In honor of my dad’s 50th birthday, my parents planned a trip to California to spend some time with his family. My dad’s mother as well as all five of his younger siblings live in and around the greater L.A. area. Since my parents live in Arizona, it’s not often that my dad’s entire family is in the same place at the same time and it had been a while since my dad had seen some of them. Now this week not only marked my dad’s 50th birthday, but my grandmother had also turned 70 earlier this month so there were big reasons for the entire family to celebrate together. Unbeknownst to everyone in our family, my mother had devised a sneaky plan that involved Chip and I flying in for the weekend to surprise everyone. My mom and I had been working on this plan for a few weeks, scanning different flight options, emailing and texting plans while making sure no one else found out the surprise. It would have been terrible if my dad and grandmother found out about this surprise prematurely! Luckily, everything went smoothly (actually, one of the biggest surprises was that my brother Alex managed to not spill the beans! Thanks, Alex :))
Chip and I got into L.A. around 1:30 this past Saturday and took a cab to my grandmother’s place where my mom was trying to stall for extra time before the three of them headed out to Newport Beach for a celebratory family dinner (we had hit a little bit of traffic during our cab ride and were running a little behind in the plan). I’m glad my dad and grandmother weren’t too suspicious about what my mom was up to; my dad was starting to get a feeling she had something up her sleeve but wasn’t expecting anything more than a birthday cake. So while my dad was trying to see if he could get the secret out of my mom, Chip and I were walking up to my grandmother’s neighborhood, having the cab driver drop us off at the end of the street so we could approach the house quietly (and also recover from the somewhat crazy ride). In the end, our entrance went a little something like this:
Me: Knocking on the door.
Tita (my grandmother) while opening the door: OH, MY GOD!!!
Dad (simultaneously as my grandmother) while catching a glimpse of Chip walking up the steps to the door: What?! You’ve got to be kidding me!!!
Me once the door is open: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!
Needless to say, my grandmother and dad were both extremely surprised and excited by their unexpected guests’ arrival! I’m pretty sure I heard my mother breathe a sigh of relief after we walked in, she no longer had this burning secret to keep :) We spent a little bit of time there catching up while my dad tried retracing all of the times my mom thought she had come so close to letting the secret out. We soon all got in the car to drive over to Newport Beach where we would meet the rest of the family for dinner.
We made great time getting over to Newport Beach, with our anticipated hour and a half drive taking closer to 40 minutes. Since it was only a little after 3:00 and dinner wouldn’t be until 5:00, we drove to nearby Balboa Island where we spent some time walking around and looking at all of the little shops. The weather was sunny and brisk, a great change from the rainy morning my family had experienced. What can I say, Chip and I brought the sunshine with us :)
After walking the main shopping street of Balboa Island for a bit, we drove over to the coast and admired some of the cute (and very pricey) homes that have an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean. Between the view and the weather, we quickly assimilated into our roles as cheesy tourists and took lots of pictures!
By the time we finished taking pictures, it was time to head over to dinner (we needed to be there a little early so my mom could make sure everything was ready to go!). Dinner was at Sol Cocina in Newport Beach, a place we recommend to anyone. Now that we had successfully surprised my dad and grandmother, Chip and I were really looking forward to dinner. Not all of my dad’s siblings could make it out to our wedding in Texas this past May, so there was a good amount of people Chip met for the first time while I saw them for the first time in over four years. Everyone was extremely surprised to see us there, but perhaps my favorite reaction was when my Tia Sonia came in.
The last time I saw her was a little over four years ago and only for a short afternoon; my dad and I had come into L.A. for a day to get my Chile student visa taken care of so I could spend the fall semester of my junior year of college abroad in Valparaiso. So while we were in L.A. for that day we made a quick visit to her house while we waited for the consulate to process all of my paperwork.
After saying hello to the family on one side of the room, my Tia Sonia finally turned around and saw Chip and I standing there in the front of the restaurant. It was so sweet to see her so happy we were there, she even got a bit teary eyed :) I was extremely happy to see Sonia and my uncle Rick’s two daughters Jolene and Jamie. Jolene was about 6 the last time I saw her (now an extremely bright 10 year old) and Jamie was just a newborn baby (now a very spunky 4 year old). It was so great catching up with them and finally getting to know Miss Jamie!
Now I wouldn’t be doing our great dinner justice without mentioning how delicious the food was. Really, it was one of the most memorable meals I’ve had in quite some time. There were several appetizers for us to choose from so of course we had a little bit of everything :) The guacamole had so much flavor, the ceviche tasted so fresh and the cheese empanadas were delicious and perfectly melted. When it came to the actual meal, everyone loved what they chose to order. Both Chip and I each ordered the pork carnitas plate that made some extremely tasty tacos. Once everyone had eaten their food, it was back to taking lots of pictures. My grandmother was so excited to have all of her kids and grandkids together (except for my brother who couldn’t make the trip from Omaha) so everyone’s camera was out lighting up the room (Alex, we missed you!!).
On Sunday morning, we made plans to visit one of our favorite places for breakfast – The Good Stuff in Hermosa Beach. We’ve been here a few times before as a family and love the food and the chance it gives us to spend some time walking along the coast afterwards. I was so glad that almost all of my dad’s siblings were able to meet us for breakfast! After another hearty meal, we all walked down the nearest pier and watched the waves crashing onto the shore and even enjoyed seeing surfers in action.
It soon came time for Chip and I to head over to the LAX airport to make our way back to San Antonio. We are so grateful that we got to spend a quick weekend with my dad’s family. It meant a lot getting to see them again and to have Chip now know who all of my aunts and uncles are. Thanks, mom, for planning this wonderful surprise! :)