On Saturday my eldest daughter’s dear friend Yvonne arrived for a ten day visit. Yvonne lives in the city where I grew up, and met my kid at the summer camp I attended and eventually worked. Except that she is way prettier than I ever was, Yvonne’s basically living my life, three suburbs to the northwest and thirty years apart.
But of all the parallels between Yvonne and me, the biggest one is this: when I was sixteen, I flew from Rochester to visit a friend in the Bay Area, and as my almost-two-decade residency in Oakland shows, it was a life changing event.
My friend Catherine had moved at the end of freshman year to the exotically-named “Walnut Creek, California” which I now know to be one of the white-bread suburbs through the Caldecott Tunnel, to the east of Oakland. But to a kid from the whiter-than-white bread suburbs on the East Coast, my destination seemed impossibly exciting. My friend Lise and I headed off for our western adventure, self-funding the airline tickets through copious babysitting jobs.
This was in the early 1980s, and my friend’s parents took care of us the way early ‘80s parents did, which is to say that they basically dropped us off at the Walnut Creek BART station each morning and expected us to report back for dinner. In between, in the pre cell phone era, they had no idea where we were. But we were EVERYWHERE: Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, at various Walnut Creek swim meets where Catherine’s cute California boy friends were competing, and at Tower Records. Oh, did we spend time at Tower Records. We rode cable cars, we walked the hilly streets of San Francisco, we ate our body weight in sourdough bread.
Catherine’s parents also drove us to Gold Country, and Reno, and we swam in Lake Tahoe, which was way colder than it looked from the beach. I came home from that trip with a new wardrobe of sleeveless tshirts I considered to be very California, Devo-inspired sunglasses, and a long horizontal poster of the Golden Gate Bridge. I stuck the poster up on a shelf in my bedroom when I got home, and I took it with me to college. When I met my husband, we both agreed that, given any opportunity, we should probably move to the Bay Area. When a job transfer to San Francisco arose for my husband, we barely discussed it. Just started packing.
So when our daughter and her friend cooked up the plan for this pre-camp visit, I was right on board. It’s my chance to pay back Catherine and her parents for their hospitality, the chance to create positive associations for Yvonne that will last her for decades to come. I’ve taken a few days off so we can show her Big Sur, Monterey, and that teen mecca, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Other than that, I plan to drop the girls at BART and expect them home for dinner, full of stories with which to entertain us.
After Yvonne arrived on Saturday I drove her home the super long way – over the Golden Gate Bridge. Just as we were about to cross it, she said, “I figure if my first flight by myself is all the way to California, I can call myself a traveler. And traveling will be something I do for the rest of my life.”
We’re off to a good start.
The album I most associate with the trip: Sweets from a Stranger by Squeeze, which had just been released and which we played nonstop. I’ve returned.