Friday, November 18, 2011

California Dreamin'

"Goin' to California with an aching in my heart."  - Led Zeppelin

In my last post, I wrote about what it was like to grow up in the military lifestyle.  It got me to thinking about HOME and what that means. It probably means something different to all of us.

When I was younger, home meant where my family was, wherever it was we were living. But I also had another sense of  home--a deeper meaning which came from my family history. A sense of place based on that history, filled with stories of family beginnings, lives lived, and stories told.  A place where we would go back to in between moves, where our extended family was, and where we felt we belonged. That place for me was always California.

California is the home state for both my parents. My dad grew up in San Jose and my mom grew up in Roseville. When my dad was in Vietnam, we lived in Roseville in a small rented home. This was so my mom could be near her parents and have some support and help with us kids. When dad came home, he was stationed at Oakland Army Base, so we moved to Walnut Creek, a small town closer to Oakland.

Then we got sent to Maryland, and my brother and I were NOT happy about it! We were quite content with our life in California. Well, as it turns out, Maryland was a great place to live. But as much as I enjoyed it there, I still pined for California. In all the places we lived after that, I never lost my longing for HOME. I knew someday I would get back there.

All the years we moved around, we would always make trips back to visit my relatives, usually in the summer. We loved spending time with my grandparents and my cousins, and we loved the sunshine. It was always hot in California! I think most of all though, it was the connection to something consistent. I was always very sad to leave.

My longing for California intensified when we moved to Ft. Lewis, WA. Let me tell you, for a girl who loves the sun, the constant rain and darkness up in Washington just put me into a depression. Every year, I tried to scheme a way to get to California. Couldn't I go live with my grandparents? How about my cousins? Please? No, my parents did not go for these ideas.

When I was in 9th grade, my best friend, Jean, and I devised a brilliant scheme that we called "Operation C." The C of course stood for California. Our plan was to save all our money, every last penny, and in the summer, we would hop on a bus and take a trip down there all by ourselves. We didn't know exactly what we would do once we go there, but we were pretty certain it would involve rock music, Birkenstocks and San Francisco.

We saved all our allowance and babysitting money. We even begged small change from our friends, saying we  forgot our lunch money. Shameful, I know! We put all this money in a shoebox, and by June we had $300. Not bad for piddly change, I'd say.

Well, then of course we realized the futility of our scheme. What would the two of us really do out in California? Where would we stay? Was $300 enough? We might be in danger and we wouldn't want to worry our parents.... So much for our California dreams. Instead, we split the money and went to the mall.

All through high school, I continued to fantasize about living in California.  Then it became obvious to me how I would finally get there.  It was simple really. All I had to do was choose a California college.  So, in the fall of '82, my dad drove me down to Sacramento to begin my new life--the one I had dreamed of for so many years.

I never looked back.

I  love living here as much as I knew I would. Even with all its financial and political problems, I still love it. It is a beautiful state with interesting people and a laid-back, free-spirited culture that I enjoy. It is HOME and I don't see myself ever leaving.

What does home mean to you?

"Someone told me there's a girl out there, with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair." - Led Zeppelin


  1. Not a Milatary brat, but we moved every 4 years - NJ to NY to Ca.(San Marino) To NY to NJ college in Pa. and my folks retired to Md.

    I guess my home base was Ocean City NJ, Where we visited my grandparents and relatives.

    You weren't in San Marino were you? I think you may owe me $1.20 in lunch money.


  2. I have the opportunity to leave the state just about every week, and every time I do, I look forward to coming home more strongly than the last time...

    It's funny, people have said that I would love the move "Up in the Air" because I travel so much...I tried watching it this week and only got about 1/2 hour through it. George Clooney's rootless existence doesn't appeal to me at all. It's easier to travel when you know you will be coming home soon...

    - PonB

  3. LOL, Joe!! :-) Steve, I can imagine that gets very tiring, but neat how it makes you appreciate home! Still haven't seen that movie.

  4. MA--I think if I didn't have so many friends in Seattle now I'd be pining for CA too. I *almost* went to Berkeley for college but chickened out and decided to stay close to home when I realized I would only see my family three times a year. Eek! I sometimes wish I was bolder and had went, but then again, I met my husband at my college. Hmmm.

