I fancy myself a bicoastal woman.

The forging of this status began on a bitingly cold day in Lexington, Massachusetts in the winter of 1959 as I walked with childhood friends to Old Reservoir Pond with ice skates slung over my right shoulder. Through puffs of cold breath I announced to Jill and Kim that my family was moving at the end of the summer to Los Angeles because my dad would be “working on rockets” there.

My friends exclaimed, “Wow, you’re so lucky! You’ll see movie stars in Hollywood and get to go to Disneyland!”

That day I had no way of knowing how amazing my two years in LA would be.”

But I didn’t feel lucky. After all, there would be no ice or snow in California. I wouldn’t be able to go skating on ponds because water there wouldn’t freeze in the winter, nor could I speed prone down Woodcliff Road on my Flexible Flyer after it snowed.

Even worse, my dad would be giving away Spooky and Tigger because the people we’d be renting a house from in California didn’t want cats or dogs there. Most of all, I would miss all my friends in Massachusetts. That day I had no way of knowing how amazing my two years in LA would be.

My family arrived in Brentwood on my 11th birthday. It was a hot day and it was difficult to breathe because of the layer of mauve-colored smog hanging on the horizon. Our rental was a single-story house of yellow stucco that my younger brother Bobby and I liked a lot because we would have our own bedrooms for the first time in our lives. My room was the bigger one, and I had a double bed with a built-in shelf for books!

Within our first week in Brentwood, my mother allowed me to purchase three dime store turtles because I sorely missed caring for our family’s cats. I named the turtles Basil, Oregano, and Cinnamon, and enjoyed watching them paddle around their oval plastic “pool” that I had placed on the top of my bookshelf. They would snap up the tiny pieces of hamburger I offered from the tip of a toothpick, and routinely basked under a gooseneck lamp on top of the speckled rock I placed for them in the water.

Within the first week in Brentwood, Bobby and I discovered a gaggle of boys and girls who were playing an embellished version of baseball in the street. As they darted about, tanned and sweaty, they invited us to join them. I happily made friends that day with several girls with whom I was to share many adventures. Valli, Niki, Brooke, and I went swimming all year long at area beaches and even swam while fully clothed at the Sands Hotel pool on Sunset Boulevard—which proved entertaining for the hotel guests.

Eventually my school friend Eva would sometimes join us. On Fridays, we would watch Twilight Zone at one of our homes, and on Saturdays we gathered to walk to Westwood Village through the VA cemetery to see 35-cent movies at either the Fox or the Bruin theatre. After the movie, we’d buy ice cream cones at the nearby Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors. While there, my friends and I would guess what flavor each customer near us would choose based on how they behaved and dressed—and were surprised when we got it right some of the time.

One Saturday we were inspired after seeing South Pacific at the Bruin. After walking home, Valli, Niki, Brooke, and I shimmied between our garage and our neighbor’s and proceeded to sing songs from South Pacific on the roof of our garage to regale whoever was walking by.

If a desert wind whipped through our neighborhood on a weekend, my friends and I would forego Westwood Village. We would sit in chairs on my front porch for a bird’s eye view of forceful gusts of hot sandy wind. With each gust, we toasted one another with fancy glasses of a carbonated beverage made from water and “Fizzy” tablets. We called these events “Happy Fizzy Parties.”

Two years after moving to Brentwood, my family moved back to our gray Cape in Lexington, Massachusetts, and it was here that I reluctantly turned 13.

I recognized that I had earned “street cred” among my friends because I had lived those two years in Los Angeles.”

I had always been a female Peter Pan, never wanting to reach adulthood too quickly. Reuniting with my old friends there took my mind off of growing up. Only a few months after returning to Lexington, my family moved to a town west of Boston called Wayland.

Our new contemporary house there had vertical clapboards of clear-stained wood and a front door painted a bright crimson red. Inside the house were high beamed ceilings and walls of windows, and every room smelled of wood. It was bigger than any house we had ever lived in. Our backyard was a forested hill, and beyond this was a dairy farm surrounded by fir trees and open fields where alfalfa was planted every spring.

