Blair’s Canyon Lodge

November 4, 2013

Santa Barbara

By Gabrielle. Images by Ben Blair.

Last month, Ben Blair took a trip to Santa Barbara with his father, and his three older brothers. It sounds like a simple thing when I type that, but it was actually a big deal. My father-in-law, Robert Blair, is not a picture of health. He’s in his 80′s, and he has diabetes. He has been on dialysis for 8 years. Ben’s father is a linguist by profession, and the majority of his life was spent traveling the world in order to learn languages, but his health has kept him fairly home bound for years now. So this trip was pretty much epic.

In August, Ben and his siblings gathered at his parents’ home to celebrate their wedding anniversary. At one point, Ben’s father paused the anniversary party to say he had regrets that he wasn’t there enough as a Dad. And it’s true. Like many homes of that era (and many today), a sort-of absentee father was a fact, and Ben’s mother ran the home and interacted most with the kids.

Wanting to fit in some of the missed bonding time with their father, Ben’s brothers came up with this bold plan to rent an RV (so that his father could lie down and sleep on the road), and drive to Santa Barbara — their father’s childhood home town. It was a last-minute road trip, and for the few days leading up to it, there was this feeling of: Is this really going to happen? But it did happen! And it completely transformed Ben’s perspective on his Dad, and what his Dad’s legacy meant for him.

Blair's Canyon Lodge Sign

Ben had never visited Santa Barbara (that he could remember — we hear there was a visit when he was a baby) and he found the city to be picture perfect —ocean, mountains, history, not too sprawling, not too fast-paced, not too crowded, ideal weather, just a gem of a town. (Fun fact: In our search for a home in the U.S. we looked into Santa Barbara because of this family connection, but were out-priced.)

But even better than seeing Santa Barbara the city, was getting to see the home Ben’s father grew up in — including details like a bed that his grandfather made by hand and that his father slept in as a child. The Blairs no longer own the home, but they knocked on the door and happily, the homeowners didn’t mind letting them have a tour. Ben had heard about the house, that it was beautiful home on a forested piece of property, near The Mission in Santa Barbara. But seeing it in person, and hearing stories from locals and nearby cousins about Blair Canyon Lodge (the sign is still there!) shifted the whole way he thought about the Blair side of the family, and how he views himself and his heritage and family narrative.

Apparently, the Blair Canyon Lodge was a really social place. A gathering place. A sometimes bed and breakfast. The site of frequent community parties. The Lodge, Robert Blair’s childhood home, was filled with music — Robert played the trombone. His mother played piano, his father and sister were both singers. In fact, as an adult, his sister was in the famed Tabernacle Choir. (Another fun fact: our Ralph also plays the trombone, but I didn’t learn of the trombone connection until recently.)

Ben’s Dad has outlived his immediate family by 40 years. Robert Blair’s father died when he was a teenager. His mother and only sibling died when he was middle-aged — right around the time Ben was born. Of course, this means Ben has never known his Dad’s side of the family. They had all passed away. So Ben grew up very connected to his mother’s family (the Grobergs), but much less connected to his father’s side. And this trip was a window into a completely different heritage that he had been mostly unaware of.

I don’t think Ben had considered his father’s side of the family as being that influential in his own life. But seeing the home, and the bed, and the town in person, and hearing his Dad tell stories of throwing mudballs, and raising chickens, and having parties seemed to open his eyes to how influential his Blair genes actually are. There’s this idea we’ve had of having a home that functions partly as a social center for our community — something we both desire for our house. And we’ve thought of it as an idea that’s independent of how we grew up. But learning about the Blair’s Canyon Lodge, made us realize this idea is actually part of continuing family narrative. So fascinating to discover! And really, after the trip, I could see that Ben Blair views himself a bit differently now.

robert blair at cemetary

Ben’s father has been without his parents and his sibling for half his life. And certainly, one of the most moving parts of the trip for Ben, was seeing his father’s emotions at visiting the graves of his parents. 

For Ben’s Dad, his best days are behind him. Frankly, not knowing how long I’ll live, the same may be true of me right now. And if it isn’t true today, the scale will inevitably be tipped one day so that my best days are behind me. It’s a straightforward statement, but jarring still.

