Thursday, June 27, 2013

Road Trip: California Central Coast

Road trip: first stop, central coast of California. This is where Mark and I grew up. My mom grew up here, too. We spent four days visiting Mark's mom, LaVerne, and renewing old memories.
Places live deep in our souls. The Morro Bay waterfront always takes me back to my earliest sense of self. While we were here, we at lunch at Giannini's and poked around in The Shell Shop. My brother and I used to collect sand dollars from the beach and sell them to The Shell Shop for 5¢. The guy who owned The Shell Shop would let us buy exotic shells from him in exchange. I wrote about one of my earliest memories in Morro Bay here.

We also visited the home in San Luis Obispo where Mom grew up.

It is on the corner of High and Price streets in San Luis Obispo. My grandfather used to always joke about how they were "high price" people. It looks much the same on the outside, although I noticed that the front porch seems much smaller to me now than it did when I was a child.

There was a man on the front porch, and Mom introduced herself to him, explaining that she had grown up in the house back in the 30s and 40s. He invited us inside. The house has been divided into two separate residences, both small. They each have a kitchen/living room, a bathroom, and a bedroom. The property is now owned by an agency that provides housing for terminally ill AIDS patients. We were only able to see one of the kitchen/living rooms - it was the area of the former living room of the house. Although we didn't see very much inside the home, it was an emotional experience for Mom to be back in that place where she lived all of her childhood.

This home was a significant place in my childhood, too. I dearly loved my maternal grandparents, who were consistently kind and loving to my brother and me, and our cousins, too. I have so many memories of spending the night there when our cousins came to visit from out of town (we lived only 12 miles away). My grandfather would pull out his harmonica and play old tunes--"Redwing," "Yellow Rose of Texas," "Red River Valley," and some Civil War-era tunes--"Dolly Day," "Soldier's Lullaby." After he had played each song on his harmonica, he would sing the words to us in his quavery old grandfather voice. Then he would play the tune again. Then a different one, the words, the tune. Then another...

The home has a peaceful, healing feeling, and we all agreed that we were glad it could be a place of peace and kindness.

Mom also took us to the place where she and Dad met when she was 15 and he was not quite 18. He was a new student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and she was a sophomore in high school going to dances at the Teen Center. This was in 1950. There were no female students at Cal Poly at the time. The Teen Center dances were only open to teens up to 18 years old, but Dad didn't turn 18 until October of that year, so he went to a Teen Center dance early in the school year to see who he could meet. He always said that he knew that night, during their first dance, that this was the girl he wanted to marry. They were married two years later, in July 1952, when he was 19 and Mom was "almost 17" (it was only 3 weeks until her birthday). Mom went on to graduate from high school before they started their family. They were married for over 60 years and had a life full of adventures.

 Mom, Maria Barrows, me
We also connected with two dear friends while we were visiting the central coast. First was Maria Barrows, mother of one of my very close high school friends. She lives in a lovely retirement home, where she graciously treated us to lunch and showed us all over the grounds. It has been many years since I've seen her, and it was a treat to enjoy her lively conversation again. Sad irony...her daughter, Ann, who lives and works in Japan, will be visiting Oregon while we are out of town! Ah, well, we will have to reconnect with Ann another time.

Mark, me, Jill Barnier
We spent a very happy evening with another close high school friend, Jill. She has an extremely busy schedule, but when she heard we were coming to the central coast, she arranged her schedule to make a weekend trip from where she lives in the central valley to spend some time with us on the coast. It was hard to say goodbye at the end of our visit. Jill made the very astute observation that friends who have known us since we were very young--before we found ourselves in our adult lives--hold memory of us that no one else does, which makes these long-time friends especially precious. So true! It was a delight to pick up where we left off, which was quite a few years ago. Jill was my matron of honor at Mark's and my wedding, and we've only seen her once since then. Except for occasional emails, (and Jill stalks my blog - Hi Jill! I know you're reading this!), our only contact is these rare visits, which makes them all the more cherished.

1 comment:

Julia - Finding My Way Softly said...

When will Jill be here? Do you think she would like to meet us and see the view from the apartment, or would that be too weird?