My Mom Left Her Heart In San Francisco, But I Left Mine In Venice. . .
I was in kindergarten and first grade when we lived in Delhi, California. My dad worked at Boeing in Wichita, Kansas and our family took a 2 year field trip to California so my dad could work at Castle Air Force base in Atwater California.
There were a lot of great things about that time. My mom was excited because her sister and family lived in Delhi, and this was a wonderful opportunity for her to be with her sister and for me to get to know my cousins.
I loved California. The San Joachim valley climate was pretty mild, in fact our first year there I worried endlessly over how Santa could land his sleigh without snow. Mom told me that Santa was prepared for things like that and also had wheels for the sleigh. Whew! I was relieved to hear that!
They grew a lot of grapes out there in the mild climate and peaches and almonds, which the locals called am-mons. I loved to go to the orchards and pick the fresh peaches, huge and sweet and when you took a bite, juice ran wildly unchecked down your arm, leaving a sticky trail of nectar.
We wandered the state of California quite a bit, often going to Yosemite Park to the east of us and Monterey or Carmel to the west. But it was the trips to San Francisco that my mom loved the most.
Whether we were riding the cable cars or eating at Fisherman’s Wharf, sipping tea in the Japanese Tea Gardens or watching the Chinese New Years parade, there was always something exciting happening there. Oh the thrill I felt the first time we drove down Lombard Street, other wise known as the street of Roses. It’s a twisty-turny street that s curves down a block in San Francisco, houses and roses lining the way. We went for the first time in June and it was like a painting full of riotous colors, flowers of every kind imaginable everywhere you looked.
My favorite thing to do there was go to the Chinese New Years parade. It was bright and colorful, long Chinese dragons twisting and dancing down the streets with smoke billowing out of their heads, running and rushing at the crowd to scare them, but all in good fun. They tossed candy and Chinese fortunes to everyone. The first year we were there my mom bought me a pair of Chinese silk pajamas. The top was turquoise with black piping around the neckline and the bottoms were black. Turquoise was mom’s favorite color and this was one of the rich turquoises’, deep and intense. It was in a Chinese restaurant there that I saw a picture of a naked woman for the first time. They kept telling me not to stare, but it seemed pretty funny to me.
Mom seemed to love it all and every minute there was precious to her. The last visit there before we came back to Kansas was hard. I remember her crying as we drove over the Oakland Bay Bridge on our way back to Delhi. I didn’t understand then why she cried, but years later as I left Venice for the last time, I did. I got it. Those were places where we not only took a piece of with us; we left a bit of ourselves there; our youth, our ideals and memories dear to our hearts. After that, there was never a time that she heard that famous song, I Left My Heart in San Francisco that she didn’t cry.
Sadly, mom died in 1979 and I never really asked her exactly what about the city she loved so much, but I believe that to her it was a magical place. She and my dad were still young, experiencing life in ways that they never had before, seeing places and things that made impressions on them, on our family forever. I felt the same about Venice.