The Santa Barbara trip left us thinking about how our family heritage shapes us, about the places that are dear to us, about our relationships with our parents and our children and our siblings. I also can’t help but wonder: Ben’s father hadn’t visited his home town in nearly 4o years. Will there be a time when the same is true for me? And have you ever learned something about your family history that changed the way you view yourself? I’d love to hear.

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{ 70 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lindsey November 4, 2013 at 12:48 pm

About Time was released in the UK earlier this summer and I have to say that I loved it too. I thought about it for days afterwards – I want to watch it again now!

Moving story about your husband and his father – you can feel the emotion even in the photos. Thanks for sharing. xx


2 Design Mom November 4, 2013 at 1:24 pm

I want to watch it again, too! I just re-watched the trailer and it had me tearing up. (But funnily enough, the first time I watched it, I assumed the movie was more of a straight up comedy.)


3 Robin November 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Once again your writing has brought tears to my eyes. Just a very lovely post, Gabby.

I remember when I saw an old home movie of both of my parents (before they divorced) and my sister and me. We looked a typical happy family – I burst into tears when I saw it (I was in my 50s the first time I saw it). I had never imagined that we all looked so happy together at one time…


4 Design Mom November 4, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Oh Robin! And now your comment has me bursting into tears. I’ll bet seeing that footage changed the way you thought of your childhood in a big way.


5 C in MD November 4, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Robin, your comment prompted me to share something and ask advice (or you or anyone else reading this). My three year old son’s dad and I split up when he was 9 months old. We have maintained a very amicable relationship and even find ourselves spending time together with our son (once or twice a week we’ll have lunch, or go hiking, or something like that). As a result, we have quite a few pictures of the three of us together – happy – but not as a “traditional” family. Recently, I was redecorating my son’s room and considered framing pictures of the three of us together, but my friends discouraged it, saying it was, frankly, “weird,” and that it might confuse my son. Would you mind weighing in on this? Its all still relatively new to me and I want very desperately to do the “right” thing for our son.


6 karina November 4, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Robin: I think there is nothing wrong with putting up that photo. Your expartner and you will always be your sons parents, for all his life. And it the two of you get along well enough to share good times with your boy, there is nothing to feat. Spending time with you two is natural to him. So why should a photo in his room not be natural and healthy and good?

The only thing I would like to advise you on: Make sure he understands, that Mommy and Daddy are just good friends. One day one of you may have a new partner (maybe you already do!?). Then I would continue treating the situation naturally and occassionally spend time as an extended, modern family. My husband has a daughter (17) from an earlier relationship. The seperation happened when she was eight, I came along when she was nearly ten years old. She spends loads of time with Dad&me, Dad and her mother and also with all of us at once. We have Christmas dinner together and an anual birthday picnic with relatives and friends from all sides. However on the night of her bday she always goes out only with her parents, without me. Old tradition! And I think its sweet and great that they have this tradition.

This obviously works out well as there were never very hurt feelings or broken hearts after the seperation. This however does not mean that there were never any disagreements or fights or discussions between the parties.

But my stepdaughter knows that her parents will always be there for her together. And she has a wall full of photos of everyone in both her rooms (at her Moms and at our house!).


7 karina November 4, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Sorry! Just realized it was not Robin asking, but C.!


8 Kate November 5, 2013 at 7:50 am

Karina, I just wanted to say that I think that what you have achieved is amazing – to have such a close, blended family that centers around your shared daughter, and for you to be so sanguine and supportive about preserving the traditions of her childhood; well done you!

And C, put up the photos and celebrate them – it doesn’t stop life from moving on or forwards. One of my favourite photos is a b&w shot of my (long-divorced) parents from the 70s, complete with ‘tache and hippie hair, looking ridiculously happy. They’ve both moved on and formed other partnerships which are great – but that picture for me is still magical, and reminds me that I came from a very happy union!

9 Pamela Balabuszko-Reay November 5, 2013 at 6:39 am

Dear C,
Families are weird. And different. We each have our own family story.

