I recently returned from a trip to California, the South Bay region of Los Angeles. I spent the first nine years of my life here, and would return every summer to stay with my Father until I was sixteen. I have continued to return sporadically over the years. With the exception of one cousin, all my remaining family connections there have died or moved elsewhere. Nevertheless, I remain drawn to the area.
I spent my adolescence and undergraduate years living in Oklahoma. My brother still lives there and a few friends remain as well, but I have never been drawn to return like I have with the South Bay region. I have now live in Missouri or as some call it “Misery.” I have now lived here longer than any of the five other states I have squatted in during my life. I came to Missouri, St. Louis specifically for an academic appointment. While here I married my longtime girlfriend, bought the first house I ever lived in, and most importantly witnessed the birth of my one and only daughter.
She started school here about three years ago and my relationship to Missouri has transitioned to one of a reluctant feeling of home. Regardless, l still long to return to California. There has always been this longing. My relatives that lived there, who grew up there think I am crazy for ever wanting to return. My students who are from there graduate and never return. I wish I could shake this desire, this longing. I am always sad when I leave there, as I have been all this week in cloudy cold dreary St. Louis.
When people ask me where I am from, I never truly know how to answer that question. As noted above, I have lived in five different states over my lifetime. California and Oklahoma were where I spent my formative years. They are such disparate places, but each has had a unique contribution in making me who I am today. Virginia and Kansas were just stopping points leading up to where I am today. Still, if I had the means I would return to South Bay in a heartbeat.
If it weren’t for my brother and friends I would never return to visit Oklahoma. I cherish my experiences in Oklahoma, but when it comes down to its geography and politics I tend to stay away. And, maybe that is why California is burned into my soul, it’s geography, politics, and let’s not forget climate. When I eventually leave this earth, I want to be returned to the ocean, that beautiful blue Pacifc. Until then, I am going to continue to seek a return.
Maybe this photography from my recent visit can explain what I mean.