Is there a question that leaves a parent as conflicted as this? “Hey, what’s for dinner?”
It can bring out my inner-ogre if the time is tight, the cupboards are thin and my energy is low. Other nights this simple inquiry brings out the best in me, igniting a desire to nourish my dear children from the inside out. So, what are you cooking tonight?
It began with a visit to the Santa Barbara Mission and gift shop some sunny spring afternoon a few years back. Pinned on a thick adobe wall of thimble-sized shop was a map of the California missions. I stared at them, sixteen dots stretched across the state we visited often. I counted, one, two. That’s it? We’ve only seen two of the old missions? It wasn’t long before I was surrounded by my curious family. Our eldest child stared into the map lamenting under her breath about how many we might’ve visited if only we’d known better. Shocked I wouldn’t have to force-feed them the idea to visit all the missions, I quietly slipped away to purchase a white cross, smiling to myself.
It would be nearly a year before we were able to visit the second mission. Near Lompoc, not far from some secret military base we made a stop at La Purisma, the mission featured on an episode of Ghost Adventures. Ghost app in hand, we wandered the expansive grounds. With a number of outlying buildings, there was much to explore in a short period of time. Some areas felt spooky, and a couple spots yielded words on the ghost app, known as EVPs to you non-ghost chasers out there.
Funny enough, it was the mission bathroom that yielded the bulk of the EVPs that day. At the gift shop, we asked about spectral activity and the shopkeeper lit up. She had never seen anything out of the ordinary, but her co-workers frequently reported unusual sights. She vowed to volunteer at the Halloween event the following autumn in hopes of coming away with her own chilling story. The history of La Purisma is enough to warrant a visit, and if you are traveling with young ones iI guarantee they will be talking about the donkey for years to come.
Outside the danish town of Solvang rests the Santa Ines Mission. Actually the building doesn’t exactly rest. It is a working church, hosting Sunday services and the like. The day we visited the church was just emptying from the morning service.
After paying a small fee we entered the mission through the small, unique adjoining museum. Well worth a walk-through, the museum includes some interesting relics and items that detail the Chumash people and original days of the church. The museum leads to the back of the chapel. My children gawked at the dark wooden confessional. Raised as patchwork Christians, they’d never seen such a thing.
The chapel interior is awash in the bright colors of Southern California, aquas, pinks, and oranges. It was a beautiful space and I longed to see it in action, alive with the devout, wiggly children and the deep words of a sermon.
We exited to the surrounding garden and cemetery grounds. Our family shutterbug kept busy snapping shots of the building exterior, fountain, unusual outdoor altar and cemetery.
In all, we’ve visited four of the sixteen missions. This quest has added a rich layer to our California travels. It takes us off the beaten path to discover something new about one of our favorite places.
What motivates your travels and what things have you found as a result? I can’t wait to hear back from you!
It was the most God-awful thing, that plush orange chair. It sat in the corner of our apartment and on rainy days it made a pretty decent fort, albeit a small one. The velvet on the buttons had worn thin in places, maybe from the repeated rubbings of a small, sticky finger, but the color was like none other. Halloween pumpkin orange, the chair was a product of the garish 70s. The chair stood alone, something missing in its aesthetic. It wasn’t until my college years that I realized what was gone. During my parents’ divorce the ottoman had been severed from the old chair, and like us would never be whole again.
The half-chair and I were kindred spirits, both of us demanded attention and sat stubbornly in place until we got it. I don’t know what preceded my tantrum, but on a chore-ridden Saturday afternoon I yelled and screamed that I was going to run away. I told them they would miss me, they would! I slammed the front (actually the only) door and hid behind that orange chair. It was supposed to be a test. Would they miss me? Who would come looking? I giggled to myself as I heard my mother and brother scrambling around the apartment calling for me. I remember laughing as I fell asleep.
When I woke, the sky outside was dark and my knees throbbed for oxygen. At first, I didn’t understand what I was hearing and then I peeked out from behind the orange chair to see my mother, face in her hands, crying. She was saying something, not a prayer because she’d tossed the church aside with my father, but uttering a desperate wish. “Come back, Jennifer,” she whispered. I never meant to hurt her. My stupid, juvenile stunt had made her cry. I crawled out from behind the orange chair and as her arms folded around me, hard and angry and soft and welcoming at the same time, I vowed to never hide behind that chair again.