In our home we have pictures of my daughter’s birth mom. She is an important part of our life. Our real life- full of love and connections with someone who made our dreams come true.

We have pictures of our son Alexander’s grave. He is a part of our family.

If our son’s birth mom made herself available in his life we would put pictures up of her too.

Follow your gut. Represent your family the way it is. It is your space and your way of expressing what is important to you. What a loving message to anyone who steps through your door. They may not “get it”. That is ok.


10 Kim November 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm

The photo of Ben’s father visiting his parents is breathtaking. Immediately moved me to tears.

Thank you for sharing this. I am glad they were able to take the trip :)


11 Design Mom November 4, 2013 at 1:26 pm

I’m so glad, too. It’s one of those things complicated trips that could easily have been cancelled for any number of reasons, and I’m over the moon they made it happen.


12 Sarah November 4, 2013 at 1:34 pm

That was a lovely story Gabby. Santa Barbara is wonderful.

I just watched the trailer and now I’m crying. I love movies but may have to wait to catch this one. My father-in-law died in July and there are moments where the permanency of it just catches me by surprise. I may have to see it alone once I’m ready.


13 Design Mom November 4, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Oh man. That thought went through my head when I watched the movie. It’s been many years since my father died, but if it was recent, this movie would have been too emotional for me.

“there are moments where the permanency of it just catches me by surprise”

So true.


14 Stella November 4, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Really wonderful post, Gabrielle. Made me tear up and reflect on what I do and don’t know about my own parents’ upbringings. We lived far away from any extended family when I was growing up, and I think I missed out on a lot by not having much interaction with them. Now that I’m older, I actually live much closer to the living grandparent on each side and find myself drawn to visiting them. I wish I had known my Grammie and my Grandpa when they were younger and in better health! But I cherish the moments I get with them now. This is something I’ve resolved to change with my own children. I want them to know my parents, my siblings and where I came from.

(Also, I am dying to see that movie! Looks so moving.)


15 Design Mom November 4, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Our son Ralph often asks us for images or stories about our childhoods, but I don’t remember asking my parents much about theirs. I wish I knew more!


16 Nina Leung November 4, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Thank you for sharing this personal and moving post. I literally cried when I saw the picture of Robert Blair at his parents grave. I often think about how lonely it must feel when you’re the last one left of your immediate family and peers. My Grandmother is the last and though she has many children and grandchildren, she doesn’t have anyone to reminisce with. It must be so hard. Our family legacy is so important to who we are and what we want to become. I think about that and how I’m raising my two boys. I want them to understand their family history on both sides. It’s informed my life so much growing up, I know it will do the same for them. Thank you so much for this beautiful post.


17 Design Mom November 4, 2013 at 2:08 pm

” I often think about how lonely it must feel when you’re the last one left of your immediate family and peers.”

I remember my Mom really feeling that right after my Dad died. The whole family would be gathered, but she didn’t have anyone from her generation to relate to. It was lonely for her for sure. She’s remarried now and I’m so glad.


18 sarabean November 4, 2013 at 5:56 pm

A few years ago my husband’s grandmother (she is in her late 70s) was trying to do a family tree (through the internet and photo albums, newspaper clips, etc) and had a stubborn 20 year gap she couldn’t close. It was too small for a whole generation, but the people weren’t lining up right. At some point we were discussing it and she said, so frustrated, “There just isn’t anyone to ask!” Such a wake-up call to remember to ask questions while you have people around.


19 Summer November 4, 2013 at 1:49 pm

You made me tear up as well. All of my grandparents’ generation is gone now, and every once and awhile I think of something I wish I’d have asked them. I recently did a photo wall, and while going through the albums, I found some of their old report cards and love letters. It was really moving, knowing everything they went through so that my parents could have a better life.

I’m so glad Ben Blair got to go on that trip. Which reminds me, I better get my mom to Hawaii soon…it’s the only place she’s ever really wanted to go.


20 Design Mom November 4, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I hope you get to take your mom to Hawaii!


21 aimee @ smilingmama November 4, 2013 at 2:18 pm

This is really beautiful. The idea that this trip gave Ben a different look on his side of the family and also your comment above about Ralph asking about family stories reminded me of this NY Times piece:

“After a while, a surprising theme emerged. The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.”

