane. Today I got to revisit my stomping grounds from one of the best chunks of my life, when I moved to California at age 18 and lived in Thousand Oaks until I got married. I grew up a lot here – figured out how to live away from my parents, I got a real job, bought a new car, made a whole set of new friends, met my future husband. This is where I understood what true independence feels like, and frankly, I loved it. It’s not something you can always learn while you live with your parents, I don’t think.
Of course, and I should have expected this, nothing is ever quite the same when you come back after (in my case) fifteen years or so. The city has grown and I’m looking at it through different eyes. The road names that I remember from that period of my life (Los Arboles, Gainsborough, Kanan Dume) still sounded familiar, but I couldn’t remember why, or where they went. There’s something poignant about that.
So I found myself sitting in The Oaks mall watching Darcey play in the jungle-themed playground. I worked at the mall for about six months in the lingerie department of a department store called Robinsons-May. As I sat there, I pondered the differences between The Oaks mall and the University Mall in Orem.
1. Diversity. Seven years in Utah starts to make you think that people only come in two flavors – white and Hispanic (or Mormon and –non, but that’s more subtle.) Here at the play area, there are white people, Asians of many varieties, Indians, Hispanics. No black people so far, but this was a quick 15 minute survey. I love seeing so much diversity. +1 The Oaks
2. Image Is Everything, Part One. Everyone here dresses nicely. No jeans and t-shirts in this crowd. I could only pick out a couple of women that looked slightly dumpy, and that’s still better than the workout-clothes-turned-outfit that is perfectly acceptable in Orem. Not all Utah moms are dumpy, but I think the most casual of us would feel out place here. While I think women feel better about themselves when they dress nicely, I wouldn’t want the pressure of being completely underdressed every time I went to the mall. +1 University Mall
3. Image Is Everything, Part Two. There are surprisingly few fat people here. There were some, but not the statistical average I would have expected. That’s okay, we need a place like this to balance out places like Walt Disney World, which was bursting at the seams with fat people. +1 The Oaks
4. Shopping. While both The Oaks and the University Mall have a Macy’s and a Nordstrom, it is the balance of the stores that makes this mall more elite. Swarovski. Coach. Kate Spade. Sephora. The McDonald’s and the Dairy Queen of the mall from the 90’s have been replaced with a Sisley Italian Restaurant and a Cheesecake Factory. We are really Dairy Queen people. I’m still mourning the DQ on 800 North that closed two years ago. On the other hand, I totally enjoy the free wifi at the play area. It’s about the only thing in this mall I can afford. +1 University Mall
Post-mall, I took the kids to Zuma beach. This the first Pacific Ocean experience for Zack and Darcey (well, except for yesterday’s foot-dipping) and the first real ocean that Noah can remember. I was intimidated to take them alone, but the trip proved much less work than I expected. Ryan’s sister Shauna came out to be with us for the day, so there was an extra adult on hand. Darcey decided to sit in the sand the whole time, and was easy to keep track of. Noah pretty much stayed in the water. Zack went back and forth, playing in the water and then coming back to work on his “sand castle” – mostly a big pile of sand with a moat dug around it. It was great weather – sunny but with a cool ocean breeze. Plus it didn’t smell all gross like rotting fish and seaweed.
We went back to my aunt and uncle’s house and hung out with the family. Before we went to the mall this morning, we spent time with my aunt and uncle, my cousin Jenny (who is a few years younger than me) and her kids, Anna and Evan. My kids enjoyed playing with her kids, which is great. It’s the closest thing to a cousin experience they’ve ever had, although I’m still a little fuzzy on how my kids are related to my cousin’s kids. (I’m thinking second cousins.) All day at the beach they asked if they’d be going back to play with Anna and Evan. Isn’t that sweet?
Darcey loved Anna, but she especially loved Anna’s Little Mermaid flip-flops. My aunt and uncle have a Korean household, which for Darcey means a pile of abandoned shoes right there at the doorway for her to pick from. I hope they weren’t completely offended by her clomping around in shoes - it didn’t seem worth the fight to keep her out of the shoe pile. To her Little Mermaid flip-flops, Darcey added a Disney Princess fanny pack complete with sunglasses, pretend lipstick, and pretend eyeshadow. This girl loved her fanny pack so much it was like she had died and gone to Disney Princess heaven, where all the clouds are pink and all the harps play love ballads. For all the screaming Darcey has done on this trip, it was great to find something to make her so happy.
No pictures from today, but coming up tomorrow: Family party in T.O.