Growing Up Rich

My family, 1963

My family, 1963. Brother Bill, Dad, Mom, sister Vicki and me, the shrimp

Being a weekend of remembrance, I drove by my childhood home, taking the familiar road I ventured down for 44 years until my parents died in 2004. Our once tan and brown home is bright blue now. Concrete sits where plants once grew and our paneled wood door is painted white and harbors a metal security door that screams STAY AWAY.

Parked in front of a house that holds special memories for me (but today looks almost unrecognizable), I realize it’s not really about the house but the people inside who made it a home.

I grew up in Santa Venetia, which sits in an unincorporated section of Marin County, CA. Situated along a canal, the small community was originally planned to resemble the water roadways of Venice. That never happened but some winters seemed to prove otherwise.

Santa Venetia in 1914

Santa Venetia canal in 1914

You see, whenever it stormed, sections of our neighborhood flooded, especially during high tide. Since our home sat near a dip in the road, my parents bought a sump pump they shared with our neighbors. In hindsight, a rowboat might have been a better investment. That’s because during severe storms, water often seeped into our dining room, ruining the floor and staining the grass-cloth wallpaper. Both needed replacing more than once so every winter Mom worried herself sick.

Our family home from 1950 to 2004

Our family home from 1960 to 2004

When my parents bought our home on Galerita Way, it was intended to be our “starter” house. But we never left. And thank goodness for that. Now don’t get me wrong; it was a modest home for sure; not much to look at and not in a desirable neighborhood. But what a spectacular upbringing.

Day at the beach

Day at the beach

I grew up back when kids played outside until way past dark, grudgingly coming inside only when summoned. Money was tight even though both my parents worked, yet each year they managed a 2-week family vacation to Lake Tahoe. That was our big treat. And most Sundays during summer we skied at Lake Berryessa with friends. It was bliss.

dad in boat with us

To us kids, new shoes were a big deal. Just going to a drive-in movie caused my sister and I to dance excitedly in anticipation. We lived in a tiny house with bedrooms the size of matchboxes but that didn’t matter to us. We’d never heard of a family room and didn’t care that our dining room was once a bedroom.

I grew up in the 60s with orange shag carpet, a one-car garage and an above-ground Dough-boy pool neighborhood friends helped us erect. We had block parties and dinner parties; on weekends the adults often gathered in front yards to visit. It was a simple, innocent time. At least it seemed that way to me.

The day we got a color TV, neighbors piled in to watch; it was quite an event. I remember the first time I saw the colorfully bright NBC peacock.

NBC peakcock

Sunday evenings after dinner we gathered in front of the TV. I’d sit on that orange shag while we all watched Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.

I still recall many of my neighborhood friends, which is pretty amazing considering my pathetic memory. My young life was filled with ping pong games, carefree days of swimming and countless summer BBQ’s. I tell ya, I couldn’t have asked for a better childhood.

Remembering those days now, I wouldn’t change a thing; not the community we lived in or our tiny tan and brown house on a street that flooded. Although we didn’t have much, we had what we needed.

Celebrating my birthday

The truth is, I always knew I was adored. And if you’re blessed enough to have that, you somehow know you have all you need.

My family

My family, 1985

 

I haven’t been able to post anything new the last couple weeks. Just got my internet back today, so here’s a post from May, 2015. I’ll be back next week tho!

In My Mind’s Eye: Remembering Dad

Here’s my annual Father’s Day post, adapted from an article I wrote in 1997 for the San Francisco Chronicle about the relationship I shared with my dad. Here’s to fathers everywhere…There’s an image I have captured in my mind. I’m in my car in front of the home my parents have shared for most of their 45 married years. Mom and Dad are standing on the front porch.

From the street, I can see the huge eucalyptus tree in their backyard, silhouetted against the evening sky. It’s gently swaying in the warm breeze while the full moon illuminates the manicured lawn. My parents are smiling and waving as I drive away after a visit.

Mom lives alone now that Dad is in an Alzheimer’s nursing facility, so that scenario has changed. But it never does in my mind. My parents always stood on the porch to wave good-bye when I left. Even in pouring rain, they still stood in the open doorway together. I always looked back and returned their waves. Continue reading

No Place Like Home

Re-posted from 2013.

I love to travel, experience different cultures, see how the rest of the world lives. There are many fascinating places I want to visit before I become too decrepit in mind, body or spirit to pack my suitcase. But I also enjoy vacationing in the good-old-USA. Even northern California offers so much that I sometimes wonder why I venture anywhere else.

Recently, I went to Spain, where my godson Eric is a college exchange student in San Sebastian. Talk about a picturesque place. He lives just a couple blocks from La Concha Beach, with golden sand like superfine sugar.

La Concha Beach

La Concha Beach

Continue reading

In My Mind’s Eye: Remembering Dad

Here’s my annual Father’s Day post, adapted from an article I wrote in 1997 for the San Francisco Chronicle about the relationship I shared with my dad. Here’s to fathers everywhere…There’s an image I have captured in my mind. I’m in my car in front of the home my parents have shared for most of their 45 married years. Mom and Dad are standing on the front porch.

From the street, I can see the huge eucalyptus tree in their backyard, silhouetted against the evening sky. It’s gently swaying in the warm breeze while the full moon illuminates the manicured lawn. My parents are smiling and waving as I drive away after a visit.

Mom lives alone now that Dad is in an Alzheimer’s nursing facility, so that scenario has changed. But it never does in my mind. My parents always stood on the porch to wave good-bye when I left. Even in pouring rain, they still stood in the open doorway together. I always looked back and returned their waves. Continue reading

What Was I Thinking?

I ask you…what the hell was I thinking

Life was rolling along nice and easy. Well, easy is not the correct adjective. Let’s just say life was rolling along. The thing is, I have 8 animals, run a nonprofit, trap feral cats throughout the week, relocate those that need new homes, help care for my disabled sister, play team tennis and am nursing a pesky sciatica which, like a jilted lover, is having trouble letting go.

just let go

Dear sciatica…

So I don’t know what I was thinking deciding to have my hardwood floors refinished last week. Had I forgotten it was a pain in the keister 13 years ago when it was last done? Apparently so, otherwise I wouldn’t be blogging about it today.

Now don’t get me wrong; it’s not like my floors were embarrassingly scratched and faded, causing me to refuse entry to family and friends. No doubt theirs, too, are scratched and faded. Whose aren’t? Especially those of us with pets that refuse to let us clip their nails without being in a straight jacket or heavily sedated. Continue reading