Chelle Summer

California Dreams

Michelle Rusk

Somewhere around the time I turned thirteen, my goal was to move to California, Los Angeles, specifically. And somewhere along that line, the dream didn’t shatter so much as other events in life happened and I found myself taking other roads, including one road that led me to Albuquerque. It’s like I put the dream down and left it on my desk, covered by everything else that seemed more pressing in my life.

That dream makes me think of my eighty-something neighbor across the street who told me how she and her then-husband were bound for Los Angeles from Kansas in the 1950s when the baby got sick and they had to stop in Albuquerque where a lack of funds forced them to stay here. I often joke that, too, I was bound for Los Angeles, but somehow I didn’t quite make it that far.

Then around 2008, life began to take me back to Los Angeles and slowly the dream emerged again, as if I was cleaning off my desk and found it. By then something about the dream changed when Sam and Lois Bloom entered my life. They kept inviting me to stay with them in Palos Verdes and on my second visit when Lois turned her head back in the car and said, “Sure you can rent a surfboard. Why not?” – a moment that seemed insignificant at the time– was a turning point in making the dream come true.

No, I don’t live in Los Angeles now, nor do I ever plan to live there full time. However, because of the Blooms– and a husband who has enjoyed getting to know a new city– Los Angeles is my second home in many ways. Slowly, we have built a portion of our life there and we’ll continue to do so.

What I see in the rearview is how my parents took me on a journey of my life– in the Chicago area– but one that I have become disconnected from in many ways because of Los Angeles. It’s not bad, it’s about me moving forward, about being the person I’m supposed to be. I wouldn’t be who I am without the Midwest, Chicago, Naperville, but the dreams of Los Angeles kept me going through miserable snow and dark winters, knowing that there was something else out there for me.

I sometimes think of my sister Denise and the Blooms’ son Sammy– who died by suicide in the early 1980s– getting together in heaven and plotting getting me to Los Angeles. Then my dad died and he joined the conversation, followed by my mom just three weeks before Greg and I made our first trip there together.

It’s as if my parents were there for a portion of my life and now the Blooms are what I call my “California parents” because I know without them, I wouldn’t have been able to explore and made the area feel as much like home as I have.

Just a few weeks ago, I stood in the church we attend when we are there, lighting a candle, the day before we came home. As I prayed– having a conversation with God– I thought, “Each time I come here, I leave inspired in some way. I come here for so many reasons and I leave…with so much.”

I wouldn’t be able to tell you the exact reasons why life drew me there at age thirteen, but I see now that I was following a path that I allowed to unfold in front of me– maybe not as I expected or as quickly as I wanted– but one that was meant to be, a dream that I kept alive in some way.

And made happen.