Relay: The West Coast

Dear reader: I may have misled you, albeit unknowingly.

Some months ago, I wrote an essay, here in The Star, titled “The Last California Christmas.” It was about the last Christmas my family spent at my parents’ house on the West Coast. 

Dear reader: I may have misled you, albeit unknowingly. 

About a year ago, my parents, both newly retired, abandoned their life in Southern California to join us here, on eastern Long Island. 

Now 67 and 69, it took them a solid year (and that’s being generous) to adjust to their new surroundings. They first braved the humidity and later learned to shovel snow, discovering that weather patterns here change by the minute — the skies routinely unleashing more rain in a few hours than falls on parts of Southern California some years.

Once the temperature approached freezing, Father went online, dutifully purchasing down coats of various weights and lengths, waterproof boots, and flannel-lined jeans in hopes of surviving his first New York winter. 

My parents also got to know their two grandchildren, Theo, 4, and Violet, 1. For years, our relationship consisted of cross-country plane rides and occasional visits. Intimacy became sandwiched into long weekends. A week if we were lucky.

Now, their grandmother makes several appearances throughout the week, sharing in the burden of child care and cooking — also, the joy of spontaneous trips to Serene Green for fresh fish and Long Beach for a quick swim before dinner. 

Eighteen years ago this fall, I moved “back East” for college. I never really moved back to California, apart from a few summers here and there. Though Los Angeles runs through both sides of my bloodline, the East Coast and its people felt instantly familiar. New York is where I started my life as a writer and met my husband and gave birth to our two children.

A few weeks ago, my husband was working in the city and my mother and I were standing in our front yard in Sag Harbor, the children taking turns running through the sprinklers on a hot July afternoon. It occurred to me that being close to people requires vulnerability and that it hasn’t always been my strength, learning to rely on others. 

I looked over at my mother and realized how much I’ve come to rely on her over the past year. And how living across the country from each other seems inconceivable now. Also, should either of my children ever decide to similarly relocate, I will immediately move to wherever they are and find an apartment nearby.  

But I digress. Earlier this month, my husband accepted a job in Silicon Valley. It’s a monumental shift for him professionally and obviously for our family, but he’s more excited than I’ve seen him in a long time. I’m a big believer that when the lights come back on again, excitement overtaking inertia, it’s generally a good idea to follow such impulses. 

Over the past year, Sag Harbor has become our home — its thriving year-round community and wonderful friends alongside whom we planned on raising our children. Last week, we went looking for a new place to live, hoping to replicate much of the magic we’ve found here. In Northern California, standing beneath the eucalyptus and redwood trees, I felt a bit like a transplanted New Yorker visiting a foreign land, albeit one with familiar five-lane freeways and suburban cul-de-sacs stretching as far as the eye can see (see also: earthquakes, wildfires, and droughts). 

I first arrived at The Star in the summer of 2012. My son was only a few months old at the time and I somewhat hastily emailed David, eager to start working and writing again. I did little things at first, attending a school board meeting after Theo had gone to bed, before later diving into more complicated stories of all shapes and sizes. 

This newspaper was a huge part of our decision to move here full time — a yearlong experiment we started in January 2013. Since then, we never moved back to the city, eventually abandoning our two-bedroom apartment, which came to feel like visiting a former life. 

Before coming to The Star, I had never worked at a small-town newspaper. I first got to know this community through its schools. It proved an invaluable lesson to cover a school board meeting, get something wrong, and have to interact with those same people week after week. 

Four years went by in the blink of an eye. 

I guess one of the lessons here is that love makes you consider otherwise crazy things. For my parents, it will be their second cross-country move in two years. And for us, we will again go in search of a place to raise our family. (By the way, if you hear of any progressive, family-owned newspapers doing great journalism, you know where to find me.)

My latest plan is that we will again become summer people. I’m already on the lookout for a rental house. 

August is a magical time. I wait all year for the water to turn this warm. From now until we go, I’m vowing to take a swim in the ocean every day. The majestic beauty of the freezing cold Pacific awaits. But first, a few more swims at Egypt Beach before I go. 


Amanda M. Fairbanks has written for The Star since 2012, and she will be missed.