Wanderlust: Family Time in Atascadero, CA

Posted on December 26, 2011


Emi & Kristina in Atascadero

Atascadero, California. Chances are you’ve never heard of it. It’s nestled in the hills of San Luis Obispo County in sunny California.  It’s equidistant from San Francisco and Los Angeles.  Its neighboring cities include San Luis Obispo, home to one of the California Missions, and Pismo Beach, best known for some of the world’s finest golf courses. It h as everything, from a quaint lake park and zoo, to a little downtown where you can find artists, musicians, and hills decorated in vineyards.
This is my holiday get-a-way.  This is where I go.  We pack the jeep, and go on our way.
My godparents moved here about 5 years ago, and since they bought their home on the side of a mountain, we’ve always gone to Atascadero as a meeting point for the family on Christmas Day.  It’s turned into a routine to be honest… I fly into SFO Friday before the 25th, and stay in Redwood City until the 24th, when my parents and I drive down to Atascadero and spend the eve with my God parents.  We usually have dinner, have a glass of wine, and watch a movie.  We wait up for Mid-night… and celebrate the xmas with a hugs all around.  Eventually we all go back to watching whatever we were watching.  This year, my brother & his dog Zoe came to join… he made it just in time for hugging session at midnight.
Morning of the 25th, slowly but surely the family begins to arrive.  I wake up to the smell of awesome homemade scrambled eggs and bacon and sausage and pancakes and coffee and fruit.  The morning was gorgeous, clear skies… you can see the bottom of the hill and the faintly recognizable ‘Modern Art’ amidst the middle of the lush scenery from the kitchen’s giant window.  I love my godmothers house… it’s absolutely perfect for gatherings… it’s just so big!

Cambria Beach

We talk about politics, my brother explains the Ocuppy Wallstreet’s pros and cons, and my dad plays background music of his new‘Frank Sinatra’ CD for the 5th time in 2 days… and I’m just listening to the sounds of the family.  (Being in NYC I miss out on a lot of this stuff)  I love home… I love the food…I love the little things that make a family flow… like time in the kitchen or around a table.  My mother is sifting through the newspaper and sale-advertisements… it’s funny because she does the same thing every year!! Next thing you know, the babies start to arrive.
Baby Diego is my cousin Ismael’s son… he’s 1 and some months with a knack for cleaning. He is sure to make his dad proud.  Andrea is 12, just got her braces a couple of days ago, so she’s going through the motions of “braces suck.”  Chewing food hurts, can’t eat candy or sweets, and doesn’t like how they look.  It’ll be a long three years. (I’m speaking from experience).  Then Baby Max, who you have to look out for.  He’s moody and fearless.  He’s a handfull… enough said.  Later in the day my cousin Kristina comes. Her and I are very close.  When she was a baby, her and I use to play… she likes to say it’s because her sister didn’t like her and her ‘sticky hands.’  So we’ve grown to be close.  Her sister Vero is a successful PA in NorCal.  Eventually my eldest brother came with the nephews.
Last time I saw the children was August, for a quick second.  I didn’t think they were so big… but I can say they’re now 12 and 9 years old, and the 12-year-old wears my size shoe!  They look like my brother in an eerie way, and they totally have his mannerisms and humor.  It’s very interesting to  see them grow-up.  I really like having them around.  Aizaak (pronounced Isaac) is the older, more reserved Smarty Pants out of the two. He’s got a little skeptical eye and tries to outsmart you… or figure you out.  Smart Kid.  Diego, he’s the happy go-lucky participator.  It’s funny because he’s rarely sad, and rarely mad, and is down to do whatever.  Plain and simple the boy likes to have fun.  (I’m sure we can all learn from that!)  However, it can become a problem when Aizaak sends Diego as a go-for to try things that are unknown.  Ahh, boys will learn.
Kristina’s dad brought the Pozole that I wait all year to eat. I’m not joking. Kristina and I will text in Summer and talk about Xmas Pozole.  Pozole is a Mexican stew made up of beef or chicken, sometimes both, and homeney and lots of spices.  It’s a very traditional meal.  We also had Tamales… which were amazing, with a capital Z.  I spent the weekend documenting my food chronicles and sending to my sister so that she felt apart of the family occasion.
The house at it’s fullest was swarming with 30 people…eating, laughing, sipping on wine, watching football, running outside, playing with the dogs.  It may not sound like that many, but when majority of the 30 people are not sitting still, it feels more like 50 people.  We started noticing the sun started to come down, so we all went out back for our family picture… we got a good-looking family.
I take time every year to go home and disconnect for the holidays.  Looking back, I really rely on this time to get my dosage of family.  There are times when I get a little home-sick and I always look at my holiday pictures.  Over the years I’ve accepted that I won’t be around for my nephews’ day-to-day stuff… but during the holidays we always spend the time together.  When you’re with family the ego, the plaques on the wall, the awards… all fizzle away.  My parents remember me pulling my sisters hair.  I remember when my brothers would fart on my face, my cousins remember that too! There’s no pretentiousness when you’re with family…you are just yourself.
All year we work at our job and we sometimes become our job.  The holidays seem to bring out the best in people because people become themselves… and that feels good.  The pretentious self gets put on a shelf for a little while and because we are with people we genuinely enjoy, we become better people.  I love my family and I miss them a whole lot all year.  As quirky and weird and funny as we are, I’d never trade them for anyone, because they remind me of who I am every time we are together. Just Emi.  Atascadero is peaceful, serene, and full of family fun around the holidays.  I’m sure if you go, you won’t think it’s anything amazing, but for me, it’s a place that I look forward to every year; a dose of fresh air.

Good Lookin’ Group