Monday 19 September 2011


A friend of mine reminded me the other day how great it is to go home; not just home per se, but back to the place where you grew up – for many this is one and the same. For myself, I haven’t lived in the town I grew up in since I was 17. My family moved away when I went away to college (University), so now when I see my parents not only is there no familial home that holds any sentimental value, but the city in which they live is just another city (don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly great fun to visit, but I have no ties to my past there).

Living abroad you are constantly asked where you are from. Just to be totally confusing, I of course answer in several different ways depending on the day. Some days I’m from America; other days I’m Californian, and when I’m feeling more specific and prideful, I am from Northern Cal – and yes, we are much different than those Southern Cali folks. The funny thing is no matter how many places I’ve lived, or how long I have lived outside of the States, for me the small coastal town in which I grew up is still home in many senses of the word. It’s a feeling really, and it usually begins to take hold of me when I am about two hours into the drive heading north from Los Angeles. The landscape starts to change, you start recognizing those off beat (and often downright freaky) landmarks that are still existence (oh Madonna Inn, never change), the temperature and feel of the air changes, even the smell of it is as distinct as ever – for those that have done this drive all I have only two words for you: manure and garlic.

When I’m about forty minutes outside my town my heart actually begins to speed up – I know, I’m sentimental, but sense memory is a powerful and often palpable thing. There is something about hitting the town and seeing the coast on one side of you and the high-forested peaks on the other side of you that fills you with the best sense of nostalgia . The town itself is breathtakingly beautiful and hasn’t changed much, and these days that’s a blessing and rarity in itself. And of course there are the memories that come flooding back as you pass various landmarks, food places, street signs, even parking lots (ah yes, and that is where we parked when we would ditch school and we would smoke a hundred menthol cigarettes); in short, the irreplaceable memories of being a child, a teenager (or as my mother perhaps would say: a hellion) and all the people that helped form who you are today – or at least part of who you are.

The amazing part of where I grew up is that the landscape was just as integral into shaping who I am as the people were. You can’t look at a coastline like that every day or taste fog that is thick as soup rolling up from the water, or go to sleep listening to the barking sounds of seals (these days that might be intensely annoying coupled with insomnia) without it leaving a profound mark on you. The best part is, when I go back (I’m long past due and writing this makes me miss it like hell), and I set foot on the white sandy beach or drive through 17-mile drive, I am instantly back there. I am sixteen again; the top down on my best friend’s convertible VW, sun on our faces, music blaring, without a care in the world. It's hard to beat, I assure you, and often in the dead of English winter I think to myself....good lord why the hell did I leave California?!! [I kid I kid]. It's at least nice to know that the town where I grew up is waiting for the King and me on our next visit across the pond. Although I might skip telling him about the ditching school and menthol cigarette part. I have an impeccable reputation to protect.  

Copyright © 2014 Anthea Anka - Delighted And Disturbed