It was a small town, a suburban town. The first time my mother drove through the town she thought oh, we could be happy here. She loved how it was near BART, which was still new. There was a park pool where I learned how to swim. There were a movie theater called the Century which had a big domed auditorium. Nearby was a mall and a community college which she liked because she was thinking of going back to school. Plus there was the library, which was the central library of Contra Costa County. She loved the name of the town. Pleasant Hill! It seemed so warm, so friendly. We moved when I was six.
There are definite benefits about living in a town as long as I did. If you put me blindfolded on a random street in Pleasant Hill, I would know how to find my way home. If you asked me how to find the Denny's on Contra Costa, I could give you semi-decent directions. At the store when I heard kids complain about a teacher from their middle school, I remembered that fifteen years before, I had that teacher as well.
There were drawbacks of course. When I was a teenager and in my twenties I couldn't wait to leave. I was tired of everything. Tired of the fact that no decent movies came to the movie theater. Tired of the fact that yes, I could be blindfolded and find my way home because Pleasant Hill hardly changed. The big news was when we got a Borders. Whoo-hoo! A Borders! We're getting some culture here!
I was also sad because I felt left behind. All my friends were living in Oakland or Berkeley. Some even moved to New York or to Europe. Except for a three month stint, I felt stuck in Pleasant Hill. I was stuck in a town where nothing changed.
When my grandfather died, everything hurt so much. It hurt to go near the places we went to. There was Ann's Sunshine Cafe, where he went every morning for breakfast. At the library where I worked, it hurt to go near the blue plastic chair where he sat, reading his westerns. Yet the town was also comforting to me as well back then. One day I went home to find flowers from Ann's at my front step. People would stop me at the store and say: "Your grandfather made balloon animals for my daughter. She loved them." I was so grateful at the time for Pleasant Hill, for its smallness, for how it never changed.
I left Pleasant Hill when I was thirty-two to go to college, then moved for good a year later. Yet now I'm glad I lived there. I lived in a town where people knew who you were and where you came from.
On Facebook, I have many friends who lived in Pleasant Hill. They ask me questions-is the movie theater still there? Is the Dome still there?
Yes, the Dome is still there. I'm proud to tell them this. After all, I'm a Pleasant Hill girl.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries