Driving from Alberta to B.C. for a weekend visit with Andrew’s grandparents was like leaping forward in time. As we weaved around and over the Rockies on Highway 1 and the Coquihalla, the world shifted from a humble, budding brown to a raucous, lush eruption of green.
B.C. is a land of plenty. It’s crowded with dense hills and heavy clouds, and you can smell the ocean salt in the air. After 10 car-bound hours of podcasts, coffee, and rain, the eldest Reists welcomed us with their legendary Strawberry Birthday Cake, studded with saran-wrapped loonies, and we chatted long into the night.
Our first morning, we breakfasted on homemade raisin bread and blackberry preserves picked from the cemetery bushes across the street – does anyone feed us better than our grandparents? Afterwards, I managed to drag the boys out to the gloriously muddy Bloom Tulip Festival, and had to fight every one of my instincts to just lay down in the muck and roll around like a happy piglet. Spring makes me a little wild, but then again, I suppose it does that to all of us – Beltane has its reputation for a reason, after all.
We had a picnic lunch and a boardwalk tour in the rainforest, and the skunk cabbages seemed to be the topic du jour – whether it was too early for them to bloom, how many of them we could spot in the hills, how big they were going to get. A river snaked under the boards, patrolled by mallards and their fuzzy chicks.
The sun came out, and the four of us whiled away the afternoon on the beach at White Rock. It was low tide, hot, and the seagulls were out, squalling over the fish and crabs who’d not managed to follow the water. If there’s a more elemental, soulful feeling than walking into the ocean, I’ve yet to find it. It’s like a primordial homecoming. I found myself wishing for a swimsuit, or at least a private stretch of beach, so I could shed all of my clothes and wade out into the brine without fear of being arrested for indecent exposure. I had to settle for dipping the hem of my dress, but even when you’re only knee-deep, the ocean heals things you didn’t know were broken.
The next morning, we drove out to Grandma & Grumpa’s Antiques, which we’d been told by every set of grandchildren to go check out. We spent hours sifting through Victorian wedding dresses, war-era farming implements, abandoned arcade game consoles from the 80s and 90s, player pianos, A&W ad banners from less than five years ago, Edwardian needleworks, and an entire oil drum filled with Popeye-themed pogs. I also got to smooch Grandma & Grumpa’s elderly horse between the eyes, and probably would have stayed there, cooing, if Andrew hadn’t dragged me off.
Afterwards, we went on a little hike to Cascade Falls. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone in their 80s as active and ass-kicking as Andrew’s grandparents – I think, in fact, that his grandmother might actually be in better shape than I am. On our way back, Andrew’s grandpa pointed out a Franciscan monastery at the top of a hill, and I may have begged to go see it. I also may have screeched “COWS!” and hopped out of the car to pet them on the way up.
Of course, the best moments of the weekend were the glimpse I got into the history and culture of the newer half of my family. Andrew’s great-grandmother’s typewriter biography, her handwritten Scrabble dictionary. Stories about Andrew, his siblings, his dad and uncles. The eclectic, eccentric hodgepodge of the house, five decades of photos crowding the walls. I feel like we crammed two weeks into two days.