Sunday, June 23, 2013

California beach family tradition...

While I usually blog about my experiences with Japanese culture, I am visiting my family in Southern California for a couple of weeks and, as we do when we all get together, we embark on family traditions. So, I thought I would share some of my family culture when it comes to traditions. When it comes to summer traditions, the hamlet of Corona del Mar, located inside Newport Beach, is where we go for a few of them.

I am a third-generation Californian... my youngest son, Xan, is a fourth generation Californian, as are my niece and nephew. And with these generations, starting with my maternal grandmother's family, there is a tradition of visiting a specific beach, Corona del Mar State Beach, known to our family, and some long-time current and former residents, as "Big Corona." Yes, there is a "Little Corona," but I am not exactly sure where it is. However, a quick question posed to my mother about its whereabouts gets her using landmarks unfamiliar to me ...  "It's all the way down Poppy and then you go down that long walkway. You can't park down there." OK... I'll ask Siri once I get to Poppy. Thanks, Mom.

Yes, I can find Poppy. That is a street that runs perpendicular to the coast. In southwest Corona del Mar, a group of streets clustered together have flower names, in alphabetical order from north to south, stretching a few blocks on either side of Highway 1 (which runs parallel to the coast). They ran out of streets when they reached the letter P... Poppy. However, there are two A names, Avocado and Acacia, two M names, Marguerite and Marigold, and two P names, Poinsettia and Poppy. There aren't any E or K names. Clearly a man planned this community, because if a woman had planned it, she would have known E and K names of flowers, but I digress (in a sexist fashion)... And allow me to digress again: As I ask my mother the details of these streets, she asks, "Do you want all the street names?"
I ask, "Do you know them all?"
"Mmm, no, that's OK." I do this to save you, the reader, from having to skip over the what is sure to be a FASCINATING list for you. You're welcome.
A few minutes later she calls from the kitchen, "Do you want to know the names of the streets that run parallel to the coast?"
"Jeez, Mom, really? No, that's OK, but thanks." I think these are numbered streets. An even more fascinating list, I'm sure.
"OK, sorry."
Then I feel guilty. I should have let her spew off her vast amount of useless knowledge when it comes to Corona del Mar geography. I doubt it will ever be a Jeopardy! category and she could have had her moment to shine here on this blog. My bad.

And now I'm back to the real reason I am writing... if you can actually call it a reason: tradition. And (what I think are) pretty pictures of the area. But first, some background: My grandmother's parents moved inland from Ontario and Upland, Calif., in the early 60's. They lived on Iris, west of Highway 1, also known as Pacific Coast Highway or PCH. My grandfather, my mother's father, died when my mother was less than two years old, and my grandmother was a single parent working in the insurance industry. She followed her parents to Corona del Mar when my mom was in the 5th grade, buying a house on the east side of Highway 1, on Narcissus. Starting in junior high, each summer, my mom would grab her bag with a towel, radio and other necessary items for a day in the sun, and walk to Big Corona in the morning to spend the day at the beach. She would walk back home in the late afternoon to meet my grandmother at home for dinner. My mom would walk over to Iris to see her grandparents frequently, drop by the "snack shop" on the corner of Narcissus and PCH for a meal, and occasionally have a craving for See's Candy, which still has a store at that same intersection.

I was born at Hoag Hospital, which is also in Newport Beach, but further north. Although we moved to Illinois and Texas when I was a young child, we were back in California by the time I was in the third grade. If my family went to the beach, we went to grandma's house to change and park the car and then walked to Big Corona. Unfortunately, my great-grandparents had passed away by then and the house on Iris had been sold. The snack shop became Coco's (and has changed named about five time since then) and we did eat there sometimes. And we stopped in to See's Candy plenty of times.

Another tradition was Gina's Pizza, which has several Orange County locations, but the one in Corona del Mar is one of the older locations and one my parents frequented early in their marriage when they lived there. Picking up a hot Gina's pizza and eating it on the beach with friends or family was a summertime treat. It still is.

While my grandmother, who is now 92, sold her home in Corona del Mar over a decade ago and moved inland a few miles to my parents' neighborhood, it is still a place she and my Mom love to frequent. To celebrate Father's Day and my parents' 40th anniversary June 16, we ordered Gina's Pizza, ate it on "the point" on Ocean Boulevard above Big Corona beach for a birds-eye view of the area.
The gang at "the point," celebrating.
The kids and my sister-in-law enjoying the view.
The views from "the point."

Newport Harbor
"The Wedge"
As they did when I was a child, planes still fly by with messages for beach-goers to see. This one was advertising a Big & Rich country music concert.

Some of my favorite houses near "the point" (yes, these are single-family dwellings with ocean views):

My mother also requested that she and my grandmother get their annual Christmas card photos taken since the great-grandchildren were all together and the family photographer (that would be me) was in the country. So we went down to Big Corona and got the family pictures we wanted. Just a warning: Parking has increased to $15 per car. They do take credit and debit cards, though. They would have to at that price!

Here are the views from the beach:

And some of my favorite photos of family:

My parents and their grandchildren
My grandmother and her great-grandchildren
My grandma and my children
Four generations of native California women. 
My parents on their 40th anniversary
My grandma enjoying the beach
Me and my kid brother
My mother in her element - surrounded by her grandkids
Because of the history and tradition of this place for our family, it only made sense to get family photos  taken there this year... and probably for years to come.

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