#SouvenirStorytime 3/28: Breeze Away to Carmel-by-the-Sea

Flashback to memories made in Monterey, California, USA (April / July 2016)

Textured porcelain magnet highlighting sights of Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey

This has to be one of my favourite magnets from the collection. Smooth, but pleasantly textured. Imperfect art that paints a compelling picture. The sky is a whimsical dusty-pink despite the sun being high up; it’s my kind of remembrance for this place of joy. (Ofcourse, I wrote that and immediately remembered that Big Little Lies was also set in Monterey, and it was not exactly a place of joy in the series. Oh well.)

Once upon a time, I lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was an incredible bubble, one where you always believed you needed (to be) more although just by virtue of living there, you should have known you had more than many, many, many others. The experience shaped me, and brought a lot of lessons my way – lessons that eventually helped me decide to leave. However, my time in California also allowed me easy access to small, beautiful seaside towns like Carmel-by-the-Sea. While I did not visit often enough, I did spend more than one pleasant weekend in the quiet little town.

As I gaze at the magnet art above, my mind is a montage of happy little clips. Memories flashing of cherished company on different days. Even when I try, I cannot remember the drive down from Mountain View. I know it’s a good one, but I have no memory of it. Odd. At the same time, I have crystal-clear memory of sitting in the front seat of a rental car with some of my closest friends, post-dinner at a nice restaurant. 4th of July weekend, 2016. It was dark already. I recollect my loveable, ridiculous bestie and I spontaneously deciding (with no words) to act out the rest of our animated conversation in slow motion, to some confusion from the others in the backseat. I remember feeling so overjoyed to share that mutual weirdness with someone. And I remember holding a grateful heart for these friendships, as we drove back up to my home that night.

Another memory of walking down the quiet, sloping Ocean Avenue, overlooked by rustling tree-tops and lined with independent boutiques and warmly-lit restaurants. My mum two steps behind me, distracted by every second boutique. To date, she remembers and speaks of the light wrap she picked up at one of the stores, though I have forgotten already. We were walking down to the viewpoint overlooking the beach. She was wearing sneakers, and did not want to get sand in her shoes. She was happy just to stand by the boardwalk, feel the mild sea breeze, marvel at how clean the white sand looked (how do they keep it so clean!?), and get some pictures taken. My mum and I don’t share the same interests at all, but how I love to see her happy in these little moments.

Flash forward to enjoying fresh fish and chips with her at a no-frills, pier-side café. Was I mixing up memories? Was that even in Monterey? I’m not sure, but it sure is jumbled into this memory montage. I don’t mind – as I know it was from the one and only road trip that Ma and I took together, driving down at a leisurely pace from Mountain View to San Diego. My mum, who usually crinkles up her nose at fried food, enjoying the crumb-fried fresh catch, cajun-chips-and-ketchup and warm sunlight on the water.. with pleasure. Again, a favourite memory from her visit that year. When will we get to do this again?

Finally, the memory reel replays the same feeling – of standing with my toes digging into the fine bone-white sands of Carmel beach. Cool sea-breeze in my hair, making me hug my jacket (work-branded sweatshirt, heh) even closer. My closest friends from across the continent next to me. Silicon Valley could not work its magic on me, as I could not want anything more.

Now your turn…lose yourself in a pleasant memory. And share below in comments, if you’d like? I am curious to know what you cherish.


~M. xx

Recap: what is Souvenir Storytime? The magic of creation through words is always deeply nourishing. If new memories cannot be made, I decided to pay homage to all the beautiful places I have already been, by honouring my ~fridge magnet~ collection. Seriously. I had collected several over the years, knowing that they were the ultimate tourist-y kitsch. I have held them close not for their beauty, but for the stories within. With Souvenir Storytime, I am attempting to bring to life the memories held within these ubiquitous magnets – in no particular order. This is not to help people “armchair travel” (a term I’m growing to dislike through this pandemic). It is to re-live small, significant moments from years past. In the process, I hope to help you – dear Reader – recover your own pearls of memories from deep within. The journey will continue, but for now let’s pause and look back on its meandering path, shall we?