"No. I don't want a birthday party. I want to celebrate at school with my friends, but only at school. Let's do something else for my birthday."
This declaration came a couple of months ago. No party? No problem. And honestly, why would we even question such a declaration? Instead, we counted our blessings and then started brainstorming birthday adventures. There were plenty of ho-hum local options, as well as a more far-flung option: Southern California and the La Brea Tar Pits. I asked some truly dear friends in Southern California if we could come for a visit. It's important to know that for Wyatt, there could be no better present than getting to stay with these friends. Ever since our first stay with them about a year and a half ago, Wyatt began announcing regularly that he wished he could stay with them for the rest of his life. Ever the gracious hosts, they were quick to get on board with our proposed plan, and they even provided us with our trip's theme song: Felix Figueroa's Pico and Sepulveda. We sang it for weeks, wondering if, unlike in the song, our dreams might actually come true at the Tar Pits (Tar Pits!).
I am happy to report that our (fossil-related) dreams did come true. It was jaw-dropping to learn about the truly massive creatures that roamed the area we now know as Los Angeles a mere 11,000 years ago. Remains of sloths that could weigh up to seven tons, mastodons, wooly mammoths, saber-tooth tigers, enormous birds, and dire wolves have all been found in those pits. And archaeologists are still finding more and more remains, all preserved by that goopy, stinky tar.
Unlike the creatures, we steered clear of the tar. Good thing, because that meant Wyatt's other birthday dreams could also come true. In addition to going to the Tar Pits, he got to attend his cousin's birthday party at the beach, eat cupcakes and have a fancy seafood dinner out. On his actual birthday, he got to visit with a dozen friends, open presents, swim, eat cookies, cake, go out for ice cream where they had gluten-free cones(!), meet a seeing-eye dog, and then have his dream dinner, Al Bap (a fish roe rice bowl), as prepared by our hosts (who, in addition to their many other enviable traits, are also amazing cooks). I have no recipe to share; photos must suffice.
We had such a good weekend, it was really hard to leave. It was so hard, in fact, that Wyatt, in a fit of sadness and frustration, declared while we waited for our (delayed) flight at LAX that he wasn't ever going to eat anything ever again. I think he thought that vow would perturb Marc and me (it didn't). In case you're curious, he lasted about 2 hours.
I fully empathize with Wyatt's reluctance to leave, short-lived hunger strike and all. It has been more than ten years since I lived in Southern California, and while I have become very fond of San Francisco, I [still] Love L.A. Thanks to our friends, I felt as if I had come home for a weekend, and that feeling is one that's really hard to let go.