Dennis from New Orleans came to California for a work related conference and then spent his free day with us in Healdsburg, a small town just south of us that has been completely transformed by the Sonoma County wine industry. When I was a child it was a farm town, complete with pick-up trucks and livestock. Now the town is filled with wine bars, bistros and BMW's. Too pricey for my lifestyle, but very pretty to look at.
Rick's brother Thor picked Dennis up in San Fran and the two drove to Healdsburg, meeting us at The Bear Republic, a brew pub with decent burgers. Queen Teen was excited to get out of the house, despite the rain. She adores her Uncle Thor, but couldn't remember Dennis who she last saw two years ago. At first she was shy, hiding under the brim of her baseball cap or peeking around my shoulder to stare at him. After a lunch of chicken strips and fries, she relaxed enough to smile at him and respond to his questions.
Dennis filled us in on the news from New Orleans; what's been rebuilt, what is gone, and how our family is doing. Overall it sounded like people were adapting to the new New Orleans, while still mourning the old. So many people were forced out of the city, either through economics or grief, but my family seems determined to stay, rebuilding once again, just as they've done for numerous generations. Hearing about the family made me homesick for a place that has never been my home. I'm not from Louisiana: I married a man who is. His family is very dear to me, especially because they have claimed my daughter as theirs.
Since I'm off the vino right now, I volunteered to be the driver so Rick could enjoy wine tasting with his brother and cousin. We stopped in a couple of tasting rooms, explored the town square and stopped in a toy shop where Queen Teen bought a soft soccer ball. Then we had coffee and hot chocolate at The Flying Goat cafe. This time Queen Teen sat beside Dennis and grinned at him while guzzling her chocolate.
When the rain started to come down harder and the wind turned icy, we decided to go. We took one more picture of Queen Teen and Dennis sitting on a stone bench carved to look like a pig (which I hope he'll give me a copy of soon), and then said our goodbyes. I hope it won't be another two years before we see Dennis again.