A year after moving to Wayland, my first boyfriend (who my mother called “Heathcliff”) and I would meet in the fields behind my house, take walks in the woods, and listen to rock songs on his transistor radio. I realized then that I didn’t mind so much being a teenager.

Throughout my schooling in Wayland, college in Boston, and two years of graduate school in Philadelphia, I recognized that I had earned “street cred” among my friends because I had lived those two years in Los Angeles.

As an adult, I moved from Massachusetts to San Luis Obispo in the 1980s with my husband Terry and our nine-year-old son Chris. Terry had been hired by Cal Poly to teach in their School of Architecture, and as a social worker in SLO I worked weekly at two parttime jobs.

My husband and I were pleased that we could actually balance our work with meeting and socializing with new friends. This had not been possible when our jobs in the Northeast spilled over into weekends and holidays. In California, we were especially grateful that Chris, who had been anxious at his rigorous school back east, quickly made friends at C.L. Smith school, and became confident about tackling his schoolwork. He played baseball in the spring (without snowdrifts melting into May), and was proud to be Professor Marvel in his fourth grade class rendition of The Wizard of Oz. When we returned to the Boston area a couple years later to be closer to our aging parents and our siblings, my husband and I agreed that we’d return to SLO sometime in the future.

Once or twice a year we return to the East Coast for visits to siblings and friends of many years.”

Terry and I moved back to SLO in 2018, and have been enjoying a more balanced life on the Central Coast ever since.

What’s not to like? There are stunning mountain ranges here, plenty of sunshine, friends we’ve kept since the 1980s, and new friendships to enjoy. Once or twice a year we return to the East Coast for visits to siblings and friends of many years.

This year we saw Terry’s sister in Rockville, Maryland and went to the Portrait Museum in D.C. where paintings or photographs of every U.S. president are hung. There were rings of viewers around the Obama portraits while visitors to the photo of a glowering Trump were scarce.

After a few days in Maryland, Terry and I took an Amtrak train north to Brookline, Massachusetts. While searching for places to eat lunch during the days we were there, we found ourselves ramping up our gait on sidewalks to dodge scissoring college students aiming to catch the right buses to their varied destinations.

On the East Coast, the rushing masses on sidewalks were as familiar to us as the scent of impending snow in the winter or the dance of fireflies on muggy summer nights. One evening while still in Massachusetts, we crisscrossed streets of magnificent three-story houses in Jamaica Plain en route from our bus stop to the home of longtime friends. We were surprised to find the sidewalks to ourselves, not having to dodge anyone trying to catch a bus.

Our final stop in New England was Danby, Vermont where Terry and I had purchased land in the 1980s a couple of years after we left SLO. Back in Massachusetts, we were missing life with a view of mountain ranges, and in Danby we could see a panorama of rolling hills from the windows of the little house we eventually built there.

Our younger son Jonathan joined us in Vermont this year, and the three of us were able to explore our land more thoroughly because it had not snowed at all this past winter, likely due to global warming. Instead of gelid fields, their wheat-colored grass was marshy, and we found woods, streams, and stone walls I had never seen before.

I also recognized for the first time that our land abutted two small Quaker cemeteries I had visited many times before from the main road. This is where the Vail family had buried four young daughters in the early 1800s, and I’m guessing that the children had died from childhood infections that antibiotics in more recent decades would have cured.

In the morning, the view from our windows of rounded peaked mountains, now chartreuse from abundant rain, was especially lovely.”

Our vacation over, Terry and I drove back to Boston, and (owing to winter storms) we took a protracted, turbulent night flight to the West Coast. After a stop in Denver, we at last were ferried home after midnight from the SLO airport by a garrulous Lyft driver whose chatter kept us from falling asleep. In the morning, the view from our windows of rounded peaked mountains, now chartreuse from abundant rain, was especially lovely.

Later in the day I stopped at California Fresh for groceries to stock our near empty refrigerator. The young man at the cash register asked with a bright smile, “How is your day going so far?”

And it was then that I knew I was finally home.

:: Andrea Heinlein