That family narrative is something I think about a lot and I try to weave in stories and anecdotes for my sons (now 7 and 3) in hopes that they’ll feel a connection to our larger family story.


22 Design Mom November 4, 2013 at 2:38 pm

I’m so glad you linked to that article, Aimee. I’d forgotten about it, and it’s definitely worth a re-read. It makes me want to have an illustrator make posters of some of our favorite family narratives and then hang them in our house!


23 Joan November 4, 2013 at 2:19 pm

I’ve recently become reconnected with my Grandfather. We were never close and there were decades that I didn’t see or speak to him. I am only, just now, beginning to realize how smart and funny and accomplished he is and what a wicked-cool life he lived. I really, really wish I could get the last 30 years back and get to know him better. He’s 93 years old, his best years are behind him, and the clock is ticking. Bummer.


24 Design Mom November 4, 2013 at 2:40 pm

I love hearing that you’ve become reconnected! If you haven’t done it already, I highly recommend bringing a recorder (or using your phone) to your future visits and getting as many of his stories on record as you can. The stories just disappear. It’s heartbreaking.


25 Valerie November 4, 2013 at 2:28 pm

I’ve only recently begun studying my own family history. All of my closest family is still living so I never felt the need to dig deeper, but I am finding my ancestors’ stories to be amazing, even in their simplicity because it is my heritage. I don’t usually watch R movies, but this one looks completely worth it!


26 Design Mom November 4, 2013 at 2:42 pm

It’s neat to look back and see a storyline or pattern emerge.

And I have to tell you, I didn’t know it was R-Rated until after I watched it, and I’m still not sure what the R is for. When I got home, I told Ben Blair that I really wanted he and Ralph and Maude to see it. It’s a good one!


27 Valerie November 4, 2013 at 3:05 pm

It’s good to know that it isn’t surprisingly dirty or something, I will definitely go see it. It could be that it just breaks the F-word limit like with King’s Speech.


28 karina November 4, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Gabrielle, thank you for touching me through this post. Pieces like these are what make your blog a special place for me on the internet. You are brave enough to look at subjects beyond deco and design. You are authentic. You are brave enough to ask questions beyond the shiny and glossy sides if life. To me your blog isn´t like a Walt Disney-story, but like a conversation with a wise and brave friend. A converstaion that makes me rethink things I said, makes me reconsider plans. A conversation that makes me feel real.

My life certainly is much different than yours: i have no kids, am not religious and have never carved a pumpkin in my life ;-) But when I read this blog I still feel a connection. Thanks!


29 Design Mom November 4, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Your comment made me happy, Karina. I really love hearing that my blog appeals to a variety of people. It seriously makes my day. And having my blog described as “like a conversation with a wise and brave friend” is about the highest compliment I can imagine. Thank you so much.


30 cathy November 4, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I am proud of your husband and his siblings for taking the time to spend with their father. It is so easy to think “I can do it later” and find out that there is not a later.
Thank you for sharing.


31 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 2:51 pm

I’m so glad they made it happen. One of those life changing trips!


32 kimberly November 4, 2013 at 5:16 pm

beautiful family trip…to a beautiful place (my own hometown, too).


33 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 2:52 pm

I can’t wait to see Santa Barbara for myself!


34 giulia November 4, 2013 at 5:42 pm

this is such a sweet story <3
also, that movie looks incredible! i mean, notting hill is definitely one of my favorite romantic comedies ever so this must be good too!!!


35 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 2:53 pm

It really is so good. It definitely has a romantic comedy feel for parts of the movie, but then gets so earnestly heartfelt and emotional, too.


36 Karen November 4, 2013 at 7:43 pm

What a great story. The photo of Ben’s father at his parent’s gravesite made me cry as well. I have a very small family (I’m not married, no kids, my mom is an only child, several people in my dad’s family are gone, and my only brother recently passed away). I long for a large family and stories passed down generation to generation. I find it fascinating. I’m so glad your husband was able to have this lovely experience. It’s something he’ll be grateful for for the rest of his life.