  5. Hi, Michael Ann! There was something so cozy and comforting in your reminiscences, particularly because we lived in Hayward and Union City for several years, so Oakland and Walnut Creek are quite familiar.

    I've only lived in California since immigrating here 26 years ago, so I still have wanderlust/grass-is-greener delusions about retiring in Oregon or Washington. Even if we do though, California will always be "home" to me, more so than Manila. It's here I came into my own.

  6. Michael Ann, I can totally relate to this post. I too was a military brat. My father was in the Army for 30 years and we were based in Fort Ord, California for seven years. And I too was devastated when daddy received word we were being shipped out and sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. We left just three weeks before the junior prom and to this day, I have never gotten over missing it. I was supposed to go with one of the cutest boys in school and my best friend Sandra and I had already picked out dresses. I was to wear this beautiful light yellow, lacy, strapless number and it was going to be a magical evening. Sadly, it never came to be. :(

  7. I discover California 10 years ago and since then I'm not myself. I loved, loved being there, especially in the northern part. Bill Maher once said and It's so true: "The whole world feels about USA the same way every state feels about California" I'm going back there next year even if only for 2 days and I can't wait.

  8. I have divided loyalties regarding Home. I grew up in Washington, DC and moved to NYC at age 26. I consider them both home. Can't choose. Luckily, I don't have to.
    -The Spinsterlicious Life

  9. My husband and I have lived in 8 houses over the past 18 years so I feel a little rootless. We've been in our current house for a little over a year now and we think we might finally stay put, so maybe I've found my home.

  10. I am a CA girl....Besides living in Italy for two and 1/2 years I have been a NCali girl for years......Their are days (sometimes) that I wonder what else is out there in the USA but I have traveled to enough states to know that we have it pretty good here in CA

  11. Wow, sounds like home could mean where your roots are, then. I think home always means where family is, to me, or maybe where you are most familiar, but I haven't lived in as many places as you, so I think you have a better perspective - interesting post.

  12. First of all, LOVE that Zeppelin song. My FAVORITE of all Zeppelin songs. Really. So underappreciated, I think. For me, home is Michigan. Even though it's freezing cold and miserable 9 months out of the year, I still love it. It has the absolute best summers, so many lakes you could trip on one stepping out your back door, and a beautiful tradition of going "up north" to the lake house every weekend in the summer months. When we lived in FL, I certainly did get homesick a lot. I decided paradise was a nice place to visit, but I wasn't so sure I wanted to live there.

  13. Beautiful Post.

    Love this song by Zeppelin. YES!

    Home is where my family is.... xx

  14. This is heart-warming, especially at a time of year when so many of us are thinking of home. I agree, it's that place in your heart that you are drawn too. Love that you plotted and plotted and plotted and got what you wanted!

  15. This is heart-warming, especially at a time of year when so many of us are thinking of home. I agree, it's that place in your heart that you are drawn too. Love that you plotted and plotted and plotted and got what you wanted!

  16. I didn't move around until after college, and then it felt like I was everywhere. When I first moved to London, home was California authors, tortillas, and Nancy Griffith. Later, home came to mean wherever I laid my head at night, but after my daughter was born home took on a different meaning. Love is the most powerful emotion I have felt, once I held her little fingers, home was anywhere she was. Of course, we both grew, made room for her little brother, another heartbreaker, and I eventually came to understand home is wherever your heart is. I too love California. It's got issues these days, but its' a beautiful state to reside in. Good post, Michael Ann. You conjured such strong memories.

  17. california is really a place that could really catch your heart... i have been to there in Los Angeles and the place is heart warming..i fell in lkove with the place, people are very nice too... cant wait to go back there!!! love your blog, following you now, hope you could visit my blog too..kissess!!!

  18. Great post! I grew up in the same house from birth to college, so Dallas has always been my "home." I enjoyed moving away for college, but was excited to return home. I have great pride in being a Texan (but not the obnoxious kind!). That said, I will always regret that I didn't live in California at some point (I guess it's not too late). I love visiting there and love the culture of norther and southern CA and of course the weather!

  19. Michael Ann - I've never been to California, so thanks for sharing me small pieces with me! Hopefully someday soon I'll get there, but until then, this blog can tide me over. :)

  20. Home is where the heart is. I too, live in California, but for years my perception (coming from NY and while in Seattle) was that California was for hippies and loons. I'm so glad I ignored that and came anyway. I love it here!


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