I grew up in California, in Palo Alto to be exact, and spent my weekends and summers in Santa Cruz–just over the mountains and through the woods. My grandparents lived on Seabright Beach, the sound of the ocean a constant soundtrack to daily life. Their house had the oldest living Cypress tree in the neighborhood; when it died it had to be removed by the city because if it fell, it would have taken out almost an entire block with its huge canopy. Their house was also where many of the neighbors congregated in the early evening for a cocktail (or attitude adjustment, as my grandma used to say). I can still hear the clinking of ice in glass as Roberta, from the corner house on the street, would come into the living room.
Many of the people who owned the houses on the street lived in Stockton, Ca (inland about 3 hours away, near Sacramento) but would all vacation in Santa Cruz. However, my grandparents lived there year-round, raising their kids and taking care of my great-grandparents. Their house was home base, their door always open to receive guests. When you walked in, you felt safe, loved, and part of the community. Years later when my grandparents were nearing the ends of their lives, the house started to fall apart bit by bit. And yet, none of us noticed it because their light shone so brightly, it masked the reality of a house needing repair.
When my grandparents died, they left their house to me and I still own it today. While I don’t get to live in it year-round as they did, I get to vacation there, when it works for me, my husband, and our two small children. My kids get to climb the same twisting staircase, bathe in the same enormous claw foot tub, and feel the same love that enveloped four previous generations of children. They didn’t get to meet my grandparents, but the fact that they get to be in that house means they know who my grandparents were: kind, funny, caring, loving. The house exudes it.
The Seabright neighborhood is filled with cute houses: each one is a different color with gingerbread details on old Victorians, all made of wood, odd but with cute details on porches, funny little windows, tiny garages, and so many succulents and beautiful flowers trailing over entryways. While many new families have moved into the neighborhood, there are several of us who still have ties to the original families who owned houses by the beach. Several of us still refer to the houses by the last name of the family living there in the 1960’s. The Moultons’ house will always be the Moultons’, Charlie Miller’s house will always be Charlie’s house.
My children scurry down to the beach just as I did as a child, as did my father and his cousins… My husband and I fall asleep to the sound of waves pounding on the beach just as my grandparents did. Our table seems to magically expand as a few more friends squeeze around to share a meal with us. These dwellings are our collective home, whether our stay is measured in days or in years, and we know we will always be welcomed.
:: Kelsey ::
From a cozy California beach house to a swarming bee hive hanging high in a tree–these are the dwellings that inspired the 2017 XL Calendar. Buy yours today and have it in time for the holidays!
Beautiful! The sense of family and continuity is missing in so many of our young children’s lives. You and yours are truly blessed.
Wonderful to read this, Kelsey.
Love to you and your family
This entire essay (and the photography, too) is lovely, and especially the closing lines: “My children scurry down to the beach just as I did as a child, as did my father and his cousins… My husband and I fall asleep to the sound of waves pounding on the beach just as my grandparents did. Our table seems to magically expand as a few more friends squeeze around to share a meal with us. These dwellings are our collective home, whether our stay is measured in days or in years, and we know we will always be welcomed.”