I've gotten to that point (and our Summer Bucket List this year is a testament to it) where I'm nostalgic to share many of the experiences from my childhood with the Kid. A lot of the things I remember can be done anywhere--catching fireflies and using them for night lights, spending whole days in the pool and emerging only to eat Cheetos until my fingers were orange.
But because I spent most of the summer with my dad in California each year, there are a handful of things that very specifically require a trip to "Paw's" house. Luckily, he kinda likes it when we bring his grand-baby out to see him.
This trip, I decided we had to take the Kid to Santa Cruz. I don't know how many times my dad and I visited Santa Cruz over the years, but I remember at least one visit when I was fairly small (loved the Boardwalk rides) and many as a teenager (when the beach was the main attraction).
And by going back each year, some very specific rituals were created. We'd hang out on the beach and goof off in the sand and waves all day, and then for dinner we'd go scribble in crayon on the tabletops at the Ideal Bar and Grill. We'd ride the carousel and the roller coaster and the sky cars on the Boardwalk. We'd wake up insanely early to try to see the sunrise on the beach. And when it was too foggy, we'd head to the Beach Street Cafe for a stack of eggs or pancakes.
The Kid isn't tall enough for the roller coaster yet, and he wasn't quite into the carousel, either. But he rode the kiddie rides and played on the beach and imitated the sea lion sounds to make me laugh. We managed to hit up all the old restaurant spots, and Sweet Husband and I went for a sunrise run.
There are times in my life that I've tried to recreate a memory, and ended up disappointed when it didn't feel quite the same. This was not one of them. It may be that Santa Cruz has always had a just-a-tiny-bit-worn, beach-y patina, but my nostalgia sits well there.
The past few times I've gone, I've thought to myself, "This may be the last time I make it here. There's a lot of the world to see, after all." But this time I know I'll be going back. I've got to get the Kid on that roller coaster, after all.