A little over a year ago I relocated from Santa Clarita to Los Angeles. My daughter’s family and I bought a house together, which involved compromises for all of us. I didn’t really want to live in Los Angeles. I liked Santa Clarita. It was more low key, less “citified” and more my speed. I liked my church. I’d made connections with people. My sister and cousin lived there, and I had my writing group, which met every Tuesday at the Newhall Senior Center.
When I first joined the group, I was convinced I’d be the shining star, but it turns out there were some really talented writers in that group, and I had to stand on my literary tippy toes to keep up with them. My group wasn’t a place to chat. Most everyone was really serious about growing as a writer, but little by little, friendships were forged anyway, and it began to feel very comfortable like putting your feet into a pair of comfy, well worn slippers. When I moved to Los Angeles, I couldn’t find anything to replicate my writing group. I also missed the lunches with friends, the church where I drew spiritual nourishment and the wide open vistas. In contrast, Los Angeles was urban and gritty bursting with people and traffic. Even as the weeks turned into months, it didn’t feel like home even though I liked the house we’d bought in Los Angeles. The truth is I didn’t like the city the house was in.
I would return to Santa Clarita every couple of months and stay at my sister’s house, sleeping on her cramped love seat that opened up into a rudimentary sleep space. The mattress was starting to slope downward, and it was so thin, I could feel the springs trying to break through the fabric. Not very comfortable, but at least I was in Santa Clarita. The small guest room was right next to a tiny bathroom, which was used by my sister’s cat and contained an oversized kitty litter container and a noxious odor. It was very different from my cute bedroom where the walls are a muted shade of blue, and there wasn’t a cat to be found, but even with the pool and hardwood floors I’d had put in my new home, I still pined for Santa Clarita and the writing group.
Last week, after an extended absence, I returned to Santa Clarita to spend a week at my sister’s. I knew the writing group had changed it’s location from the senior center to a brand new library, which I’d heard was “state of the art” and architectually beautiful. The senior center was pretty drab, no ambience there, so I looked forward to attending the group in its new digs, but when I got there, something just seemed out of kilter. There were several new people who hadn’t been there before, and one of them talked incessantly while people waited for her ramblings to cease so they could get feedback on their work. Several of my favorite writers had stopped attending, and the ex-cop whose poetry was always just “this side” of socially acceptable feigned a choking fit, because he felt he wasn’t receiving enough attention. Everyone sat frozen in their seats, their eyes wide with fear. It seemed likely he was having a severe medical emergency, but nobody seemed to know how to respond. Eventually his red face returned to its normal pasty paleness, and, quite pleased with himself, he chortled “You have to admit that was funny!”
Is this foolishness what I’d been missing as I sat in a melancholy haze in Los Angeles? I decided I could live without this writing group. It just didn’t live up to my memories. It had been nice when I lived in that town, but now it was over. You really can’t go home again.