i grew up in a very small town in the foothills of northern california. the town is an old gold rush town, and was a tourist attraction when i was growing up for people on their way to tahoe or for wealthy types wanting to escape the more urban areas. there are four seasons and mountains and rivers and pine trees, lots of pine trees. the town was sort of a refuge for hippies in the 70’s and when i was growing up, that was all that the town was: aging hippies, retired people and rednecks. log truck drivers and artists and their children. the town has sort of a mystical reputation, artists claim its slowness breeds inspiration and, y’know, there’s gold in them hills! many of the kids that i grew up with went on to become great artists or musicians, and the vast majority of us are “creative types.” it is a very insular place with typical small town smallness. everyone knows everyone’s business.
as a kid i always felt trapped by the town. i was never one for snowy evenings. my parents tell the story of how i, at 4 years old, went out to greet them as they were shoveling snow dressed in a bikini. this to me is like a metaphor for my relationship with the town. i never quite fit. the day after i graduated high school, i packed up my car and moved to santa rosa. a medium sized city seemed like a good place to start my adventure in the real world. there have been a handful of times in my adult life that i have gone back, considering all of those kids who never left, wondering if i could settle there. but my restlessness always got the best of me. after a day or so i am ready to leave.
the town has changed a lot, A LOT a lot, over the last 15 years. the housing bubble brought a mass of “city types” to live, people with money who had the ability to work from home seemed to move in huge numbers. they brought no industry with them and added nothing but property taxes to the economy. they ate at chain restaurants, shopped in roseville (the nearest semi-city), and worked out of their homes or commuted elsewhere. as much as the town has changed, it remains the same. it is near impossible to make a living. my friends have two sometimes three very part time jobs to make ends meet.
my last effort with the town came about 3 years ago. i had bought a house there at 19, and always held on to it with the idea that i would settle there someday. but somehow circumstances arose that made it impossible for me to keep the house and i let it go. there was an extensive grieving period, letting go of the idea was harder than letting go of the actual house. i think it was facing a great unknown. there was a sense of security that came with having that house, knowing that no matter where i went, i would end up there one day. of course, once i let it go, my life really opened up. my career took off in big ways, i made a couple of big moves, and ultimately wound up pregnant and living in the east bay.
i’ve always had a strange relationship with the town. i have often thought about how distant it is to me. people that i grew up with regard it with a sort of magical nostalgia. all of them regard it as home. for me, it’s never been so. while it is certainly the place i grew up, it’s not a place that i long for. i go to see my parents, and never have the urge to be anywhere but in their homes. i appreciate the beauty of it, the smell of the trees, the blackness of the sky and the brightness of the stars, the mint green manzanita and the rust colored dirt. but it doesn’t feel like home for me. i’ve always wondered why, and if this has something to do with my wanderlust. for many years i felt like i was looking for home. i realize now that home changes. home can be a person, a group of friends, a feeling, a room, a neighborhood, a time of day or in your life, a car. not necessarily a town. the thing of it is, many towns hold really special places in my heart. i’ve been lucky enough to travel a little, and have come across a few places that felt familiar and wonderful, and something like home.