I lived in California for 22 years, which is exactly half of my life. It’s been three months since I left the Golden State, and it seems like a good time to write a list (in no particular order) of the things I have begun to really miss:
1. In-N-Out Burger
Like many California transplants, I remember the first time I ate an In-N-Out burger. I was driving home to Yosemite with my boss Claudia, and it was growing late. We were hungry, and as we discussed dining options, she discovered I had never eaten at In & Out. We stopped in Tracy, and I remarked at the simple menu. Hamburgers…Cheeseburgers…Double Cheeseburgers…and fries. How could something so simple be so good? As we drove away and I took the first bite, I realized SOMETHING SO SIMPLE IS SO GOOD. There is nothing like In & Out. Anywhere. The fresh meat that is perfectly salted; the melted cheese; the bun toasted to a slight crisp; the crisp iceberg lettuce with thousand island dressing; the french fries that are ACTUALLY POTATOES cut there, in the restaurant…oh my gosh. In-N-Out…Get in my tummy right now.
2. Yosemite and the High Sierra
Beauty. Majesty. Unexpected, breathtaking gloriousness unfolding on every single drive. Hikes to waterfalls and 8000-foot domes. Meandering alongside ancient trees. Taking in fantastic mountain vistas, and equally intriguing minute details…I will never grow tired of exploring and loving the Sierra mountains.
3. My Friends
So many great friends. Real, true friends, who I had babies alongside; wrangled toddlers with; homeschooled together; and otherwise navigated the craziness of life. I can’t stand the fact that I will likely never again live in the same town as these soul sisters. Can we please meet for coffee, or Bunco, or a 10K in Santa Cruz, once again?
4. My Mom and Dad
My parents moved to California a decade ago, and I grew used to them being in the same town as me. It’s so odd to live across the country from them, and know that when I call, I’m 2000 miles away, and not simply across town. How did I manage to leave California before they did?
5. The Turkeys
Seriously. We had the most entertaining wild turkeys at our last house. They paraded on our front deck, acting like they owned the place…and in truth, they did own it, far more than we did (we sold the house and moved…they are still there…). In the 3+ years we lived there, we saw the flock grow from about a dozen to over 30. There were Tom turkeys who plumed their feathers and walked with a cocky strut; baby turkeys who grew from tininess to awkward toddlers within days; and hens who seemed both interested and indifferent to the Toms, depending on the time of year. Every day we watched them peck for food in the grasses; balance on the handrail of our deck, 20 feet above ground; and roost in the old Ponderosa Pine in our side yard. They were a part of our family, and “turkey” was one of my son’s first words, because they were (and are) so remarkable to watch.
6. Cool Bean Cafe
Cool Bean is the quintessential small town coffee shop. Cool Bean owners Casey and Alyssa Lucas built something far beyond Starbucks. It is the heart of the town, and on any given day you can find people from nearly every social circle gathering there to share time and life. Besides being a place to gather, the coffee is so good, it’s art. I miss coffee made with the craftsmanship of Cool Bean’s offerings. I have yet to find something as good, in taste and ambiance, here in Tennessee.
7. Pizza Factory
Everyone knew my name at the Pizza Factory. They knew I ordered a #3 (a slice of cheese pizza and a salad with an iced tea and lemon)…then a diet special (a salad bar and iced tea with lemon), once it became apparent to me that gluten was no longer my friend. I enjoyed meals there as we launched our business; countless lunches with my husband as we navigated our way through business ownership; parenthood; cancer; life. We had staff parties, and birthday parties and going way parties at that place…When you are done eating, the staff yells, “Thank you!” and “Good Bye” as you push the glass door into the parking lot. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t leave Pizza Factory happier than when I arrived. I miss settling down into a booth, and enjoying yet another tasty lunch with my family.
8. The cool summer mountain evenings
The heat of California’s Central Valley summers are only made bearable by one thing: the cool evenings. When the sun sets, the heat lifts, and you are left with a fresh coolness and a slight breeze that is altogether wonderful. It’s almost like the beach…but it’s more like a breath of life and hope at the end of a parched, dusty day. Those summer evenings are the perfect setting for sitting on the porch, enjoying a margarita, and pondering the stars.
9. The stars at night
Away from the glow of the city, the stars take on a spectacular three-dimensional quality. I always meant to memorize all of the constellations, but never got beyond a handful. So many nights, I’d arrive home from town, unfold myself from the car, take a deep breath of the crisp mountain air, and look up to see the twinkling lights of the magnificent stars, shining down on me. It made me feel so small and insignificant, and like the richest person in the world…I had something better than diamonds shining down on me, showing me their glory, every clear night.
10. The view from my bedroom window
When I first moved to California, I could see Yosemite Falls from my bedroom window in Yosemite Valley. Then when I moved to Oakhurst, I saw a riverbed with a spectacular mountain vista rising above it. Later on, once we bought a house, I saw 250 year old oak trees amongst the tall brown grasses…and then in our final home, and spectacular vista of Sierra foothills, Ponderosa Pines and Sycamore leaves. I loved waking up and seeing such beauty. It was an early morning blessing, every single day.