That word up there, it is Italian (if I have spelled it incorrectly I apologize to all Italians I have offended, well as close as I can come to it anyway). It means to cross over. To move away from where you are to a completely different place. And perspective. And manner of life. And view out the window of life.
I am crossing over—again. Or I should say once more. I am quite convinced that this moving from one life to another life will be a second constant in my life. I have done it all my life it seems. From a small child to the “senior” I am now (Medicare card to prove that), there has always been some sort of crossing to navigate.
When I was four my family moved from Toledo, Ohio to Green Cove Springs, Florida. I have pretty much no recollection of that time, or before the transplantation either. If there are any memories there they are maybe feelings and as always, smells, maybe some pictures that others have told stories about; but not from my own catch of remembrances. That little four year old girl was just a part of the baggage really of moving a household and children to a different place on this earth.
I do remember Orlando when we were living there. Pictures in my mind of a tree-lined street with kids playing baseball in more than one front yard (we needed more than one yard to make sure the ball wouldn’t crash into an unsuspecting window). Of learning to ride a bike and to skate, (the kind that clamped onto your shoe and needed a key—no wimpy tennies used, here real shoes with a real soul preferable of good strong leather), of Spanish Moss hanging from those trees creating shadows in odd and scary ways. Very much an interlude of typical 50’s life.
Then, we moved again. To a new house, a new neighborhood, a crossing over. Cole Street was on the corner of a busy street so no unsupervised playing outside, no sidewalks to skate on, my Mom worked so I was pretty much not home during the day anyway. Either at school or at my friend Mary Whitaker’s house, being too young to be left to my own devices. We weathered a hurricane in that house, my mother’s hurt that erupted in a firestorm of anger, my parents eventual divorce and the loss of my own personal feeling of security.
Then came the big crossing over: from Florida, my friends, my familiar school I had attended since Kindergarten, my church, my cat, my toys given to the church nursery—all things I knew were left behind as we climbed into the Greyhound bus with a bag apiece filled with only essential clothes. My brothers, my Mom and I were moving to California; to my Grandma Smith’s house, my Mom’s Mom to live. Moving to a place I had only heard stories from my Mom about, to a place my oldest brother Edwin talked about, to a Grandma I had only really remembered seeing once, to a complete unknown.
I remember feeling quite tiny, so very, very small in such a huge incredibly alien world. We went from Jacksonville to New Orleans to catch the Sunset Limited train that would take us to Oceanside, California. We did have a wonderful stop in New Orleans; time to rest, to see some of the Big Easy: The above ground graves, the French Quarter, ride a riverboat, things very, very much New Orleans in flavor. I have a very special place in my heart for that city, even though I have never been back, for that day of joy spent there. A day my Mom actually smiled.
Escondido was cold, cold like mountain cold. Cold from my Mom and Grandma’s sparing, from my loss of friends and my Dad, from very un-Christian kids in the Christian school. Now they call it bullying, then it was just a totally unpleasant part of growing up. The brightest spot in that place of such searing cold loneliness was my new found cousin Jan and her Mom. The brought their love, acceptance, approval and joy into the darkest point of my life.
After three short years there, just when I was beginning to feel comfortable and at home, we moved again. North to Long Beach for my Stepfathers job. Wrenched and pulled up by my tentative roots again. North Town, as we called North Long Beach then, another alien, harsh place to attempt to begin again. As a 13 year old it was a daily if not minute by minute struggle to wear the right clothes, speak the right slang, listen to the right music to be accepted by kids that had been through school from Kindergarten to 9th grade. I began to think I would be an outsider looking in my whole life.
We moved twice in Long Beach, but wonder of wonders, I did not have to change schools!!! I began to settle into high school with it usual weirdness and struggles trying to figure out how to be an adult. (that would be a whole ‘nother story!) We actually stayed in the house on Walnut Ave for 5 years. Longest I could remember living in one place.
My Mom and Stepfather had to move again, to Santa Fe Springs, I think this time is was because our landlord was selling the house on Walnut, a 1930’s Spanish revival bungalow. I went with then, even though I was 19, mainly because my Mom would not even entertain the idea of me living on my own. I used to think she thought I was too stupid to take care of myself, but have since come to the conclusion she truly worried about me in the new and strange world around us at that time. It was when we were living there I met my husband.
