When people ask you where you’re from, what do you say? Do you have one place? One town? One street? One state? I have none of that. I have to mention at least three places. Usually my answer goes something like this, (deep breath) “Well, I was born in L.A. I went to high school and college in Michigan, but I lived longer in Sweden than anywhere else.” The patient listener will then ask, “Okay, so where do you live now?”
For the last few years, I just say I’m living wherever I am at that moment. Because it varies from month to month, week to week. But last Wednesday, that all changed. Although I don’t have a place to live yet, I have come home.
My unlikely stomping grounds
If you had suggested ten years ago that I would be happy to return to L.A., I would have raised an eyebrow. Or two. I could not have imagined myself driving down smog-filled freeways or grocery shopping alongside stiletto-heeled women in cut-off jean shorts. Okay, maybe the 80s left an impression on me. But it just never seemed like the kind of place I’d end up.
That said, I have fond my memories of L.A. as a child. My mother and my sisters and I returned here every summer and divided our time between two homes in the San Fernando Valley – the sprawling Chatsworth compound belonging to Grandmother and Grandfather Hammond, and my Gommie and Coppie’s cozy, antique-filled home in Northridge. At the Hammonds we spent our days in the pool, walking to get ten-cent ice cream cones and entertaining their close group of friends with shows we’d perform dressed in Grandmother’s old outfits. In Northridge we took rides in each new hot rod my Coppie built, designed earrings and did arts and crafts projects with my Gommie. We stayed at the Hammonds because they had a sprawling estate in Chatsworth, but the visits to see my Gommie and Coppie were what I lived for each summer.
I don’t have a place I grew up. I don’t have a city or a street or a state. But I can still drive over hill on the 405 and a few exits later find myself on a long Boulevard we drove down a thousand times, where the house still looks exactly the same as it did twenty years ago, where there’s still a hot rod in the garage and my Gommie to welcome me at the door.
Some things have changed. The house no longer smells like pipe smoke. A few years ago they converted their lawns into shiny plastic grass mats. But my Gommie and Coppie are still there to welcome me in to the only place I can really call home.
When I arrived there last night, Gommie had her mis-en-place for dinner all ready to go for when Coppie got home from work. I worked as her sous chef, chopping a few last ingredients and handing her the heavier pots or reaching items she kept up high. She made warm spinach salad with bacon and mushrooms. For the main course, she had a grill pan ready full of veggies and she had prepared pesto linguine with pesto made from her own basil bushes.
We sat on their back patio, drinking wine and reminiscing, while I caught them up on the adventures I’ve had over the past year. After dinner we watched Dancing with the Stars. It was as if nothing had changed. I felt right at home.