Sunday, November 11, 2012

California, Land of Contrasts

Blogging here from Sunny Southern California as my family back home experienced the first winter dusting of snow!  Talk about contrasts, and yet there are so many others...

I grew up here, lived my early adult life here, got married here, and yet "here" isn't at all what it was when I was younger.  I've lived in Colorado now for 16 years, and it actually in many ways feels as if I stepped back in time to the place I grew up which, alas, is no more.

I am not used to seeing so many cars that all look as if they just drove off the new car lot, I am not used to so many (or ANY, really) shiny BMWs, Cadillacs, and Lamborghinis (Saw one going 95 mph on the freeway on my way to mom's from the airport).  Where are the beat up ol' pick ups, the mud encrusted Subarus, the duct taped mini vans?  This is the Land o' Plenty, at least vehicularly speaking.

Driving around the town I grew up in, wandering the aisles of the grocery store, it is in some weird way as if I have never left.  Over and over I hear songs playing on the Muzak systems or singing to me from the car speakers that were popular in my youth...and it is music I seldom here these days except for when Matthew plays the 80's channel on Pandora.  It is oddly unsettling, actually, to be 20 years older and yet hearing Michael Jackson tunes playing not just once, not twice, but virtually everywhere as if Thriller had just hit the Top 10.

The enclave of Camarillo is much as it was when I left it...pristine, tree lined streets, not an ounce of graffiti in sight, roads are spotless and gutters are clean enough to eat out of. I definitely was raised in a beautiful little town.  However, it is a town that most of my own classmates could no longer afford to live in, as the median price for a home here now is a staggering $350,000, down from a ridiculous $540,000 in 2007, while Montrose's median price today is a very reasonable and possible to attain $140,000.  We are grateful to own a home today, something that 16 years ago seemed virtually impossible.

There are lines everywhere, something that has definitely worsened since we departed years ago, but the the population density here is 3444 people per square mile.  People are literally stacked upon one another, though the luscious strawberry fields still remain scattered outside the city limits. Still, it is a far cry from the spacious skies and miles and miles of open space we have in Montrose, where the population density is a mere 1668 per square mile.

The most obvious contrasts though, the most important ones, are in my mom and I. I am now the age she was when I was finishing high school, with my life unplanned and waiting for me dive into. She is now close the the age I remember my grandmother being when I graduated high school.  is it possible?  Can we both have aged this much in the blink of an eye?  Yet my graying head and aching hip tell me it is so :-)  All those years ago I could never have imagined leaving this place, for before the realization set in that a decent future here would never be possible, I was content.  How could either my mom or I have imagined a future for me such as the one I have been blessed to have?  Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan were not even independent yet, the Wall had not fallen, and infertility was not yet part of my known future.  My soon-to-be husband and I were already planning a life together, but that future had as-yet-to-be imagined children long off in the distance, though we had no clue just how long off that would actually be,nor just how far away they were.

I drove past our old high school, now surrounded by large patio homes where once stood tall eucalyptus.  I grinned as I thought about Dominick whose wavy brown hair still was prominent atop his head as he would wave at me out the window of his primered low rider mini-truck.  Funny though, I have no strong recollections about the years spent there in classrooms, but what returns are the lessons received as we were surrounded by unexpected rampant drug use, bragging about sexual exploits, and a wide variety of social cliques I was able to walk through and around but never was really a part of...nor had much of a desire to be.  The goal?  Make it out intact in 4 years.  It is truly impossible for me to imagine any of our kids in that environment, but for some reason the face that pops into my mind is Kenny's, as his 14th birthday is nigh upon us this week.

Yes, it is certainly a different world, and sometimes it is hard to reconcile the life we lead now with the way we were raised.  Usually, as parents, we draw upon our own childhood experiences to guide us.  There is almost no way Dominick or I can do this in any practical sense because our children's childhood and our own are so incredibly different.  Oh, we certainly pull from lessons learned that our parents taught, but the parenting challenges we face are completely foreign to our moms...pun intended.  It also, at times, leaves us feeling as if we are floundering a little, trying to grab purchase of land as we float downstream heading rapidly toward the whitewater.  We try, we screw up, we go back the drawing board, and we try again.  Not much else we can do.

So this evening, as I type this, my "real" life has been temporarily left behind as I visit my past and care for my mom.  Cataract surgery was something she once talked about with her own parents, and one day it will be one of mine helping me out post-surgery, I am sure.  Thankfully, all went well and we have one down, one to go on Wednesday for Eye #2.  I hear surprisingly mature sounding voices on the other end of the phone, sharing with me their thoughts, their day to day mini-successes, and their care for me.  I left with love notes secretly stashed in my purse, and receive emails from not-so-little people who reach out to share their lives with me.  And though I am far away, I am reminded that I am only as far as heartstrings will reach...and ours reach halfway around the world.

As I begin week #2 in California, I look forward to a little treat as I will have a long overdue visit with a long time adoptive mommy buddy, one who I am so glad has remained connected through the years.  We both have our battle stories to share, we both have given it our all through some difficult times...and continue to do so as we love those who were once unloved and who are sometimes a real enigma.  Sometimes, it is only during such conversations with another who has walked a few steps in my shoes, when I feel completely understood about certain pieces of my life.  The frequent uncertainty, the exhausting trial and error, the deep and abiding love that keeps you seeking answers...that is something that can sometimes be so difficult to share with others who haven't lain awake night after night thinking to yourself "What have I missed? What is it that is not clicking here?"...and that kind of camaraderie can often come only with someone for whom it has definitely not been easy.  Sadly, so often moms of post-institutionalized kids tend to drift away as their children grow older.  The first couple of years post-adoption there are many connections, but as time moves on those connections are often lost, while for some of us the struggles remain or grow even more challenging.  So it is with no little amount of anticipation that I look forward to time sitting across from one another, nodding our heads in agreement as even the unspoken is actually completely understood.

 Time to place a call back home, to hear sweet and sturdy voices.  Night all!

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