For a long time, this memory existed as a blip on my radar. Something in my life that was slightly inconsequential. Something I never really cared about, something that never really mattered. Every couple of years, I remembered it and then it was gone. This is my first real, solid, memory of being at Sonoma State. I’d been there a few years before for my aunts graduation, but I hardly remember that, beyond wandering the then-stark-seeming field between Salazar and The Commons looking for my aunt. Also, I think I almost accidently photo-bombed a picture, back in the days of film.
When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I was invited to join People2People Student Ambassadors on some cool global traveling experience. I don’t remember the details of it too much, but my mom and I went to an information meeting. Sadly, the trip cost more than she made in like, two years or whatever, but it turns out that’s not really the point of this story.
The meeting was at Sonoma State University, in a newly-built space called the Cooperage, located on the edge of Sauvignon Village. I wore a vest that day. It was black and kinda puffy. Long hair, young face, as crazy and independent as ever. I remember walking from where my mom’s friend (our ride) dropped us off to the meeting space. I don’t think at that time that I understood that it was a college campus, or even completely understood what college was.
I remember sitting in that meeting, staring at places I thought I’d never see because of numbers I didn’t even know existed. To me, for anyone to have that much money just…available… seemed crazy. My mother was very passionate about me following my dreams, and would do anything to make anything happen – not in a spoiled child way, but in a “I want my son to have the opportunities I never had” way – but this was one where I knew things would never happen.
As we left the meeting, I dreamed of leaving my Sonoma County bubble. I dreamed of being awesome, and having friends I saw all the time. I dreamt of seeing the sphinx, the pyramids, Rome, and so much more. My mother went to the restroom, and told me to wait outside for our ride. I walked to stand on the sidewalk by the street. I stood and waited, pacing a little bit.
The apartments looked newer and nicer than almost anything I had ever seen. Fancy stucco walls. The beautiful trees, and happy young people hanging out on balconies. That was something I was not used to. Young people. People on balconies hanging out. I remember bicycles too.
The breeze lightly tossed the trees. I stood smiling, as I saw my mother emerge from the building. She walked towards me, very serious. Almost looking perplexed. I waved.
“Hi Mom!” I said. I hugged her. Because hugging is awesome.
“You blended in so well, I hardly recognized you.”
“What?” I asked, confused.
“You blended in. You look like you belong here.”
I grinned, proud of my ability to look older than I actually was. My heart filled with the desire to belong to some kind of group or place. A few moments later, our ride came and we were whisked away.
To be continued…