California Dreamer 假期

You dream of seasons that never die
You go to oceans that never touch the ice
Surrender this city to sender
Creatures getting younger and younger
-Wolf Parade

At the end of June, I had it with the weather. The weather had fully transitioned from just plain hot into hot, humid and intolerably sticky. Typical Beijing summer air is permeated with a stagnant steam vapor that melts make-up, frizzes any styled do, leaves clothes damp, uncomfortable, and if not careful, quite stinky.

So every morning I looked at the weather forecast, dismayed that I was in for another hot, sticky one and chose my clothes accordingly. What could I wear in which my abundant sweat wouldn’t be too obvious or too uncomfortable? I wished I could walk around in running clothes without feeling too self-conscious. Blame my upbringing in the vicinity of Roseville, California, where people look like they have just walked out of an Anthropologie catalog.

Granted, Beijing can’t compete with Shenzhen or Hong Kong humidity. We traveled to south China last summer and I thought I would suffocate from the sultry weather. This year, I am blaming my intolerance to sweat and stifling heat on pregnancy.

As I was saying, this June I really had had it with the weather. I really, really, really looked forward to our summer sojourn in dry and sunny California. While California clocks a higher daytime temperature than Beijing, nighttime temperatures often descend into the low 60s. That means in the morning you wake up feeling refreshed and not like taking a shower because you sweated all night during a fitful sleep.

In addition to enjoying California blue skies and of course gorging on avocados, we also looked forward to telling our families about our little dumpling in steamer. Needless to say, our families were super excited. My mother-in-law immediately went to work sewing baby blankets and ordering the softest newborn baby clothes online.

Moomoo hard at work

Our month in California went by in a flash. We had a lot of down time, but managed to pack in the traditional family Lake Tahoe trip, a haircut, 3-day regional convention (in English), a dentist visit, and just plain ole’ fun catch up time with family and friends. We were also overwhelmed with everyone's generosity. We got plenty of used (but not used up) maternity clothes for me, and little clothes for the dumpling, as well as supplies to ease us into parenthood.

Noticeably absent were my younger sister and her husband. They were in Texas attending the 54th class of SKE. Upon graduation a couple weeks ago, they were assigned to a sign-language group in Georgia. Georgia’s gain is California’s loss. Maybe we will have to start making trips out to Georgia as part of our return to the States.

The kids did what they do best: they got older. My nephews Caden started fourth grade and Zephram started kindergarten. Milan has sprouted into a lanky nearly 7-year old adept at using voice commands on her dad’s iPhone to search scary dragons that breathe fire. Capri was all smiles finding confidence in her ambulatory skills. Sabella is a road trip champion, traveling all the way from Idaho to her California family. Seeing our many little friends growing strong, happy, and secure make us so happy. We aren’t around, but life goes on.

Epic bike ride suitable for kids and pregnant ladies
Two dumplings in the steamer! Plus Elliot's bagel belly.
Usually by the end of our California vacation, with our luggage loaded with chocolate chips, coffee, and hair gel, I am ready to jump back into my China routine. This time was different. Leaving was emotionally hard. I knew that this baby will grow and grow and be born far, far away from where I was born and grew up. Far away from both of our families and away from the loving arms of our parents and friends. And that makes me sad, even now as I sit in my white-walled apartment on this unusually blue-skied day.

A few nights before we were to board our plane, I found my older sister sifting through a box of her son’s baby clothes. Tiny jumpers and tiny booties. Hand sewn beanies and baby blue sweaters. Unsuccessfully stifling tears, she picked out some gender neutral pieces out and handed them to me to take back to China. She was so happy for us, but sad not to be able to hold our baby when it’s born.

But its fine, she said. We have Skype. We’ll see each other next summer. I was crying too, and I cried the whole next day and the next when we boarded our plane. And I am crying now.

It will be fine. We will be fine.

My baby will be so cool born in an exotic faraway place. He/she will understand both Chinese and English. He/she will be skilled with forks and chopsticks. He/she will not be spoiled with American consumerism and overabundance. He/she will grow up knowing two cultures, and an expansive worldview of which most American children haven’t got a clue. Instead of Disneyland, vacations will be in beach side in Indonesia or Thailand. My baby will be surrounded by uncles and aunties, brothers and sisters that come from all over the world. He/she will know contentment and love. That is, of course, if we can truly stick it out in China for the kid’s foreseeable future.

We are fine.

So we bid goodbye once again to sunny California, our suitcases busting at the seams with donated maternity clothes, second-hand baby clothes, Aveeno baby wash, hypo-allergenic diaper rash cream, bamboo cloth blankets, toys, and a nursing pillow (that took up a lot of space).

A year from now, we’ll have an infant in tow. He/she will meet grandmas and a grandpa, aunties and uncles, scores of cousins and even more friends. And she/he will know that we have two homes.

We will also be infinitely happy to escape our giant sauna we call summer in Beijing.

Bye California! See you in a year.

Chinese Word of the blog: 假期 jiàqī
English translation: vacation

Want to see more pictures from our 2016 California summer trip? Click HERE

Baby ready
Soaking up the sun in Lake Tahoe