I used to belong in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve gone to college here, given birth to three children, rented, bought and sold houses in a large swath of the East Bay: Berkeley, Oakland, Kensington and Alameda. And now, after 21 years in New England, returned to where I once belonged.
New England in 1996 was a culture shock. In our small Connecticut town, I learned that many families had occupied the same land for more than one hundred years and that a five-minute wait at a traffic light was a traffic jam. Children addressed adults as “Mrs.” or “Mr.” No one referred to men as “dudes.” When someone said “Let’s get together,” they meant it and “reserved” doesn’t mean “unfriendly.” I really love New England, a place where I came to belong.
Now we are back in the Bay Area for most of the time. There have been a lot of changes. The traffic is dreadful; the housing prices are ridiculous. I’m not used to constant ambient noise. On the other hand, I love the friendliness. People talk to you in line at the grocery store! Everywhere you turn there is diversity of all sorts. Our Asian letter carrier has a southern accent. The project manager for our new house was born in Afghanistan. I can’t get over how people dress. It was 75 degrees last week and people were walking around in sweaters. Looking out the window while drinking coffee at a local spot, I was startled when a rather large woman in a wheel chair cruised by in a Santa Claus suit, complete with fur-edged hat.
It is going to take a while to get used to this new environment, though obviously there is no need to worry about dressing appropriately. I’ll take you along on this adventure as I learn to belong in an old new place.
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Photo by Gaetan Pautler via unsplash.com