Last Thursday morning, Elisabeth, Aleks and I hopped on a plane bound for the Bay Area. The purpose was two-fold: first we’d play in the City for a day and then we’d play with relatives at a family reunion at the Marin Headlands, a beautiful national recreation area just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
It would have been great if all six of us could have gone, but Peter had just used up all his vacation days on a trip to Ireland and Germany, Kat was at the tail-end of a month-long trip to Southeast Asia, and Tom… well, we unfortunately miscalculated when Kat would arrive home, thinking it’d be in the middle of our weekend away and we wanted someone to pick her up and be home with her on her first days back, and Tom volunteered to do that since he is also saving vacation days for our upcoming family trip to Europe (details on that to come!). BUT, as it turns out, she arrived home on Monday morning so Tom stayed home and
worked on the house bought a Ducati motorcycle.
I digress. Already!
(Yes, he really did buy a new fancy-shmancy Ducati motorcycle… and no, I don’t want to talk about it just yet.)
Going on a trip with just Aleks and Elisabeth turned out to be great fun. It’s not unusual that the twins are paired together, or kids are paired by gender, or even oldest two/youngest two. But THIS pairing was one that had never really taken place for a big excursion. Turns out it was a great pairing and we were all a great trio!
I had landed a great deal for a night at the Palace Hotel, a San Francisco luxury hotel that normally would have been out of our league. Look at this dining room!
Aren’t you just thinking, “How do you take your caviar, sir?” Or “Jack, draw me like one of your French girls.”
The hotel -- built in 1875 and then renovated after two earthquakes, in 1909 and again in 1991 -- is stunning!
(The linens were absolutely decadent!)
On Friday morning, the three of us set off to do some exploring. First we hit Chinatown.
At one point, Elisabeth insisted that we follow her down a slightly creep alley, saying she knew of something we might find interesting.
It’s a fortune cookie factory! (The term “factory” is definitely used loosely.)
I paid the 50 cents, which allows me to show you this:
After that, we did some tea tasting and then looked for a place to eat, which we found in North Beach. Funny thing -- on one side of the street you’re in China, then you cross the street and you’re suddenly in Italy!
A bit more walking…
… and then we boarded a ferry for Sausalito, where my aunt Ulli picked us up and brought us to the Marin Headlands where we met up with the rest of the whole fam-damily.
I lived in the Bay Area for my first 25 years and would you believe that I had never done this boat trip?! I had, however, spent many a day and weekend on a boat in the Bay, as my parents always owned a sailboat and most weekends we’d spend at least one day sailing on the Bay. It was a love-hate relationship for me because I would have rather (at that time) spent the weekends with friends.
When we arrived in Sausalito, my aunt Ulli and her husband Michael picked us up and drove us westward over the hills. This is what you see as you start to drive along the road from Sausalito to the Marin Headlands.
And once you go through the tunnel and around that first curve, the view looks more like this:
Finally the Golden Gate comes into full view. Amazing! (And I grew up there. Still, amazing!)
And then, the onslaught. Heumanns everywhere! Siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, in-laws…die ganze Mishpocheh!
And that big crowd around the table was only a partial clan! (All this from a couple of German immigrants!) Quite a few cousins were missing – my brother’s two girls, Niki and Dawn, my Peter, Kat, and some others. Imagine if we’d all been able to go! (Stay tuned for Niki’s wedding in September. We will ALL be there!)
On the first evening, my father (“Opa”) did something that will always put a lump in my throat and tug at my heart. He continued to bequeath upon his family things that have been meaningful to him in his life – each one with a letter that begins “I have decided to pass on things that mean something to me and that come with a story that must be told (…) and I want to do so ‘with warm hands’.”
Each gift has significant personal meaning for him and was chosen specifically for the person to whom it was bequeathed. First Dad gave my younger brother Chris an apron from the days when my parents owned and ran the Neil Creek House Bed & Breakfast in Ashland, Oregon. That logo, and the picture on this apron, features the bridge over Neil Creek, which Chris had helped Dad build in the 80’s.
Next, Opa handed a box to Chris’ three daughters, Hannah, Abbi, and Olivia. In it were many of Omi’s favorite textiles, mostly tablecloths and mostly Bavarian.
Then my older brother Stephan’s children, TJ (Opa’s only male Heumann hier) and Isabel, received the silverware, engraved with a German scripted “H” (), which my dad so carefully protected after the war and which he brought to America in 1953.
And then this happened:
THIS one deserves its own post, which I’ll try to write tomorrow. (Here it is.) Suffice it to say that it’s intense and poignant and even historically significant. Here’s a tease from the letter Aleks is reading: “In official papers, (my father) was called “Der Jude…” I took this ID from his body which I found in the basement of the ruins of our house in March, 1945.”
Later that evening, we were treated to this incredibleness from Hannah, Chris’ 16-year-old daughter (yes, you can say you knew someone who knew her when):
10-year-old Isabel, Hannah was absolutely mesmerized by Hannah’s singing! Hannah noticed and so sweetly spent at least half an hour working with Isabel to explore both the words and the music.
A few minutes later, Isabel was at the piano, playing and singing the same song!
Our two days at the hostel of the Marin Headlands were spent reconnecting, cooking, eating, and exploring.
The hostel’s large kitchen allowed our group to prepare delicious meals which we then ate in the hostel’s large dining room.
Even cleaning up was fun, and a total team effort!
The Marin Headlands are beautiful, and we explored the area fully.
First we took a short walk along the lagoon, re-connecting with relatives we hadn’t seen in a while. My dad and Lou live in Southern Oregon and my family lives in the Seattle area, but other than us, everyone lives in the Bay Area.
I loved watching Aleks and his Opa reconnect. Those two really understand each other.
The kids (kids and “kids”) found a gorgeous tree to climb. Much frivolity ensued!
After lunch, we all hiked to the Point Bonita Lighthouse. I’d lived in the Bay Area for my entire childhood and had never been here! Unforgiveable! (Well, maybe forgivable, since this was military land during that time.)
The views along the way were stunning! They would have been even more stunning had it not been such a hazy day.
…and of course there were lots of photo ops with people in front of the stunning views.
Aleks and Elisabeth…
Opa and Lou…
Kids ‘n’ me…
My “little” brother Chris (fabulous organizer and project manager of this entire reunion escapade – thanks Chris!) and his beautiful wife, Amy…
…and various cousins, aunts, and uncles:
See that bridge? That swinging, moving bridge way up high over treacherous ocean and rocks? Yeah, that.
This girl was like a puppy dog – skipping back and forth across the swinging bridge.
“Ya coming, Mom?”
She might kill me for posting this adorable picture of her…
…but I’ll redeem myself by posting this one:
Chris and Amy’s girls brought bubbles. It was delightful!
That evening, Chris called out, “I’m leaving to watch the sunset on the beach in 30 seconds. Anyone who wants to go, pile into the car!” Some of us did. It was wonderful!
And then a bit of silliness took over.
Can you tell that I adore my “baby brother”? (Yeah, my 50-something-year-old baby brother. Ha!)
On our last morning, before heading our separate ways again, some of us took a last hike together.
Thanks Chris, for making this family reunion so wonderful! Your organizational skills are second to none and I’ll bet that, had you not chosen to be a junior high school teacher (and we’re so glad you did because you ROCK at it!), you could have been a fabulous PM at Microsoft. Er, I mean Google!
Until we meet again (which will be this September at Niki’s wedding, the first of Omi and Opa’s grandchildren to marry!), I love you all!