Monday, July 30, 2012

A Trip Down Memory Lane


Being back in San Diego, my birthplace, was a roller coaster. I love, love, love my family. I see so much of myself in them. Whenever I am there, it feels like home. If I were to ignore the cost of living, among many other factors, I'd move back in a second. It's just not where I'm at in life right now. It would also mean that my husband would have to take on the corporate job he's not quite ready for (i.e. cooped up in an office or meeting room from 8-6). And if I am to move back one day, I want it to be on my terms. I want to be able to afford to live there and have the means to enjoy it. No half-assing it. Until then, I will visit as often as possible and stay connected to my roots via my amazing relatives.


A little back story: When I was six years old, my mom married my stepfather; a childless man ten years her senior. Needless to say, he didn't know how to handle three kids . . . or my severely bipolar mother. He was in the Navy and we moved from the only place I'd ever known, where my relatives still live, and relocated to a remote island in Alaska. We had such a tight bond with my family prior to that move. It was the first of many that took us from one part of the country to another and constantly uprooted our existence. I appreciate the fact that I've seen much of the country as a result, but it certainly wasn't the best way to go about it. My mom had many issues, just one of which was the bipolar disorder. For reasons I may never fully understand, she took great pains to sever all communication with my extended family. The aunts, uncles and grandparents we adored were no longer an integral part of our lives. It felt like the rug had been pulled out from under us. Although I now know there was more to the story, at the time it felt as if they'd had kids of their own and moved on from us.

This photo is so telling. I was a bummed kiddo.

My mother is no longer in my life. She severed all ties with me about eight years ago. It was probably the best thing she has ever done for me. It allowed me to let go of the past rather than to continue to relive it; and I've forged a new, more meaningful relationship with the rest of my family. I will never take this second chance with them for granted. I'm too grateful. More on them soon. I guess you could say that I had a rough childhood. Those around me typically do. I just think it was life. I have my quirks, but all in all I'm pretty well-adjusted. So says my therapist.

A SoCal kid? Who, me?
Now knowing all of this, at least the CliffsNotes version, you can probably imagine why San Diego is such a huge part of my life; and why visiting unearths a complex web of emotions and memories for me. Good and sad. But never bad. This visit I made sure that I really immersed myself in the experience, in part, by visiting the places I once knew. My grandpa's house where I spent many a day and night; my old school which is now a run down furniture store; and the condo development where we lived prior to moving away. A highway stands in its place. Have I thoroughly bummed you out? It was not my intention, I promise. Let's move on to the lighter side of my childhood, shall we?


We're eating dessert first tonight, kids. I love Spam. My aunt used to make it for us all the time and it has become synonymous with my childhood. Imagine my surprise when I found Spam and eggs on the menu at the breakfast place my husband found during our side vacay. I didn't care that my ankles quickly became cankles and my finger felt like mini lead-filled balloons. I was eating Spam again, yo! In fact, I'm heating some for dinner as I write this. Reduced sodium, of course. I will never, ever let this delectable mystery meat stray too far from my palate again. Deeelish. My boys have not embraced the wonder that is Spam. I'm trying not to think less of them.


SueBee Spun Honey, honey. Whoa, Nelly is this stuff good! The same aunt that is responsible for my Spam addiction also introduced me to this nectar of the gods. We used to sit in the grass with a tub of this, a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread, and go to town. The best sandwiches ever. You heard me right. Ever. She was also responsible for creating elaborate shadow plays in her living room and Slip 'N Slide marathons. I'm jealous of myself. My grandma used to make us pancakes and create a topping bar that including a variety of pie fillings and tub after tub of Cool Whip. You'd think she owned stock in the company. How I didn't develop diabetes is beyond me.


We ate a boatload of Mexican food while we were in California. Good, actually-made-by-a-real-Mexican, Mexican food. My favorite food in the whole world is chicken taquitos (rolled tacos) from a an authentic Mexican restaurant/taco stand. I can't get enough, while my already tight pants are screaming enough!


I couldn't begin to count how many avocados we ate in ten days. We had Mexican food twice the day before we left. That particular day we came across a great little place in Santee (after discovering that my old home was now a highway) called K39 Taco Shop. My rolled taco combo came with a drink, and while I usually turn it down because I don't drink soda, I decided to go for it anyway. Next to the usual soda fountain was this little machine. Whipped drink? Orange whipped drink? What is this? My childhood came rushing back. I used to drink this stuff all the time. It's non-carbonated and foamy and creamsicle-y and amazing. If you didn't grow up on this, well, how sad for you. How could I have forgotten this stuff?! It all came rushing back, and for a moment I was six again. My husband and son were once again less than enthused. How dare they.


I'm really questioning my lack of diabetes at this point. I must have The Incredible Hulk of pancreases. I'm not a huge candy/sweets person, but I absolutely cannot resist Red Vines red licorice. Twizzlers? Uh, not on your life. Twizzers are like those candy wax lips we used to get as kids. My favorite flavor is imitation grape. If all soda were grape, I'd drink it. Grape Big League Chew bubblegum, grape lollies . . . oh, my. I'm getting excited just thinking about it. So imagine my surprise when, at thirty-one years old, I stumbled upon GrapeVines at a gas station in a hoity-toity SoCal town. I am a Red Vines connoisseur!  Why was this kept from me?! I barely suppressed the urge to yell "Mine! All mine! Wahahaha" and throw my head back like a movie villain while grabbing every available package. Instead, I opted for two and skipped out to the car. I raved and cheered and my husband gave me a uh, okay kind of look. He had better start getting on board. He ate quite a few, so I'm guessing he did. My memories tend to be stored in the taste and smell folders of my brain, so this happens a lot. Perhaps he's just worn out. Buck up, Soldier.


My grandpa had a giant lemon tree in his backyard.  It isn't there anymore.  Apparently the whole neighborhood has decided to go 'desert chic.' Only it's more dirt pile than chic. I know water is expensive, but sheesh. I loved that lemon tree. The smell, the colors, the flavors.  Heaven. The tree was growing right along the fence between yards, and my grandpa's neighbor used to pick all the lemons off his side of the fence; leading to a lot of annoyance on our side. I like lemon in my tea and my favorite color is yellow.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Endangered Manatees by Wyland

I was so in love with Wyland when I was a kid.  I didn't know what he looked like, but any man that could paint my heart's desires must be my soulmate.  Aunt Spam bought me this print for my 12th birthday.  I still have it.  I wanted to be a marine biologist from the time I was really young.  My future as a biologist was written long ago . . . but it seems that I have had to let go of the dream of being a marine biologist.  I would do it in a second, though. When I lived in Florida, during one of our tours of duty, I fell in love with manatees. 'Sea cows' is such a fitting nickname. I used to go into Wyland's gallery in Seaport Village as a kid and just stare at his work.

Wyland Gallery Laguna Beach, CA
 
We visited Wyland's Laguna Beach gallery during this trip and learned that he lives and works above that very gallery.  I wanted to go up and ravage him. I think I'm kidding. While I can no longer envision much of his work in my house, as it just doesn't quite fit, I fell in love with him all over again. That little girl that still exists inside of me wanted to buy every piece and hang them all over my house.  To live in his world is to live in a magical place indeed.

Tails of Great Whales by Wyland

I didn't depress you, did I?  If so, I surely made up for it with all the deliciousness that followed. Favorite childhood memories?  Least favorite? Go ahead, I can take it.


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