Down Memory Lane

Last week I had occasion to visit the neighborhood where I grew up in Santa Venetia, also derogatorily known as Scabo. I’m not sure what that stands for but since it’s an ugly word, I’m guessing it wasn’t known as the most desirable place to live. But I beg to differ.

Santa Venetia

Kids don’t know they don’t live in a mansion. I certainly didn’t. We had 4 bedrooms that weren’t much bigger than some large walk-in closets and closets not much wider than a refrigerator. Now don’t get me wrong; I didn’t care one bit. I had what I needed and that was enough.

our house

Our little house

To me, our Doughboy Pool was the bomb (better known as groovy back then). Other neighborhood dads helped my dad install it. That’s how it was; neighbors helping neighbors. On summer afternoons, being in that pool or playing ping pong on the patio were my favorite places to be.

me in pool

Even as a teen, still in the pool

Continue reading

Growing Up Rich

My family, 1963

My family, 1963

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 now 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 grasscloth 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

Back in 1960, 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 a converted bedroom.

I grew up in the 60s with orange shag carpet, a one-car garage and an above-ground doughboy pool neighborhood friends helped 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 carpet 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 pingpong games, carefree days of swimming and countless summer BBQs. 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