No family is an island, entire unto itself. We had the friends whom we and the children each made in la Forêt de Rambouillet, when we first lived together, and then in Santa Cruz. We had the friends whom we had each made growing up or at college or the like, his or her friendships which predated the family and lasted. And we had the families we were born into, as well as the one that we made.
Friends and family from out of town would come visit from time to time, and we loved that. It’s a lot of fun to show people around, especially here where there’s so much to see and do. We live in a tourist town after all.
The pic at the top of the page is fittingly enough of the family who visited us the most, and very grateful we were too! Jean’s son by his first marriage, Vadim, lives in the Bay Area, as do his children, and grandpa brings Faby and his new brood to visit them. Faby and Marie-Hélène go way back: their respective fathers were in a theater group together, if I remember correctly, or hunted together, something like that. We visited them in Paris from time to time too, and watched their family grow as they watched ours.
Remembering how enthusiastically my mum and dad visited after I first moved to California, year after year, I was a little disappointed not to see more of Marie-Hélène’s family. Her father was getting on in years and probably couldn’t quite face a fifteen-hour trip door to door, but her only brother Denis never visited either. His son Cédric did as a teenager, as did a couple of uncles and cousins, like Hervé, Véronique and their brood in the photo. It was a pleasure to see whoever came, of course, but I regretted the absences. The most notable was Pierre Brun, Daphné and Alban’s father, who managed to visit his children in California once in thirteen years. Very sad. They flew back to see him often in France, and so the paternal relationship was continued and nourished, but still.
Similarly, Nick and Tom’s mom, Sunshine, only made it once or twice to see her children during those same years, despite the fact that her immediate family (mother, father, sister and brother) all lived in the Bay Area. Nick and Tom too visited their mother often in France, and Tom moved back there at the end if 2007.
My sister Sue and Derek, her husband, and Antony and Laura, their children, lived in California for most of our years here, and we saw groups of them regularly, which was a delight. They were close enough to us at first, in Foster City, that we could and did pop in “à l’improviste.” Once they all moved down to San Diego, and then Sue and Derek moved back to the UK for most of the time, seeing them became more of a challenge, but we have kept it up. In particular, Charlie and Alex get along very well with Antony’s and Courtney’s children, Ava, Dylan and Carys, which helps keep our families close.
Our major holidays almost every year involved returning to France and the UK to see family and friends. I don’t know if that reflects the homesickness of the immigrant, which both Marie-Hélène and I are. But it is striking. There are so many other places that I would love to visit – the whole of Asia, for example, which I have never even seen – but when it comes time to plan and allocate scarce resources, we can’t seem to get beyond returning home. The years when we didn’t make it back – in 2000 we had a wonderful trip to Disney World and Florida, for example – something was missing.
Maybe that’s why I have the sense that our families didn’t visit us enough: we parents missed our respective homelands, and wanted them to come and visit us somehow.
The summers of 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007 found us in both the UK and France. Those were the vacations we loved the best. We would do the trips in different ways, splitting up at times so that each parent could spend more time in his or her own country, with different groups of the children in different places: it was just so good to be home!
I still have friends from schools in the UK all over England. There aren’t a lot of them, but having lasted this long all can fairly be described as very good friends! The above photo of David and Gez from my class at Borlase’s was taken in Marlow looking on to the school playing fields and the cottage where in 1817 Mary Shelley is reputed to have written at least part of Frankenstein.
Gez now lives in the school’s “tuck shoppe,” the immortal establishment where small boys served themselves sherbet fountains (my favorite) and other sweets during breaks: his house is just to the right of the fence in the photo.
On the left is a scene from Paris in August 2004, almost at the end of that same vacation, and we’ve moved to France and family as well as friends. We dined with Denis and Claire, Marie-Hélène’s brother and his better half, and Jocelyne and Alain, one of her oldest and dearest friends and her better half. Joce was kind enough to put us up, all four of us (including Charlie and Alex), the night before we flew back to California. She just adores Marie-Hélène.
Of course, we made quite a few friends locally during our 13 years together in Santa Cruz. Most came from two places, school and soccer. As parents raising between three and six children here, depending on the period, we did not have a lot of time for the kind of individual parental activities which we each enjoyed when we were younger. The school and soccer crowd were pretty interesting people: this is quite a cosmopolitan area, next to Silicon Valley, and in Surf City.
Here are more of her friends, his old friends, her family and his family of origin, not to speak of the Stocks and Nashes, the Hanlons, Courtney and Antony’s wedding, Laura and Damian’s wedding and Ian’s 50th birthday party. There were no Berhaut weddings while we were all together, at least as far as I know.
Finally, here is a photo of a visit by the Nashes, Ian’s sister and brother-in-law and their troupe, to Santa Cruz in July 2005. They all came to visit and took us out to dinner at Shadowbrook, one of Santa Cruz’s nicer restaurants, on the banks of the inlet in Capitola. Love it when there’s that many people!