In my memoir, Could Have Been Holly Wood, I wrote a scene about my hometown. I lived in Fairfax, CA, a charming little hippie enclave located in Northern California. It’s a place the locals refer to as Mayberry on Acid.
In my memories, Fairfax was a magical wonderland.
On the weekends we explored Marin County’s Mount Tamalpais together. Dad called it a holy mountain, and I was sure he was right. We trekked through soft green meadows with blades of grass that tickled my elbows and explored secret forests crowded with towering redwoods standing like shaggy dragon’s legs. I danced around the mossy trunks with my arms spread out wide, imagining myself as a beautiful fairy with delicate purple wings. When Dad said we had to leave, I floated through the wet layers of mist to pick the prettiest wild flowers I could find.
With such fond memories, I was a little nervous to drive north last weekend with my husband and two boys to revisit Fairfax. What if it wasn’t the same? Thirty plus years have gone by, not to mention I now view life through an adult’s eyes. Surely I was in for a disappointment.
We went anyway.
Curiosity and my need to face all worries head-on insured we would take the trip.
On a gray, wet Saturday, we ventured across the architectural masterpiece that is the Golden Gate Bridge, and through the rainbow tunnels of my childhood. We drove past signs for Stinson Beach where I used to collect sand dollars and traversed the weekend traffic through San Anselmo. When we hit Fairfax my boys spotted a family of geese waddling along the broken suburban sidewalk, chubby pets belonging to one of residents. We stopped to take pictures and a friendly woman said we had only two more turns until my old house. So far, everything seemed just as I remembered it.
We made a couple of wrong turns before pulling the car over on a narrow, nearly vertical road, and staring up at my first home.
I climbed a steep flight of stairs and knocked on the door. A middle aged woman with silver hair and a stylish knit cap answered. She offered us tea and welcomed my husband, two young boys, myself, and my dog Darby, in for a tour. This neighborhood and especially this lovely woman, were just as kind and warm as I could have hoped for. The house was much bigger. Jane, the new homeowner, is a successful artist, and she had built on several additions including a large artist studio, but the feel was the same – that safe, comforting haven I remembered. The backyard was equally impressive. Jane had cultivated a garden complete with trails and spots to sit and imagine.
When we left Jane’s house, we walked to the top of the road that ended in a dense forest. Mossy trunks and lush ferns lined the dirt path. The scent of marijuana wafted by and my boys floated through wet layers of mist.
Who says you can’t go home…At least for one day.