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 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 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
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.
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.
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.