I went back in time yesterday. That’s what it feels like whenever I wind down through the canyon road that leads to the other side of the rim of foothills behind Laguna Beach. There are four houses in the Cliff section that I’ve called my home at times ranging from 1937 through 1975. Do I wish I’d stayed in any one of them? How would my life story have read today if I had?
Well, my favorite town definitely was Laguna Beach. Even though it has kept much of its charm from my childhood days it is polished and still the same “ten miles long and six inches wide.” That is simply a geographical fact and no doubt one that has helped to keep it unique.
“Where shall we go for lunch, Mom?” My weekly date with Robin, my daughter, hadn’t taken us to Laguna Beach in a long time so we decided quickly. Lunch at a special place is usually a part of our day.
“If I could have my pick of places I’d choose Trotter’s Bakery,” I said.
Robin agreed. “Me too. Who could forget those ham and cheese sandwiches on rye bread we used to take to the beach? They were warm and so filled with thin slices you could hardly open your mouth wide enough to take the first bite.”
“And don’t forget the aromatic mustard and delicious giant dill pickle too!” I added. But many years ago Trotter’s had been taken over by a fancy gourmet restaurant. “It might seem traitorous, but let’s try that one,” I said. And we did. We sat right by the sidewalk with only a half partition to keep us separate from mothers with baby strollers, friendly dogs and shaggy old-timers as well as young laughing teens clad scantily and heading toward the beach. The ambiance, service by a charming young woman and superb food were great.
Afterwards we went shopping and I bought a pair of shoes that cost me what three pairs might have in my usual shops, but they promise to be easy on my feet and they’re not clunky but good looking as well. In quest of a garden watering can we ended up at the old Coast Hardware store that “has everything” we were told. I didn’t buy one but went out with a new clock, a potato masher and two paperback books about Laguna Beach in the early days.
“There’s a picture of me and my mother in this one,” I told Robin. “We’re in the crowd standing on the curb as President Franklin D. Roosevelt went through town back in July of 1938.” With the help of a magnifying glass Robin found me. “Yup, that’s you all right, Mom! You must have been about twelve then, right?”
I couldn’t decide between the books so I bought both and now I’m going to have to ration my time perusing them because, well, it’s been so long since I spent my junior high school days there I want to savor every page and picture.
I’d gladly have lived in Laguna Beach all my life if I could have but we did land there at the end of Wally’s Marine flight career and stayed for fifteen years when our three kids were going to school. We all picked up the “Laguna tic”as the old-timers said we would.
But had we stayed I’d have missed those eight years on our Oregon ranch, the three in our lakeside home in Bellevue Washington, the seven near Robin’s little family in Laguna Niguel after Wally G. died, the three in my old hometown of Preston, Minnesota, the eight with Robby, my second hubby, in Chesterfield, Missouri, the four in Santa Barbara after he passed, and my latest five in Laguna Hills.
Laguna Beach now shares its first name with all the other Laguna cities that have sprung up where bare hills, strawberry fields and orange groves claimed the lands in back of the hills behind Laguna Beach. What has grown up here since those early days? Cities, suburbs, and spreading crops of skyscrapers, not to mention the labyrinth of packed freeways and an international airport.
My little community here at The Willows is quiet and homey and lovely. I’m glad to be near my beloved Laguna Beach so I can see her, reminisce as I taste the salt air, bask by the beach and stroll her quaint streets. Through all the years she has managed to keep her charm, but golly those books I bought sure make me feel old! (But better!)