“What are you thinking about?” Dad asked Mom.
“I was just wondering if driving the ocean reminds you of home,” she answered.
My father grew up in Hawaii.
Tonight the sunset was one I wish I could hold onto, but you can’t hold onto sunsets—no matter how beautiful they are.
Driving home I think about the day that has just transpired. I play them back in my mind like a tape recorder.
“Buying gift cards is just so much easier,” Mom says.
“With all the kids growing up, we don’t know what to get them,” My aunt Tina responds.
My mom had to buy my cousins amazon.com gift cards because they couldn’t be with us this Christmas.
My aunts talk, while my dad watches the Lakers games on my grandmother’s staticy television set.
“I’m surprised to see you watching basketball,” Uncle Butch says to my father. “Usually you’re just sleeping.
He and my father laugh together.
The center of attention, however, is little Emma, who was born about a year ago today. With her there are four generations of the Ritter family all in one house. Every sound she makes arrests the attention of my whole family. She can almost walk, but she still squeezes the hand of her father, my cousin Josh, whenever she moves.
But in the present we are driving over San Marcos pass on the way back to Santa Maria.
“Do you want me to come and help you pack for graduation?” Dad says.
“We’ll see,” I say with an air of unease.
Graduation is so close, and I am so far from being ready.
“You asked for a rice-cooker for Christmas?” my father turned his attention back to my mother.
“Yes,” she answered, “I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted.”