This week marks 20 years since we moved to the Ranch in Mendocino County. We left our 40 acres of forest over 3 years ago. I still miss it and not a day goes by that I don’t remember with affection some aspect of that place and the time I spent there raising my children. On that day in August 1991 that we moved from Berkeley to the Ranch, I was 7 months pregnant with Sudi, and the older two wer ages 4 and 7. We had not seen the property since May, before we managed to sell our Berkeley duplex. Ron had driven up earlier in the day in his van and I turned off 101 in my little green Honda hatchback with the children bouncing excitedly in their seats during the early afternoon.
As we wound our way uphill on the dirt road, we became engulfed in dust and I suddenly realized that something large was ahead of us on the dirt road to have kicked up all that dust. It had to be our moving van! Sure enough, as we drove the last piece of road to the top of the driveway, we encountered the moving van cautiously crawling ahead in front of us. The children were much too excited to sit in the car and they got out and passed the van on our driveway and ran down to the house where Ron was already surveying our gorgeous parcel with satisfaction and plotting what he would do there.
Our friends Maggie and Linda arrived soon afterward to help us unpack. The movers were unloading for the rest of the day. Then came that fateful first night in the new home when we listened to the chirpy insects kick up a holy racket outside our window and Ron turned to me and asked that now-famous question “Where the heck are we?”
In October of our first year in the house, we hosted a camp-out and invited our Bay Area friends up for a weekend. That weekend was the first annual gathering, which was moved to Labor Day Weekend in our second year at the Ranch and has become a family institution. Once upon a time, Sudi overheard me mention to a friend that she should join us over Labor Day. She asked “what’s Labor Day?” Sudi’s eyes widened and he said in astonishment, “You don’t know about Labor Day?” It was as if someone had confessed to not knowing about Christmas. Every year we hosted a camp-out on the property over Labor Day Weekend. In the early years, we sometimes had as many as 30 people in tents, with lots of children running in a pack around the house at all hours.
Those abundant years of tent cities on our property are well behind us, and out-of-town guests are few for the weekend event these days. But we still host a potluck BBQ and open house on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend each year, and this year was no exception. I am still enjoying the company of friends Jessica, Sylvia, and Gayla (with her husband and baby girl along). There is no excuse needed for an evening of gathering friends together, delicious food, good music, laughter, and reaffirmation of the good life we live in Mendocino County. Another day in paradise.