The Mundling Zone

Thoughts, rants, and raves from the desk of Michelle Mundling

Friday, October 06, 2006

Roadtrippin': The Beginning

For the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting an ongoing journal of my road trip from Georgia to California. It is a combination vacation/self-actualization journey.

Why is this trip important to me?

San Diego was a place in which I had started developing my own interests, my own friends, my own identity. The house we lived in at Miramar NAS (now a marine base) was the first place that felt like home to me. I had just turned four years old when we arrived, my dad being transferred there from Virginia Beach. By the time I was ten years old, I had spent 50% of my life in one home, one neighborhood, one school. It was what I was comfortable with ... what I was familiar with.

Dad retired from the Navy when I was nine years old. My sister still had one year of high school left. Mom and Dad didn't want to take her out and put her in a strange school, so we rented a house in the Clairemont area of San Diego. I had to change schools, but I thought it was cool that I could walk to school instead of riding the bus. In addition, a lot of schools back then were similar, so it wasn't too different from attending one school or another ... just different students and teachers.

When my sister graduated high school, there was no reason to stay in San Diego. The cost of living was too high. We had some land in Colorado, but a snowstorm prompted my parents to change their mind about moving there. Dad suggested moving to Waycross because Mom's family was there. Mom liked the idea.

On July 7, 1975, we left San Diego. I had to leave behind everything I was familiar with. I didn't want to leave. I had to say goodbye to my friends. I had no idea what to expect.

We arrived to Waycross on July 14, 1975. I thought we had arrived to Green Acres (the TV show). We had been travelling on a road that had sporadic run-down wooden homes and mobile homes. Mom didn't realize until later that the particular route we took might not have given me a good impression of the town (you think???). We pulled up to my maternal grandmother's house, and I looked around. There were rows of older-looking wooden homes. Mom and Dad were looking where to put the luggage and the moving truck. I was still looking for Arnold the pig to show up with a welcome basket in his mouth.

The next few months were not pleasant.

I was not used to the high 90F+ temperatures and the high humidity. No matter how many times I showered, I still didn't feel fresh and clean. It felt like someone opened a Pepsi or Coke and poured it over my body.

My body chemistry made me a buffet treat to all the biting insects in the area. What's worse, I was having allergic reactions to their bites. I remember one night being taken to a family member who was a pharmacist for help because I was seriously ill. I somehow managed to get numerous mosquito bites all over my body, and I couldn't stop scratching. Mom told me later that I had a fever and they were worried about me because I got so sick. I looked like I had a relapse of the chicken pox.

It was hard for me to converse with people. I was not familiar with their southern accents, and I'm sure they got tired of me asking them to repeat what they said. Some even started making fun of me for the way I spoke. I was a sensitive child, so their ridicule hurt. I just wanted to fit in, and I was failing miserably.

We didn't have these problems in San Diego. Why did we have to leave?

I learned to adapt. It took me awhile, but I managed. Cooler weather helped, also. Unlike California, we actually had cold weather during the fall and winter months. I loved it. It was such a reprieve from the hot sticky weather I suffered through before. Regardless of the time of year, when it's around 70 - 72 degrees with very low humidity, and I feel a breeze, I immediately think of San Diego.

I longed to see San Diego again. I had brought this up with Mom a couple of times over the years. She kept brushing it off as silly and stupid. Why would I want to do something like that? It's not going to be the same as when we lived there. I didn't expect it to, but why should that stop me? I learned not to mention it around her. It was obvious she would not be supportive of this venture. Dad was more supportive, but after dealing with Mom, I didn't bring it up again for discussion.

When a loved one dies, it tends to make you philosophic. Two months after my mother passed away, I started looking at where I was and what I wanted to do with my life. I started seriously thinking about making the trip. I had the finances, a well-maintained vehicle, the vacation time, and the desire to revisit a lost childhood. That is when I knew that the time had come to to make the return.

I do want to clarify that I love living in Waycross. I've grown to love the landscape, the people, and the history. As an adult, Waycross is my hometown.

But speaking for the 10-year old little girl who had to say goodbye to everything she loved, I'm finally going home.


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