A few days ago, I celebrated my Tia Kaki’s birthday with my mom and the rest of my tias. And by a few days ago, I mean weeks at this point. I am seriously scheduling/writing way in advance of these posts actually being published. I figure if I keep this up, I can build myself a nice buffer and go on a vacation one day.
Side note: For those of you who don’t know, “tia” means “aunt.”
My Tia Kaki wanted to get together with her sisters and have a nice meal out and about, and since they were all vaccinated and COVID restrictions were lifting, we all decided to take her out for lunch. So one bright and sunny morning, my Tia Kaki, my Tia Esther, my Tia Martha, my mom, and me piled into a car together and drove to San Diego.
It was seriously one of the best moments of my life. It might not seem like much, jamming five people into a car and driving somewhere for lunch, but it had been so long since I had done anything of the sort. I used to be the kind of family member at large gatherings who would greet everyone once, then settle down in one spot to read quietly. I was never much for socializing.
But during this trip, it’s like I hung onto every word my tias said. I wanted to know what they had been up, where we were going, what they thought of this-and-this piece of gossip. I just relished every minute of that two-hour car drive.
When we arrived in downtown San Diego, our first order of business was parking. My mother nervously circled around blocks looking for an open space. We found one not too far from the restaurant we had a reservation at. And while we waited for our appointed time, we went into this little boutique.
Never has browsing through a store seemed so appealing. It was empty except for us, and we were all masked and hushed as we entered. We spent no more than fifteen minutes looking at little scarves, bracelets, and hats, but it felt so reminiscent of a different time. My Tia Martha bought me a black headband with little golden bees strewn across the top.
Side note: My tias are the queens of spoiling both my sister and I and their various nieces. They have perfected the art of spoiling.
I was nervous when we went into the restaurant since it was my first time eating at a public place since quarantining and social distancing first became a thing here, but the novelty of what used to be a familiar experience soon had me enjoying the moment. Plus, I wanted to milk all the time I had with my tias.
It was a fairly swanky restaurant, and my tias ordered their dishes like pros. My Tia Esther ordered an appetizer of (get this) snails.
That’s right, folks. We had ourselves some escargot.
For the first time in my life, I ate a snail.
I’m not normally too daring when it comes to food, but I have been making an effort to try new things. So when my Tia Esther offered me the snail…I took it.
It was absolutely drenched in this garlic butter sauce, so flavor-wise, it tasted like garlic and butter. Drench anything in garlic and butter, and that is what it will taste like.
Side note: Maybe this is too much information, but for like…four hours after I ate that, every time I burped, this garlicy, buttery aroma filled my mouth.
Texture-wise, the snail felt like a mushroom. I’m not overly fond of mushrooms, so I think it’s safe to say I’m not overly fond of snails. Regardless, I’m still glad I tried it.
We all had buckets full of fun trying out the food and sharing from each other’s plates. My Tia Kaki got ceviche (lemony as heck), my Tia Martha got this crab cake thing (that was not to my liking at all), my mom got a beet salad (it looked like her plate was bleeding), and my Tia Esther got this lamb salad (interesting, very interesting). I am not joking by calling this one of my best days.
Afterwards, we drove to a shopping center, and we listened to 80s songs and sang along to them. We were all a bit off key, but that didn’t matter. We were having fun.
If you were ever to go shopping with my tias, you would immediately note their practiced eye as they meandered through stores. They have a keen understanding of the value of brand names, more than I ever have or will. They could estimate the current worth (and the eventual worth) of a Louis Vuitton bag faster than I could snap a finger.
My mom is the odd one out, where she prefers to just sit down at a shady table and people-watch, so after walking around with my tias, we reconvened with her and then departed for home.
The whole day felt gloriously ordinary, and I’m happy I got to spend that time with my family. COVID has placed a lot of things I took for granted into sharp perspective. I appreciated every second of that day, and I am looking forward to spending more with my mom and my tias.