37 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Though he’s no longer here to ask, from what I understand, my own father longed for a big family, and as an adult, he got his wish — 8 kids! I hope your longing is fulfilled in whatever way seems best to you.


38 Azure November 4, 2013 at 8:24 pm

I’m about half the age of your father-in-law, but I too grew up in Santa Barbara. I hardly ever return because my parents no longer live there. Recently, however, we ended up visiting there because my daughter choose the Santa Barbara Mission for her 4th grade California Missions report. (I had told her to pick the mission closest to our house, but I think she grabbed on to my comment that I had done my 4th grade report on the Santa Barbara mission.) Instead of doing the standard tourist sites, I took them to play at my elementary school playground. (They have an organic garden now!) We also went to the public library, where I spent many hundreds of hours in my childhood and teen years. Finally, we went to the zoo, where I had volunteered for several summers as a zoo camp counselor. Definitely a worthwhile trip.


39 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 2:56 pm

What a wonderful experience for your whole family!


40 Miggy November 4, 2013 at 8:40 pm

I loved this post. In fact it reminds me a lot about another post I believe one of your contributors did (Amy?) in regards to the NYT article about the single most influential thing that can help a child to grow up strong and overcome obstacles is to know stories about your family–have a strong family narrative. I’ve thought about that a lot (and in fact used that article in a recent lesson at church). A lot of my childhood was rather less than ideal and while I’m not sure stories of my grandpa’s childhood were something I cognitively connected to, I can’t help but think they must have been a strength to me. His life story has always fascinated me and since I only knew him in his later years—and he was happy and successful in his own right–I think that was significant to me. He was the youngest of 24 kids, super poor, a high school drop out, both parents dead by the time he was 16, fought in WWII and shot behind the ear, 1st wife left him during the war, and so on and so on. He went on to remarry my grandmother, graduated from optometry school and start his own practice, have 3 kids and well the grandpa I knew was happy, kind, loving and highly influential in my life. My grandpa told me about the time his dad sat him down and said, “No matter who you meet in your life–senators, presidents, men and women who come from high places–you’ll never meet anyone better than you.” I feel like that’s something that must have been rooted in my heart as well over the years because while I come from a humble background, I’ve never felt less than because of outside circumstances. I often attributed that to a gift of good self esteem, but maybe it was more than that.

Great thoughts Gabby. Thanks for sharing.


41 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 2:57 pm

I love reading your thoughts about your Grandpa, Miggy. It makes me want to make some notes of what a good grandparent is like, so that I won’t forget when I’m one myself.


42 juliagblair November 4, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Thanks for this lovely, tender post, Gabby! I sincerely regret that I didn’t
understand Grandma Blair’s deep love of Santa Barbara and her home and life there prior to her passing.
During her last days she desperately wanted to be back in Santa Barbara. We were her care-givers in Provo, Utah, and really knew very little about being good Care-givers. Bob was the only living member of his family. At this time we had five rowdy teen-agers and two adorable little boys, Ben being the baby.
When I would go to Grandma’s room to check on her, I would often have Ben in one arm. She loved Baby Ben. Whenever I would come in without him, she would say: “Where is the baby? Where is that beautiful baby?”"

It breaks my heart now, that she died alone in Provo, longing to be back in Santa Barbara, the home and city that she had given so much of her life for and loved so deeply. I love and appreciate her more and more as I comprehend her and the beautiful service she and her husband gave to the city they pioneered and loved.


43 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Oh. I always wonder the same thing about you! I’ve often wondered if you felt hurried from your home on Cedar Avenue, and if you wish you still lived there. Or if you’d rather be in Idaho Falls!

Based on every bit of time I’ve spent with you, I’m sure you were a wonderful caregiver to Grandma Blair. The best! And I can’t imagine having to take on such a big responsibility with both teenagers and a newborn baby in the house. I’m overwhelmed just thinking about it.


44 Jodi November 4, 2013 at 10:06 pm

How fantastic. A real treasure. It really does have a profound effect on your life.

