My parents hopped around Oklahoma and Texas, with brief stays in Guatemala and Malta, from the first 7 years of my life. My father was in the oilfield, and when he was working overseas it allowed us to live wherever we wanted. When we visited friends in North Carolina during the Christmas of 1978, my parents looked at each other and said, "This looks nice."
So we moved. I was in third grade, and many of my real memories begin here. As a result of tragedy (the oil bust) and necessity, we changed houses every couple of years, but I continued to go to school with primarily the same kids. This became, in effect, my hometown.
A few months before the end of my sophomore year in high school, my parents sat me down and delivered the worst news a parent can give an almost 16 year old girl - we're moving.
Across the country.
I was, typically, completely devastated. I begged and pleaded and made threats and deals, but nothing worked. With promises and bribes my parents loaded up and moved to Contra Costa County, just east of the San Francisco Bay.
I was, typically, completely wrong. California was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was a novelty, with my funny accent and ignorance about such awesome things as Siouxsie and the Banshees and Blondie's Pizza. The accent I learned to lose, until it was needed, and the rest I gobbled up, having until that moment not known how hungry I was.
I had never met an Asian person. I had never met an Indian person. I had never met an openly gay person. I had never met so many people with such beautiful teeth. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with things I'd never been exposed to. I looked around at the mohawks and the piercings and the colors and cultures and thought - these are my people. This is my tribe!
I have always longed to be something - Irish or Mexican or Jewish or Californian. I had no idea what my cultural identity was, I just knew I wanted one. Preferably one with great food and extended holidays. But in the Bay Area, I found things were so diverse, they became homogenized. You no longer had to try to be something, you just were. There were so many other people, that you ceased to be what color you were or what language you spoke. I don't know if it's the romantic memory of a 16 year old, but I do know that it was the first time in my life that I felt like I was home.
I spent every weekend I could in Berkeley. I went to concerts all over the City and saw Nelson Mandela speak and watched them blow up a skyscraper in the middle of San Francisco, standing next to my Father one early, foggy morning.
I saw a skyscraper.
I graduated high school.
I met The Boyfriend, with whom I slowly made my way northeast, and then abruptly, South.
Back to North Carolina, where things had changed so drastically that I hardly knew where I was. I found new friends and married The Boyfriend and had some babies and grew up. I learned to love the South as an adult, which is an entirely different experience than as a kid. I see how far the South has come, and how far we have to go. I feel like I've found out who I am, and what is home.
Sometimes The Husband and I talk about moving back. Never seriously, always wistfully.
"If we won the lottery? And we could live anywhere? What about then?" he asks.
I hesitate, because the thought of spending every day on the beach in Carmel makes me want to cry with happiness. Finally, I shake my head.
"No," I say, "I'm just a Southern girl."
(But that doesn't mean that if won the lottery we wouldn't have a totally rad beach house in California.)
2 weeks ago