I was born and raised in Southern California, a city you've never heard of unless you're from SoCal is on my birth certificate; Downtown LA is where "who" I am started forming.
One of my sisters, Bug/Buggy, was born during the 1992 Riots. By the next school grade, we had moved to Arizona. I never really felt like I belonged here, until my senior year, when I was introduced to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But this isn't about how I found my place here, this is about where my heart calls home.
If you were to take me to the middle of Downtown LA, and drop me off on a corner, I would take you to the apartment I grew up in. I can google to tell you the exact crossroads, but my feet and heart doesn't keep directions like that. When I was 14 and visiting for the summer, I actually managed to walk from my old home to the home of my former best friend's house and chit chat with her parents (she wasn't home), and ended up being in constant letter writing contact until the end of high school.
If I shut my eyes, I can still vividly see the white office building with the HUGE warm air vent that my homeless friend Jack stayed in at night to stay warm. Jack was a wonderful man who was always kind and friendly and cheerful. I was a sack lunch kid, and everyday my lunch bag had a second sandwich for him. Until he disappeared. I remember my mom saying that she was praying he was staying warm that night, and me asking why she wasn't praying he had a forever home. I remember him being gone long enough that I stopped bringing sandwiches. And then, one day, walking home from school, there he was on the sidewalk! Standing next to a shiny white car, freshly dressed and showered, waiting for ME. He was worried that I might have been worried about him, and he wanted to tell me that he had a home again, and that I didn't have to make him sandwiches anymore. I will never forget Jack, my first real friend.
I took the bus to school, and had a pretty nice walk to and from the bus stop everyday and the sounds of downtown were musical. At any given point, you would see people talking and interacting with each other, peaceful and frantic all at once. Once, I saw a man in a 3-piece suit on his way to work (I'd imagine) having a friendly chat with a punk teen, complete with big, long liberty spikes.
And then, the riots hit. My sister Boo, and I were whisked out of the city to where her dad's parents lived where we stayed until our mom gave birth to Bug. We missed at least a week of school, but we were young enough not to understand exactly what was happening and just enjoy it. Our mom went back into the city to give birth to Bug, and shortly after we started the visits to Az to pick a home.
But something broke. The noise was the same, the frantic to and fro was still happening, but it was like someone took a paint brush and painted big, thick lines around everyone and divided us into these guarded teams against each other. Like I said, it wasn't too much time after the riots before we moved, and when we moved to Az, my biggest problem was all the division. Looking back, I can speculate that everywhere was like that after the riots, but at the time, I felt like I had been ripped away from this fantastic city and forced into this horribly judgemental place.
My home, doesn't exist anymore. Sure, I can go to the physical buildings, and take these wonderful walks down memory lane in my head, but the environment, the friendships, the not only acceptance of differences, but the expectation of differences, all gone. The exposure to all these things dramatically molded me into the person I am. And now, I have a son. And he's just a little younger than I was when I moved here. But Arizona is his home, not California. He lives less than 20
minutes from the hospital he was born in. Sure, he enjoys visiting California, but because he likes going out of town, because he's a child. :)
I hope when my son grows up, he thinks of fondly of his roots as I do.
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