I have been remiss these past few weeks in keeping up with my “weekly” blog, but I have good reason. I have spent the past few weeks on a nostalgia fest—up and down the coast of California—visiting my hometown and then my college stomping grounds. It has been a beautiful time of reflection, lovely memories, rekindled friendships, and gratitude for the incredible people and places that have been instrumental in developing who I am today.
Two weeks ago I visited my hometown of Concord, California—a sweet little place nestled in the hills of the East Bay (as in east of the amazing city of San Francisco!). I grew up in a small, suburban neighborhood which borders an even smaller town called Clayton that sits in the foothills of Mount Diablo. I have written about this in prior posts—this neighborhood with such honeysuckle sweet and precious memories of friends who were family. As I reflect back on those days, and talk with my friends about those times, we all realize just how precious and unique it was. I reminisce on the long summer days where we would ride cardboard mats down the dried grass on the hills, and build forts in the oak trees, and play hide and seek all night, and return home to parents sitting around eating cheese, crackers, pizza, and drinking wine—always wine. I think upon the days of swim meets and green chlorinated hair and tan bodies and playing cards in between events. I had not been back “home” in six years, and I stayed with my high school best friend in her home that is just around the corner from her parents. We had a mini reunion in downtown Walnut Creek, a hipster little town with great food, bars, and shops. My girlfriends from way back into elementary and junior high came into town from the surrounding areas and we laughed and talked and reminisced while perusing our junior high yearbook. We remembered things like the matching outfits we made in sewing class (who has sewing class anymore?) and the football game cheers (which my friend Chris remembered every word and hand movement!). We conjured up the songs we danced to while jumping on our beds and singing at the top of our lungs….S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y—Night! (Can’t forget the Bay City Rollers) and B-B-B-Benny and the Jets—with brushes as our microphones. Of course high school had its drama and its painful, hurtful times, but we focused on the good and the happy and the pure. My friend Maureen and I hiked the trails of Mount Diablo each morning, and then sat in her backyard with tea and fruit and caught up on all the years-- our families, siblings, our spouses and our children. It didn’t seem like a day had gone by that I wasn’t at a sleepover at her house. I met my dear friends and former neighbors—Dan and his wife Deanne—at our old haunt—Skipolinis Pizza Garden—yes it is still there. We sat outside on the patio (just like the old days) with the white lanterns hanging in the trees, and sipped sangria out of mason jars and caught up on the many years that have gone by and all the precious memories that we shared. It was easy and simple to be in that memorable place again with people I could be real and true with. I drove through my old neighborhood and past my home and schools—much of it is still in its pleasant, sweet, pristine state and it made me think of how simple most of that time was—back in the day. I have not lived there since I moved away to college at 18—and my “home” is now San Diego, where I have lived for almost thirty years, but I am so grateful for the times I had in that special place.
Last week I visited my alma mater UCSB (go Gauchos!) as we took a So-Cal, Central Cal tour up the coast to show my boys college options. I travelled that 405/101 corridor for many years and many holidays and I tell you that the view never gets old. That stretch from Ventura to Cal Poly with the ocean on one side and the mountains binding you in on the other, brings back memory after memory. I remember each small town along the way and the markers that would tell me I was getting closer to home or to school. We took Noah to five schools up the coast—and the campuses were all unique and different. Santa Barbara has changed a lot in the years since I have been there, but there were still so many memory triggers. You just can’t beat that town—the college right on the cliffs, the hip downtown, the gorgeous beaches, the mountains and parks and wineries all nearby. My dorms still look the same and I showed the boys how I would walk out my dorm room, cross the street, and head out on the running path on the cliff above the beach. I would walk down the stairs and be at the water’s edge. Really, what 18 year old wouldn’t want that kind of ocean front property for a few years?? I took the boys into Isla Vista, the college town, and showed them my old apartment and the bike paths onto campus and the grocery markets in the center of town that haven’t changed a bit. I showed them the dorm where I was a resident advisor—where I made the deepest friendships of my life. I remember when we RA’s needed to find space from the residents so we locked ourselves in the linen closets to study—best study area ever—and the smells were soft and crisp and clean. I remember going to the dining commons in groups and having the best “family” meals ever—often talking for hour, not caring that we had to study or had class the next day. I remember my cruiser bike with its little basket and riding across campus with my skirts blowing in the breeze. I remember going downtown to State Street to Joe’s Café for the best T-bone and whisky sours in town (and it is still there—an institution!).
Being in both those places—my hometown, and my college town, ramped up the nostalgia. It made me realize how blessed I have been and how much I have been given in this life. I have so much when it comes to material things and positive circumstances. I have intersected with the most incredible people and have been exposed to such lovely places and things. Each person, in every phase of my life, has had a part in developing who I am today. Each life event has also shaped me. I have had my share of hard times and rough moments. I have had rocky relationships and dismal disappointments. But all have been part of building me into the woman and mom and wife and friend that I am today. As I look back, and now look forward, for my own child to make decisions about where to go to college, I am forever thankful for the experiences, people and places that are in the deepest parts of my soul.