On The 4th of July, year 1960, I was born at Memorial Hospital, a Catholic hospital in Santa Rosa.
It is said that Rohnert Park, the town that was to be my home, was once part of a seed farm started by an Irish man from Dublin in the 1800’s, thus causing great suffering in the valley with the late afternoon winds. Allergies all year long were the norm. I found it ironic that an Irishman would be responsible for me being stuck in a town I was as far apart from as dog trying to live on the Mars.
Rohnert Park was born just 6 years prior to my parents bringing me home to our adobe mud filled yard in the middle of the 1960s track home boom. All the houses were constructed exactly the same. If you weren’t careful you could easily walk into the wrong house thinking it was your own.
The city planners in their infinite wisdom, thought each set of 250 homes, should come with their own street names to ease the confusion of what part of this small town you were in.
Hell, you could just stand on your tiptoes and tell where you were.
Thus the “A” section was born, where all street names started with an A, and the “B” section where all streets started with a B and so on. I believe they are up to M now, but I don’t keep track of the town I slept in for 18 years.
The problem with a new town is it resembles the newly rich: it has no sense of self – no proud history. Not to mention the city of Santa Rosa disliked newcomers and Rohnert Park topped that list. It was a minor league town surrounded by major league ones – ones with deep histories.
There were no beautiful interesting buildings in Rohnert Park – just flat parks and chlorine filled pools. There were no great works of architecture, no aging pieces of art, and too little of other cultures. No interesting little neighborhoods, with an ethnic market and the hustle and bustle of city life. Since everyone worked outside the home, people rarely left their living rooms.
Except my dad.
He loved to meet people and talk with the neighbors, especially our neighbor Bob. He took pride in the fact that his family was safely tucked away in this boring town, free from the dramas of his own youth. The neighbors loved him – and between his larger than life personality and my mother insisting on ballet lessons, music lessons, top grades, a rich literary library, and travel (lots of travel) – I survived.
I survived mostly due to the interesting Aunts and Uncles who managed to pop up, at odd times turning our house upside down. My favorite visits were my Aunt Colleen, my dad’s oldest redhead sister. Aunt Margene, the youngest was not far behind. Having them both arrive together was pure bliss.
Those were the times they would take over my bed – the same bed I sleep in today – the bed I’ve had since age three. My dad would set up a cot for me at the foot of the bed, stare at the three redheads, and say, “Please try and get some sleep.” My Aunts would laugh a he’s so ridiculous laugh.
I never wanted them to leave my little room.
All kinds of eccentric, wonderful relatives stayed in my room on Alta Avenue in Rohnert Park, and slept in that bed of mine. Sitting on the cot, it was like one great theatrical play unfolding right before my eyes – and I was related to these people.
There was the life I loved compared to the life I lived. I preferred these adults to my dull, boring neighborhoods and immature school mates.
Luckily for me, my ballet classes were in Petaluma and ice skating was in Santa Rosa, so I was able to spend huge blocks of time away from Rohnert Park. When I wasn’t dancing, I was ice skating and when I wasn’t ice skating I was doing homework, and when I wasn’t doing homework I was talking on the phone to my best friend (and still my friend today) Laura.
Laura made living in Rohnert Park bearable. She lived on the Two Rock Coast Guard base a good 45 minutes from our home – out near the coast. She felt equally as isolated. We made a good team for creating some happiness and fun in our teenage years and those years before my father died.
Until next time –
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