When I was growing up, my father had a dream.
His dream was to move out of the Italian ghettos of southern Philadelphia and move to California to become a radio announcer. He was going to attend the Don Martin School of Radio Arts to be trained and become famous.
He was sure of it.
So sure of it that when he got back from the South Pacific, he convinced my mother to sell practically everything, pack up the rest in an old De Soto and drive on the legendary Route 66 until we ended up in Los Angeles.
“The ‘City of the Angels,’ Clara,” he’d say. “How could we go wrong?”
I’m not even sure my father ever went to the Don Martin School of Radio Arts. I am sure that jobs were few and far between when we arrived, as was housing, not to mention my father’s ability to pay the rent.
In the beginning, he got a job making pizza at a family-owned pizza parlor (all pizza parlors were family-owned in those days), then he got a job as a guard at Hughes Aircraft Company—and ultimately, he had a career in sales.
I suppose that “ultimately a career in sales” is pretty close to being a radio announcer—just not as glamorous.
In the early days, he kept changing his mind about whether California really had streets paved of gold, and back and forth to Philly we would drive until he finally made up his mind, and we stayed put in California.
I was raised there from the time I was five (which was when we first arrived), until I was married and moved to Tucson, Arizona, where I raised my own family and ultimately lived for almost 50 years.
Dad always told me he loved California, but he “just couldn’t make it there.”
However, more than likely, he couldn’t have made it anywhere else either.
He was a dreamer—a man who didn’t tell you to go out and get the mail, but to go out to the mailbox to see if his ship had come in.
He wasn’t just a nose to the grindstone, head down, ball tucked in, headed for the goal-line type of guy.
He was too sensitive and artistic for that. Too emotional for that. And also, truth be told, too broken by his PTSD for that.
When I left California for Tucson, I never looked back. I couldn’t afford to miss California. I couldn’t allow myself to live unhappily in a place where there was a desert instead of an ocean. My husband found a job, and my children went to school and made friends.
I buried California outside the windows of my mind—until my current husband said, “You know what? I think I need to relocate our company to California.”
And so, here I am back “home” again—and I hadn’t realized how much it would feel like “home” to me, or how much I never felt like I was “home” in Tucson.
Not that I didn’t like Tucson—I did, a lot. But Tucson didn’t smell the same as California. The sunlight didn’t hit the horizon in the same way, the hills and mountains weren’t softly rounded and rolling, and well, it wasn’t the place my father had moved to so as to make his dreams come true.
“Who knows,” I said to my husband the first night we sat in our new California bungalow, overlooking a lush green patio and the small canyon beyond. “Maybe you’ll sell the company here, and my father’s prediction of the streets being paved in gold in California will come true.”
“Yeah,” my husband agreed. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we got a do-over for him?”
But then, maybe it’s not such a far-fetched story. Maybe that’s how life works—the children make a parent’s dreams come true.
Maybe somebody had to be here when my dad’s ship came in after all.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Image: Flickr/Jandy Stone
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina