Letter from two homes I am about to leave

78

A 20-minute drive along California’s coast has become part of my regular Friday routine. My brother and I cruise along the empty Skyline Boulevard, taking a moment to admire the sunset in between playful jabs at each other. The ocean comes into view as we turn onto Great Highway, where we ride alongside the Pacific before cutting east to take the surface streets. Bikers, bladers and skaters control the road adjacent to Ocean Beach. A local DJ plays his regular set on the boardwalk just behind the famous graffiti seawall. I make a right and park. Gusts of wind blow in from the ocean, rustling the succulent-filled front yards that clearly get more maintenance than the old houses weathered by the sea-sprayed air. We’ve just arrived at my dad’s place in San Francisco’s Sunset District, my newfound, part-time home a few blocks from the ocean. My dad welcomes us inside and we waste no time coming in — not before removing our shoes, of course.

The room comes alive. One of my dad’s many reggae playlists is on, and Japanese curry simmers on the stove. Sandalwood incense from our go-to shop in Japantown burns on the rattan coffee table. We banter and chat for a few minutes before the fire alarm cuts us off, letting us know we left the tofu in the air fryer too long. We take turns fanning the smoke, laughing off the simple mistake. Once the alarm quiets down, we sit down and eat together and enjoy our meal and each other’s presence. It all feels natural; sharing jokes and a meal and just being together. It’s these simple, mundane moments that will always stick with me.

A year ago, I thought I’d be living the first-year college dream at Occidental right about now. Instead, I find myself continuing my childhood at home while growing up at the same time. It’s been frustrating at times. I feel like I’m ready to prove my independence and enjoy the freedom of being a teenager living on their own. But it’s also been a pleasant surprise. This prolonged goodbye to my childhood home has given me time to reflect on what home means to me, and I’ve grown to appreciate the extra time I’ve spent at home with my family on a deeper level. I’ve begun to realize it’s not the place that makes a home — it’s the people and the memories.

Even though my dad only moved to the Sunset two short months ago, it still feels like home. I will always feel comfortable in this apartment as long as my dad is here, and I’m happy he has a place to call his own. We’re already making new memories here, and I’m sure there will be more to come.

Up until now, the only home I’d ever known was the house in nearby San Bruno, where my brother and I stay with our mom. The gentle creak of the wood floor greets me as soon as I take a step inside. My mom and my cats do the same. It’s the place of countless meals and celebrations, the place with the same familiar smell. It’s the place where I can walk into my childhood bedroom and be transported back 15 years, when my brothers and I would take our battle positions from the top bunk or the crib and drive our parents crazy, throwing pillows and yelling at each other. This house still has a lot of sentimental value for me, but living here for an extra year has helped me understand that people and memories are more important than physical space. That realization has prepared me to move on both physically and mentally.

Eventually, I’ll be moving to LA to be at Occidental, and I already know I’m going to get homesick. Leaving behind the only place I’ve ever known won’t be easy. I’ve always thought that walking away from a place of invaluable memories would feel as if I’m leaving a piece of myself behind. But memories will remain and be made regardless of where I go, especially when I’m with people who are important to me. I’ve enjoyed the comfort and familiarity of the Bay Area — for now, I’ll take the Bay over LA any day of the week — but the prospect of making new memories with new people makes the goodbye worthwhile. I feel ready to make Eagle Rock my new home.