|California Poppy, Flickr Photos,
She was 68 years old by then and had started to shrink in height, like her mother before her. As we stood eye to eye, each wiping tears from the other’s face, I wondered when we would see her again.
Many of our other relatives had come to my grandmother”s home to say their goodbyes to us, too. She had prepared a big send-off for us, much the same as she had when we had arrived just three years earlier. I remember thinking how lucky we were to have so many people who cared about us.
As we crossed the border from Tijuana into San Ysidro, California, we noticed a difference right away as wide, modern freeways replaced narrow, tired, and bumpy highways. Cars were larger. Green freeway signs with raised letters seemed to sparkle in the sunlight. It felt as though we were gliding, not driving.
|Bixby Bridge, Big Sur, Flickr Photos, courtesy Sequoia Hughes
It was exciting to hear English spoken on the radio again. My mother had to adjust the stations occasionally as we would drive out of range, so we listened to quite a variety.
One of the songs that was popular on the airwaves that day was “Happy Together” by the Turtles, at that time the #1 Billboard Song for the third week in a row. A catchy and upbeat tune, it was a fitting background to the excitement we all felt as we marveled at the wonders of our new home state.
It did not take long for my father to find a job working for a sign company in South San Francisco, and he and he and my mother found a small ranch style house to rent on San Bruno Mountain, up a hilly street at Morningside Drive in a neighborhood bearing the cheery name of Sunshine Gardens. Our side of the street was the last row of houses on what was called Sign Hill, just below large concrete letters that spelled out to the world that this was “South San Francisco – the Industrial City.”
How exciting, we thought, to be in San Francisco at last. But where were all the cable cars and skyscrapers? Only after a couple of weeks did we learn that South San Francisco, also known as “South City,” was not really part of the grand City by the Bay but in fact was separated from it by San Bruno Mountain.
One day in May, my father took my sisters and me downtown to the hardware and the five-and-dime store. We saw a sign advertising the city’s annual Mother’s Day celebration. We entered our mother in a contest that was part of the celebration and were surprised a few days later when she won Mother of the Year.
There was something else we had not expected. Being right between the ocean and the San Francisco Bay meant that the marine layer of fog came in every morning, putting a chill in the air that sometimes dropped close to freezing, even in the summer. We could actually watch as it shrouded our street and slowly crept down Forest View Avenue on its way to the downtown area at the bottom of the hill. When that happened, the sun disappeared and you could not see a thing. Some mornings the fog would burn off by midday, but other days it just lingered there, gray and taunting, as we wondered what had happened to the Sunny California everyone had talked about.
My mother simply could not understand this. So much for “California Dreamin’,” the song made so popular a couple of years earlier by the Mamas and the Papas. No one had told her about the fog. She began to wonder if we had fallen for a myth. She and my father began looking into sunnier places to live.
Copyright © 2013 Linda Huesca Tully