Santa Barbara is so wonderful, you must visit. We lived there 2 years during grad school, and when we unexpectedly had to move to Boston, some nights I cried because I missed it so much- remembering our evening bike rides to the beach to watch the sunset and a whole laundry list of memories and wonderful things. 3 years later we were able to move back again for just another year.


45 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I really must find a good excuse for a visit — even just a long weekend!


46 gina November 5, 2013 at 2:54 am

Heartbreaking and beautiful – both the story and photos sharing the journey.


47 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Thank you for reading, Gina.


48 Dale November 5, 2013 at 4:03 am

So sweet… as they say it’s not too late to have a happy childhood !
Thank you


49 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I’ve never heard that saying before, but I think I love it!


50 Jessica @ Little Nesting Doll November 5, 2013 at 7:01 am

What a great experience for them all to have had, and how cool to find surprise similarities in your immediate family that connect you to the past!


51 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm

It really was an amazing trip. It’s been weeks now, but I love hearing Ben Blair talk about it.


52 Janet November 5, 2013 at 7:15 am

What a sweet and touching journey that was for all. Brought me to tears too.


53 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Thank you for the kind words, Janet.


54 Fiona November 5, 2013 at 7:26 am

This bought up a thought on building family bonds across generations – and a regret I have. My parents, and last surviving grandparent live in South Africa. This summer when I went to visit with my two young boys, I went to visit my 94year old grandmother. I felt nervous and stressed about it, as she is bed-ridden and frail, and can’t contribute much in the way of conversation. So I decided I would go just with my father and not bother my children to join us. Later my 6 year old asked where we had been – and I said we went to see Grandpa’s mom – “he has a mom”, he replied, “and she is still alive? She must be old” I told him she is 94. After we returned to the US, he bought it up again and said “she better still be alive the next time we go to South Africa, because I’ve never met anyone that old”. I so wish I had been brave enough to take him to see her and not been scared of how his behaviour would bother her, or his reaction to her condition, who knows when we will have another opportunity to bridge those generations.


55 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 3:06 pm

I can imagine doing the same thing, because I HAVE done it. And of course, I wish I could have a redo. But please don’t be hard on yourself — if your kids had been there, that could have been one kind of good experience, but might have been less of a good experience for you personally, as the visit would probably have to be shorter, and the conversations cut-off. I’m sure the time you were able to spend with her was wonderful.


56 Amy November 5, 2013 at 7:42 am

This was a lovely, lovely post. I am going to lay down a challenge, though, that I hope sparks some conversation. Why do you say that Mr. Blair’s “best years are behind him?”

Even though he is older and not in the best of health, it seems that he has much joy in his life and derives great satisfaction from his family. His circumstances may not be what young adults would consider “best years,” but values change as one ages. Generally, older people note how they are happier with less, more grounded, appreciate the little things more, etc. Maybe he is living the best years of his life now?


57 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 3:07 pm

You know, I think you’re absolutely right, Amy. And it’s such a positive outlook! I think of my “best” days as the days where I have the most energy. But really, I may measure things differently as I age.


58 Amy November 6, 2013 at 8:15 am

It is a personal goal to live every phase of life as if it is my “best years.” I truly believe there is something wonderful in each phase – even though right now I’m sort of glum because my oldest is a high school senior and I’m mourning the end of the most active part of our family life. But I’ve heard the next phase is good, too – I just haven’t experienced it!


59 CMN November 5, 2013 at 7:56 am

Dearest G.,
What a thoughtful and thought-provoking post. Thank you, to you AND to Ben, for sharing. i want to use words like meaningful and formative. Courageous. Intimate. Personal and deeply-felt. Honest and treasured. All of those words come to mind when I read this post, yet I can’t think how best to arrange them to say what I mean. But the compliment and the gratitude are there. But them all in a jar and serve with a side of warm brownies from the oven. That’s what this post is. :)
With love,


60 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Oh. You are such a sweetheart. I’m so glad this post was meaningful for you. And thank you for the sweet comment. Consider both the warm brownies and compliments received. : )


