Tomorrow morning I'm flying off to spend a week in the OC (don't call it that) and then the week after that I'll be in a tiny northern town called Paradise.
I grew up in Santa Monica, CA, but it's been years since I thought of it as 'home'. The last time I was there, a couple years ago, I felt like a tourist. The restaurants I went to as a kid were still there, but had become glossier, more expensive versions of themselves.
The old Promenade -- which we used to stroll down on our way home from school for ice mocha lattes and to gaze adoringly at the cute guy who worked at NaNa's (that was mostly me) -- has been cleaned up and the big fancy brand-name stores have moved in. No more funky Indian clothing shop, no more indie record shop, no more dark coffee house to play cards in late into the night.
But my favorite thing, the thing that fills my heart with joy whenever I wake up in California, was unchanged. The sunlight.
Now, I've been under the Tuscan sun, and it is indeed magical. But there is something about the SoCal morning sunlight that lifts the spirit and fills you with a sense of hopefulness and possibility. Colors look fresh, the air feels clean, the sky seems impossibly high.
So I am looking forward to Saturday morning, to waking up in my cousins' pastel-colored house, minutes away from the Pacific Ocean.
It's not home, but it's not foreign -- it's something lovely in between.