For all the years that I have ever spent living away from home, there has always been one song that wraps up my deepest and fondest feelings of California.
In my Junior year of college I lived abroad in Brighton, England. It was a huge year for me and a really big step. Somehow, I had always known that studying abroad was something that I had to do, and I made sure it happened. That first experience of living in an entirely new place, is probably the most profound step in my young life that would make a definite impact on who I would become and how I would want to live my life. I had never left the U.S. before and I was 20 years old. The Berry family was large and in charge, and there were many reasons why traveling “abroad” was not feasible for us. Instead, we drove cross-country almost every summer of my very young life, from San Francisco to upstate New York, packed like sardines in a station wagon, but those are different stories for another time.
During my year studying in England, a dear friend introduced me to Joni Mitchell‘s album BLUE and I was forever hooked. I remember sitting on the floor of his room in our flat and he very seriously pulled out her CD from his collection and asked me if I’d ever heard the song “California” before. It truly feels like so long ago – it may as well have been the 60’s in my memory because those days really had a feel of freedom and exploration and self-discovery that I hadn’t really ever had…and in an endearing way, probably something I’ll never really have again. I look back on those days with so much love for who I was and who I wanted to be.
Well anyway, the answer to his question was “No, I’ve never heard that song before” which spurred him to slowly, and methodically pull the CD out of it’s case, load it up, and head straight for track 6. To this day, roughly fourteen years after hearing “California” for the first time, it still makes me smile, reminisce, and wonder. The song brings with it such a perfect sentiment “California, I’m coming home…” Each time I’m getting ready to head home, I can begin to feel the sun, the warmth, the familiarity, the food, the wine, the family, the friends…I can feel home – my real home, sinking back into my bones.
Now that I live abroad, my vacations consist only of going home to California – trust me, I cannot and will not complain about that – but let me just say that the Napa Valley was THE most boring place on earth when I was 16 years old. Now, of course, it is nothing but breathtaking and glorious and sometimes I have to pinch myself that it is where I get to return to every winter and every summer, with my son and my husband.
We just got our tickets to fly up in the end of June and I’m already fantasizing about what I’ll be eating and drinking, about the walks I’ll take, the farmer’s markets I’ll raid, the friends I’ll see, and most of all, the time I’ll have with my WHOLE family. It’s simply brilliant.
So, as I turn up the next tune a little louder, I’m going to scroll through these photos of my last visit home to California, and smile in the warmth of knowing that it will always be there, waiting for me: California, I can’t wait to see you.