61 Becki November 5, 2013 at 8:34 am

Such a wonderful story. I am amazed at the similarities to my father-in-law who turned 70 last week: grew up in Santa Barbara, only living person in his family for 20+ years, etc). My husband and I convinced my in-laws to meet our family in Santa Barbara 2 summers ago. It was an amazing and magical time. My children were with their grandparents, and we were in magical Santa Barbara! My father-in-law took us to all of the places he frequented as a child, including the forested area that he hiked and rode his bike (and discovered a native american burial site which became an archeological dig!), the dock where he kept his small sail boat, the house his father built, the house he and his mother lived in, the church he began to attend as a teenager. It was wonderful to see the places that shaped him and to hear his stories.


62 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 3:10 pm

So wonderful! Magical sounds like the perfect word for it.


63 sarah November 5, 2013 at 9:33 am

this post had me tearing up in a downtown coffee shop. i think staying connected to our heritage has becoming increasingly difficult in a culture that is ever forward-moving, yet there is something so vital about retaining a link to who and where we’ve come from. i went along on a similar trip with my dad and his father shortly before his death, and it grounded me to something i never knew was a part of me. what a gift. thanks for sharing about Ben’s trip and tapping into something deep in all of us.


64 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I agree. And I want to do a better job of retaining links to the places and people who have influenced me. Thanks for your thoughts, Sarah.


65 bdaiss November 5, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Oh Gabby – sometimes you know just what to post just when we need it. Perhaps it’s the holidays nearing, but I think often of our family legacy. My mother’s parents died when she was in high school; her brother and sister (who acted as my grandmother) are gone; my father’s family are either too far from us or are gone (and family squabbling when Grandma passed meant I have next to nothing from that side). My husband and I live in the same small South Dakota town he grew up in, with many of his family around. Which is wonderful! But also makes me sad that my children won’t know more about what MY childhood was like. I doubt we will ever return to my hometown. That my daughter will ever see the house I grew up in. The closest we come is Chicago where I do still have connections. One of the clearest memories I have is my mom, her sister, and sister-in-law at my aunt’s dining room table pouring over a box of photos one of them had found. If I’d only been 30 years older to know to take notes and really LISTEN. I think it is time to start badgering my relatives for more old photos and stories. To create even more heritage books. To get the photos of my and my husband’s childhood out of the old sticky-backed photo-albums and breathe new life and stories into them. To amaze and humor my kids with stories of what our lives were like.

I am so glad Ben and his siblings had the chance to visit Santa Barbara with their dad. What an amazing gift for all of them. And for us.


66 Design Mom November 5, 2013 at 3:12 pm

“I doubt we will ever return to my hometown.”

Oh. That breaks my heart for you! I don’t get there very often, but if I thought I would never see St. George again, I’m not quite sure I could fathom it. I hope you get a chance to return there. I hope your kids take you when they’re all grown up!

And thank you for the thoughtful comment!


67 Lori November 5, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Thanks for sharing this story. I just made the connection that your father-in-law is a good friend/colleague of my dad – a retired German professor of BYU with a emphasis in Linguistics.
I’ve always been really into Family History, and am currently trying to put together a Life Story of my grandmother, who passed away in 2002.
This trip that your husband took sounds so great!
Oh, and we live just about an hour south of Santa Barbara. I love visiting there!


68 Lily November 5, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Wonderful and touching post. I grew up in Santa Barbara and live with my new husband in an apartment near the Mission. I had to move away to someplace completely different after high school to truly realize what a beautiful place it is. I loved living in Georgia, but couldn’t wait to get back to Santa Barbara. It’s so nice to be back here with my family and show my husband (who I brought back with me from Georgia) its magic.

Thank you for sharing!


69 Emily November 5, 2013 at 7:23 pm

What a moving story about the Blairs. And I cannot wait to see this film, I’ve been waiting forever for it to come out!


70 Cathryn November 5, 2013 at 10:04 pm

This post is beautiful and deeply emotional. Like most other people, I got weepy when I saw the photo of your father in law at his parents’ graves. I think I’d always assumed that older people don’t miss their parents that much, especially if they lost them half a lifetime ago. I was so wrong.


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