We met at work, both of us worked for the phone company downtown L.A. He seemed nice, he was attentive, he seemed to be very in to me. He asked me to marry him in the bowling alley bar around the corner from my house. As I look back on it now, from my pinnacle of years lived, I wonder if I said yes because of some misguided belief that I had to marry the first man who asked me. Either that or I was in such total all-out lust I just caved in. Whichever it was, we married.
It lasted 7 years. Some of it good, some of not so good. We both had our demons we brought into the marriage with us, demons that worked at destroying us. He became constantly angry with a penchant for down right mean; I became withdrawn and distant and fearful. Not a good basis for marriage. In those 7 years we moved three times. I to North Hollywood to the apartment he rented for us, then to Rowland Heights where we bought our first house and my boys were born. Then to Riverside where he bought a house when he went to look at one his friend bought. He came home, told me he bought a house, we were moving in January. I had just had my second son in October, I think it was some time in maybe November. I remember just staring at him. Not reacting, just staring. That was the beginning of the end of our marriage.
After I filed for divorce I moved to Mission Viejo, where my Mom was living. I stayed with her for about maybe a week and half in her mobile home in a 55 and above park. Listening to her tell me every day that I could only stay with boys for two weeks. Park rules. In that week and a half I got a job cleaning medical offices at night, found a condo to rent and moved me and my boys out of the park.
We lived in a couple of different condos in the same area in Mission Viejo. I kept applying for a getting (thanks be to God) better paying jobs at Saddleback Hospital and Medical Center(the old one not the new gargantuan one). I finally got hired back on at the phone company. It was that job that gave me the means to buy my own little corner of the world in a 900 sq. ft. condo in a HUD housing complex set up for people just like me. Single, supporting two growing children.
I lived in that little space for 22 years. I thing I was so totally weary of moving I sort of hunkered down and refused to budge. Oh I would entertain the idea of selling and moving, even went so far as to put it one the market for awhile. But, I really didn’t want to go and pull up roots again.
After my Mom died and I retired from the phone company I did finally sell it. My boys were grown with families of their own and I felt like I needed to try a new way of living. I moved to Leisure World (now it is called Laguna Woods Village). It was some of the most enjoyable, secure, happy and content years of my life. Besides the fact that I was the youngest in my neighborhood (something quite nice to be said about that when the rest of the world sees you as way over the hill!). My neighbors were friendly and most of them genuinely happy to see my grandkids come to visit. They would stop me as I walked my dogs the day after a visit and tell me how much they loved to hear their voices and laughter. I felt truly accepted. It was wonderful.
Then, the market crashed and half of my retirement funds disappeared over night. I went back to work. For a while at Saddleback College then at my parish as secretary for the SRE. I loved them both. Each of them fulfilling in their own ways. But the ends were just getting farther and farther apart. The struggle to keep up with the California out of control economy was a losing battle.
I went to see my family in Ohio over Thanksgiving. It was cold, but not stopping me in my tracts. Heck, I even went out on Thanksgiving eve to shop with them at Walmart’s Carousel of Shopping with the Frenzied Bargain Hunters. It was an experience I will never forget. Even if I try. I did get a nice flat screen TV out of the whole night, good price too thank you! It was a great week with a lot of wonderful loving family.
It was when I got back home that it hit me that I was stuck in a rat race where I was getting not only left behind, but pretty much trampled on every month. I remember asking God if he wanted my to move to Ohio. I never dreamed the answer would be “yes”.
I have been here a year now. Through the worst winter that the natives here say they can remember in 20, 30 or more years (depending on who you talk too). I learned more in those days of being housebound than I ever thought possible. I learned about me, my Mom, my Dad (who are both gone now), my Ohio family, my abilities (of which driving in snow is not one of) and of what was truly on the list non-negotiable needs that I had to seek.
It was that set of non-negotiable needs that has prompted this latest in the list of moves in my life. I am moving to Florida. In some ways, back home. In others, to the future. Me and DaBoys will be leaving this section of the country soon, to a new adventure, to a new set of struggles I am sure. God is in charge of this, he will orchestrate it all.
Altravisiamo. Crossing over. Into the next portion of my life. As the Peter Pan ride at the old Disneyland used to say “Leettsss Go!!