Day 5: Write about each of the places you've called "home."
I've lived lots of places. Eleven houses (5 of which were short-term or summer-only type things), three college dorm rooms, six apartments. I've resided in ten different cities or towns, in four U.S. States and one other country (England). But I'd say as far as places I've called "home," it's just down to these five.
SoCal has been "home" twice in my life thus far. As Tom never hesitates to point out, I was indeed born there. We lived in Thousand Oaks/Newbury Park until I was 6 and then Moorpark until I was 10. Then we moved to Oregon. I returned to California (Pasadena) after I graduated from college, to live with Tom.
I don't have any memories of the Thousand Oaks house (we moved away before I turned 2, I think), and my memories from Newbury Park are spotty. My dad has always been Mr. Videographer, so my childhood was pretty thoroughly documented. I am sure that many of the things I think I "remember" are actually images from countless home movies, but there are certainly some genuine memories mixed in there.
Southern California in the '80s was smoggy. I remember spending a day at the beach or at an amusement park and feeling my lungs burning by afternoon. I also remember the one time that we saw actual snow falling from the sky, when we were living in Moorpark, and what a thrill and a novelty that was. I remember walking to and from my elementary school, sans parents, in 5th grade. I remember walking down to the community pool (with parents) many times during the summer. Playing baseball in the cul-de-sac, running around with the neighbor kids, taking the "long way" home from school one day with my friend and completely freaking out both her parents and mine. Driving to the barn for riding lessons, and then later to see Kakki who was boarded there. Quesadillas and Paper Boy at Chuy's, weekend swap meets at the local drive-in, visiting Yaya at the beach.
Moving back to the area some 13 years after we'd left was kind of a strange experience. Driving on roads, actually piloting the car down streets I'd only previously traveled as a passenger with my nose stuck in a book, was a bit surreal at first. I definitely got a much better sense of where exactly things in that area were located, in relation to one another. And every once in a while I'd be driving somewhere and be struck with some serious deja vu. But ultimately, the Southern California where I lived as an adult had a different feel from the one where I lived as a kid. No great surprise, of course, but there it is. In spite of the general awfulness of Los Angeles, Pasadena was actually quite pleasant overall. I'm glad we're not still there, but I've got plenty of pleasant memories from my 4.5 years there post-college. Diving in the Pacific? Win. Strolling baby Soren around Caltech? Win. Days off between grad school classes in San Diego? Well, except for the time I busted open my chin, those were pretty nice too.
Grants Pass, Oregon
We moved "up north" when I was 10. Or possibly just after I turned 11. It was that summer, anyway. We'd been vacationing there for a few years, and my parents did a really great job talking the place up and getting us excited about moving. I remember being a little sad about leaving friends in California, but that sadness was outweighed by the excitement of being able to keep Kakki right in the backyard.
Grants Pass was home until I left for college. I don't care what Tom says; I will always consider it my hometown. It's not a big town, and we lived well outside the city limits. Moving to a very rural area after spending many years in various L.A. suburbs was hard on my mom, but I think it was a great place to grow up. The skies in Oregon are the most beautiful skies I've ever known. It was quiet, fairly safe, maybe a little boring sometimes for a teenager too straight-laced to make her own "fun," but I wouldn't trade the experience of living there during my formative years.
Of course, the area is also quite economically depressed. We certainly couldn't live there now (not many job opportunities in our respective fields). But it's always wonderful to visit, and I hope we're able to get back there more often.
I don't think back on Painesville as one of my "homes" since I was only there for a year, for college. But when I moved out there, I fully intended to spend my entire college career there, so I definitely thought of it as "home" at the time. Living in the midwest was strange. Very flat, very cold in the winter (thanks to the dreaded "lake effect"). Greeting everyone I passed on the sidewalk, rather than hurrying by with averted glances, took some getting used to, but then it was weird not to do it when I moved away again.
I only lived there for 3 years for college, but I still find myself a little homesick for Corvallis from time to time. It's kind of in the middle of nowhere, nearly half an hour to the nearest freeway, but that never really bothered me much. It's a pretty little college town, with plenty going on. It was the place I had my first apartment (and second apartment). If Grants Pass is where I grew up, Corvallis is where I became an adult.
I got to see a fair bit of the city riding shotgun in a cop car, as part of the local PD's cadet program. I did most of my ride-alongs during swing shift, and while there were definitely some sketchy areas, things were usually pretty quiet. Cops see the worst a place has to offer, on a daily basis, so if the worst things I saw were a few out-of-control frat parties, the odd drunk and disorderly or domestic dispute call, I'd say that speaks fairly well of the city.
Home for the past two years has been an apartment in Alexandria, suburb of Washington, D.C. It's the farthest east (in the U.S.) that I've ever lived, with different foliage and critters than were familiar to me on the west coast. Fireflies and cicadas abound here, along with poison ivy (rather than the poison oak I'm used to) and many colorful deciduous trees (rather than the conifers of the Pacific northwest or the palms of SoCal). D.C. is a cool city, with so much to offer. The free museums, the history, the neat colonial architecture. Virginia's also kind of...southern. It's a little weird to see statues or landmarks celebrating Confederate generals.
In an odd turn of events, several of our Caltech friends ended up moving out to this area around the same time we did. This has made for a strange mix of new and familiar. Different setting, (mostly) same crowd of folks gathering for dinner. If we ever have to move someplace unfamiliar again, I'd like the option of importing a chunk of our social circle with us. That said, it is tough sometimes, living so far away from family. I wish the kids got to see their grandparents more than once or twice a year.
Oregon still feels like home when we go back there, and I suppose it probably always will. On a smaller scale though, home is really wherever Tom, Soren, Eleri & I are together. Cheesy, but true.