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Thoughts on visiting, roots, San Francisco, and Museums

Livermore California was my home for 18 years. Until I left for college I lived here. I am here again on a visit, but it does not feel like my home town. Not anymore. This is no fault of the town or the inhabitants. I’ve simply lived in Utah longer now. I’ve clocked 19 years in Utah. This fact amuses me because when I did live in California, I was adamantly opposed to the idea of living in Utah permanently. Then I actually lived there for a time and put down roots which would hurt terribly to transplant. Utah is my home now and I come to California as a visitor. I find the occasional pocket of familiarity, but mostly it is the differences that I notice.

I’ve been thinking much about roots on this trip. I’ve been pondering the ways that growing up in California has shaped the person I am. I still miss the birds and plants so abundant in Livermore, which do not survive the Utah winters. It is so green here at my parent’s house. There are flowers in bloom when all back home is winter bare. I remember envying those winter post cards with piles of snow. Now I live them and shovel the walks. I could not transplant the weather or growth with me when I emigrated to the mountains, but some remnants of California culture must linger inside me. I have a hard time identifying them because they are integrated into who I am.

The other night I spent some time looking through family photo albums. I stared at the photos of my Grandma when she was young. She came from a family as large as mine, but I only met a few of her siblings, the ones who made the trek from the South to visit. I love my Grandma’s voice. She speaks with rich tones from Mississippi and Tennnessee. I suspect this is one of the reasons that I have always had a soft spot for southern accents and southern style cooking. My Grandpa was southern too. They both came from large southern families, but brought their only son to California to live. Some day I will go and visit the southern states. I wonder whether I will find pockets of familiarity amongst the cultural differences.

The faces of my southern relatives in the old photos are sober. Photographs were not frivolous endeavors. I study the faces and find an abundance of familiar features. Generational echos when I realize that my daughter has the same jawline as my great-grandmother. I look at the faces and wonder about the stories that I will never know. These young people had lives and dreams and plans before they became the old people that I met briefly. I’m a little sad to not know the stories.

Yesterday we drove into San Francisco. I was surprised to discover it felt the same to me even though my hometown feels so changed. But then San Francisco was always a place that I only visited. The essential character of the city is very much the same with the hilly streets and the little, colorful houses sharing walls along the blocks. I watched those houses and wondered what it would be like to live in one of them, to step out the front door and walk over to the city park for exercise. It would be an interesting adventure, but I have a hard time picturing myself enjoying that existence with my four kids in tow. We’re accustomed to our house and our yard. Perhaps some day I’ll rent an apartment in a city for a month, but now is not the right time for it.

The allure of the city park is strong. I could go there every day for a week and not run out of new things to see, new thoughts to think. We were in the Academy of Sciences for a mere half a day and my brain felt flooded with information. I went there often as a child, but very little remains the same. In fact the only feature I could identify from prior visits was the alligator pit. Everything else has changed around that one stable feature. I was amused to note that Tutankhamen has returned to the De Young museum across from the Academy. I remember when that exhibit first came through 30 years ago. I was a small child, crushed in the crowds as people strove to see the wonders of the Egyptian boy king. It did not look crowded and had I not been leg-tired and brain-stuffed from looking at aquatic animals, I would have been tempted to go see Egypt again.

This afternoon we stayed home. We needed a quiet day at Grandma’s house after the travel and the big outing. There was a nap involved. Next I believe there will be snacking.

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