For a couple of years after I left my husband--leaving him in our home and living in my hometown--I resented the fact that he had gotten my hometown in the divorce. There he was, living in the place I grew up in, driving the streets I ran around on, shopping in the stores I used to shop in with my mother. My post office. My library. My gas station. My past, my memories.
This resentment came after the fact, after the "You can stay. No problem" speeches I gave, shooting off and out, relieved and scared and partially insane with worry and anxiety. But later, once I'd found my bearings, I wondered what in the hell I had done. My friends and family wondered the same thing. We all sort of wondered why I was living in the strange small places and he was still at home.
Yesterday as I was driving down Highway 24, I realized that while I had had given my former spouse my hometown, he had inadvertently given me Oakland. Given all the disastrous news about Oakland, you might not think this is such a gift.
As a young family, we moved to a moldy apartment on 45th Street, directly across from Oakland Technical High School. My husband had landed the teaching job he has to this day, working in a school in the flats, this apartment all we could afford. Many fine events happened at that sad little place, including a break in, a stolen bike, and knocks on the door from a variety of homeless, street folk, and our half naked landlord. Later, we lived on Seminary Avenue, Rampart Street just above MacArthur Blvd, Mokelumne Avenue off of 73rd, and then on Tiffin and Whittle, the bus roaring by at regular intervals.
I used to push a stroller around the "murder corridor," not realizing that was where I was living. I took the kids to their dentist and orthodontist downtown. We went to the Y for classes and lessons, joined the Oakland Hills Tennis Club, and worked the school system as so many Oakland folks do to get our children in a hill area elementary school.
Everything was going fine, until our budding anarchist hit middle school. There was so much to distract him at school, and he was so close to places via bus and BART. He applied to several private schools, but he tanked the tests, and we knew we had to leave, moving back over the hill to my hometown.
My hometown was known to me, but my Oakland children hated it. They still do. they talk about how the move effected them, and it's one of those parenting choices I would make again, even though I knew it wouldn't lead to their perfect lives. They talk about Oakland being real and my hometown being full of pod people. But we did our best and lived there for 8 years. Their father still does live there, as I mentioned, though just going through the tunnel gives my oldest a very bad flashback to high school.
When I first moved out, I moved close by because my youngest was still in school. Three months after he left for college, I moved to Berkeley, and then Michael and I moved to Oakland. Just last week, we closed on a house here--as I told my youngest son, I'm going to stay put until he has to cart me out. But when I first moved back, I realized that yet again, in yet another town, I'd moved back home. I have so many friends in Oakland, people I have known for years, who watched my children grow up. I know the stores I want to go to and the restaurants I like. I know all the "cheats" in terms of traffic. Oakland was where I first set up true housekeeping with my husband, where I brought my second baby home to. I've lived in so many neighborhoods, experienced so much that is good and bad--life--here, that this was a town to be given as well.
I gave my former spouse my hometown, and when he got his job in Oakland and we moved here so long ago, he was giving me Oakland.
Somehow, now, finally, I see it as an equal trade.
Causes Jessica Inclan Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org