Today (August 9,2017) I arrived in Marin County, California, to attend my 50th high school reunion. The actual events take place on the weekend, and I flew out a couple days early with a strong personal agenda… I have always thought of Mill Valley as my hometown. Its memories of steep, bending roads that would curve around any mature redwood tree they met, my own mountain that greeted me every morning, and the knowledge that the Pacific Ocean lay deep, strong, cold, and blue on the other side of my mountain. Earthquake trails and a sky which had a hard time deciding whether to be totally enveloped in fog or so clear that you could watch shooting stars at night, were, even as a self-centered brat, so special that the presence of San Francisco, a mere ten mile drive away, held no special place in my heart.

But boys grow up, and in my case, take advantage of other opportunities…My adventures opened up a new world of experiences and life trials on the Atlantic coastline…But I continued to be from Mill Valley, California!!! I joked for many years that I was living in self-imposed exiles far away from my home.

But I continued to grow up…and I discovered a love for the rolling hillsides of the North Carolina Piedmont, and the endless ridge lines that separate the Pennsylvania valleys.  And then the final blow…My father, who relocated us to Marin so many years ago, died this past summer. This followed the exodus of the rest of my family to homes in the south. No one is left to come home to visit…And so, my mind has begun to see Rural Pennsylvania as my adopted home…and I am ok with it

So this trip to see old classmates and friends is intertwined with stops at cherished memories. I will share some of these with you in the next few days as I say an emotional “goodbye” to my hometown of Mill Valley, California.

Marin Joe’s:  Is a restaurant that was a huge part of my childhood. Their “Joe’s Special, ” became a Brink staple because my mother made it at home…Ground beef mixed with eggs, spinach, mushrooms, and spices of your choosing. So on my first night, I sat at the counter with my Joe’s Special, sourdough bread, and Anchor Steam beer. My waiter had worked at Joe’s for twenty years and added to my moment…A photo of my feast is at the top of this section, next to the photo that explains why you should never lose your luggage at Sacramento Airport.

The next day, I said goodbye to two very significant parts of my life  I visited my mother’s ashes, interned at Tamslpais Cemetery. I hadn’t been back since her death in the 1970s at too young an age. After locating her by reviewing paper records, I noticed that the cemetery is a beautiful place on 16 steep acres with oak trees and natural grasses  I think she is happy to be here… I appreciate her contributions much more than I did at her death, and felt this was a better opportunity to say goodbye

That afternoon, I made my way back to the Mill Valley Golf Club…A funky nine hole layout squeezed by redwood tree groves. Serious golfers from other homes would never play here.  As a child, I would shun the schoolbus from my elementary school and walk the two miles home: Down the non-maintained town road past our little league diamonds and tennis club…A left turn through the trees on a gravel road led to the golf course…Through a couple fairways, over the creek bridge, and through the redwood grove brought us to the beginning of our housing development on the flank of the mountain. Maybe we went home…Maybe we hiked up to our secret “fort” on the mountain. I still find it hard to believe that our parents (and the golf course managers) let fifth graders walk home unattended. But such was the uniqueness of my childhood.  I am now a golfer and I love to tee up on this funky course with mats for tees and greens the size of postage stamps. And the mountain views !!!

Finally, I said farewell to my high school and my classmates. Once again, I knew how lucky I was to attend Tamaloais High School. First of all, it was a regional school. Kids from five distinct towns shared it, leading to exposure to many diversities: rural, suburban, entitled kids, kids from working class families, kids that lived on the Bay in houseboats, Black kids from Marin City. Second, since it rarely rained, everything was outdoors. We had a Greek theater for assemblies, outdoor benches and courtyards rather than an indoor cafeteria, and an outdoor swimming pool for instruction in gym class. Finally, instead of one main building, each department had their own. It seemed more like a junior college campus than a high school. Our reunion turnout confirmed that many of my classmates felt similar reflections. And yet, it is understood that we will never be together in these numbers again…50 years for a reunion is a climax, never to be replicated in this lifetime.

So goodbye to childhood, and welcome to a continuance of growing up as Mrs Bear and I plan the next of our global adventures. And, oh by the way, have you visited my home state of Pennsylvania???

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