It’s tough for me when people ask where I’m from. I could say the bay area, but I could also say I was raised “right here in Los Angeles.” Both would be true. I spent the first 9 years of my life in Glendale, a northeast suburb of LA, and finished out my childhood in the bay, which suited me more at the time but also brought on a series of extremely painful and traumatic memories. It was in northern California that I was bullied mercilessly for years and lost my father to cancer. You could say either tragedy could have happened anywhere, but I’ll always associate both with nor Cal, and maybe that’s why I’m distancing myself from it now by residing in my birth city of LA.
Los Angeles was beneficial in that it exposed me to diversity at a young age. I also saw just how ugly and unfair life could be. LA is a hotspot with ample class and financial separation, and though I fell somewhere in the middle, I crossed paths with the wealthy and the poor alike. I learned a lot more about life and the real world in southern California than I ever did up north, but from fourth grade until my senior year of high school, I was definitely more of a granola bay area child than an LA born kid from a blended family. I hated the traffic of So Cal and blasted the smog, but guess what? Nor Cal has both of those things too, and worse weather.
After visiting Burbank last week, I hopped on over to the first house I ever lived in. It’s in Glendale, a decent, quiet neighborhood that was just fine for me back then. My entire family thought it was haunted, and though I never noticed any weirdness, I definitely didn’t connect with the place very much. Nevertheless, I wanted to check it out on Friday.
As soon as I turned on Sylvanoak, a wave of deja vu hit me. Suddenly I was three years old again, sitting on my dad’s lap behind the wheel of his Ford Explorer. He’d let me sit on his lap and “steer” the car down our road, and even though his feet were by the brake and gas pedals and he was really the one controlling the vehicle, I feared I could cause an accident if I made the wrong move. I’ve always had a nervous energy like this, and in a way, I’ve always overestimated the amount of damage I can do.
I hadn’t thought about that experience in more than 20 years, so it was weird remembering it as I drove down my old street. I observed what a pain it would be to turn the car around, as it’s on a cul de sac. I suddenly realized how lucky I’d been to be a little kid when we lived on Sylvanoak. That was probably the reason my parents made use of our garage, which was on the other side of the house, so often.
I didn’t go inside the place, but I took some photographs from the top of the hill. For a second I wondered if our old neighbors, the Potters, still lived down the street. I wouldn’t know which house to go knocking on though, and what would we talk about? Much has changed since 1997, when we last conversed with them. I’ve never been one for catching up without reason.
I fell down those stairs once!
It’s fun returning to the place where it all started for you, but that house isn’t a home to me. Home is about people, and right now, another part of LA — the part where my boyfriend lives and my new apartment is set — is home.