Last week I had a chance to drive up to British Columbia for a mini family reunion organized by my paternal cousin Eli and his wife Christine. They live in Vancouver with their adorable three year old son Rahm and with Christine’s mother and father (Edna and Rene) and brother Francis nearby. Growing up in northern New York, my family would occasionally trek north and visit Eli’s parents Carl and Ruth who were living in New Brunswick. In my young mind they were hippies – my uncle having emigrated to Canada around the time of the Vietnam war. They lived on a farm, didn’t let their children eat junk food and they put spinach (!) on homemade pizza. It would take me a long time before I appreciated their levels of self-actualization, environmentalism, and all around balance. Sometimes they would trek south and we would all meet up at a sprawling house outside New York City owned by some wealthy and eccentric relatives where the kids had fun trying to find all the bathrooms (there were 10!).
Eli and I both moved to the west coast in our twenties – but he moved to Vancouver and I moved to Oregon. We’ve met up for occasional adventures over the last 25 years – the most memorable was probably climbing a crumbling volcanic cone called ‘The Black Tusk’ north of Vancouver – Eli wore a kayaking helmet which turned out useful when I kicked a rather large rock down on him (he’s a successful architect now so apparently no lasting damage from the rock).
Nine years ago Carl and I had a chance to have an adventure together hiking to Everest Base Camp, sharing family stories while soaking in the Himalayas and breaking chapati and roti together. It was an extremely memorable trip, and not just because of the landscape and culture but because I finally got a chance to know my Uncle Carl as an adult.
Three years ago I made a quick visit to Vancouver to meet Eli and Christine’s new baby Rahm – a cute 3 month year old. Carl and Ruth were there and cousin David to boot. None of us knew that a pandemic was around the corner and would shut down the border for the better part of the the next three years.
Fortunately we are all healthy three years later and the border is much easier to cross. When Eli told me that his parents and Christine’s family were getting together at a campground near the mountain town of Squamish, how could I say no? So a little over a week ago, I made my way north as fast as you can go in a 40 year old VW van (which is about 47 mph on the interstate), stopping to have dinner with my friend Rick in Blaine, WA – a small town nudged up against the border. I slept in the parking lot of his marina where the cops wouldn’t bang on the side of the van and yell ‘No camping!’ Sudeep and I had crashed there the week prior – sleeping fitfully as late night crabbers unloaded their pots and the smell of dead marine life wafted across the parking lot. But the tides had changed and I had a quite night – waking at 3am and scooting across the nearby border and driving through Vancouver in the early dawn ahead of a huge cycle race that was going to take over the highway north of Vancouver. I rolled into the campsite at 5am and slept for a couple hours before hearing others stir and joining them for breakfast.
The highlight of the weekend was spending time not with my cousin, his wife Christine, or her really nice parents Rene and Edna and her brother Francis. And it wasn’t seeing Carl and Ruth. It *was* really nice to share meals and get spend time with all of them – but the real highlight was hanging out with my three year old nephew Rahm. I don’t know how many three year olds can accurately use the word metamorphoses or forage for edible mushrooms – but he strikes me as rare gem and I had a lot of fun being his robot. I hope he had fun too.
A geographical and experiential highlight was an afternoon at a mountain lake above the campground – I had brought two of my pack rafts and we took turns floating and swimming. Rahm especially liked sitting in the front and playing bumper cars with the other raft.
Big thanks to Eli and Christine for the invite and hosting me at the campground. Thanks to Carl and Ruth for flying west and to Edna and Rene for letting me join the fun and their stories about dating via VHF radios in the Philippines. And thanks to Francis for driving us around and sharing some of his tips on how to photograph the milky way. I wish some of the other Wolpins could have been present like my sister Robin, and Eli’s brother David and sister Rebecca. Maybe next time. Last but not least, thanks to Rahm for making me smile and letting me bust out some robot moves. I think I still got ’em.
Hope to see you and family again in short order.