Age is a funny thing. It seems that the progression of time and experience brings with it new perspective and appreciation. When I was in 5th grade my parents moved us from the California bay area to the Sacramento region with hopes of providing us a slower pace of life away from so much big city influence. We landed in a small suburb just North of Sacramento, quiet in all its suburban splendor but still close enough to access the bustling city life as needed. I hated it there. Throughout my youth I longed to get away, not to return to city life but to find even more remote stretches of land, further away from the city and into the stillness that can only exists in those isolated patches of the world.
After college, I made my escape into the Northern regions of California where I built a career and had a child. I lived in isolated pockets of land where it almost seemed logical to take your car to your neighbor’s home, or at least ride your bike. In the summers, we cultivated large gardens and canned the food we reaped from the land. And in the winters, we played games huddled next to cozy fires and big bowls of soup. It was exactly the Laura Ingalls type of existence I had dreamed of as a little kid living the city life. But by the time my son’s 3rd birthday rolled around, things began to change. It was evident early on that my son wasn’t developing typically and by the time he was 3, it was effecting daycare and preschool. Soon, I was making all too frequent journeys back to Sacramento, visiting health specialists and other medical professionals. At 4 he was officially diagnosed with autism and a whole new path of life was laid out before us. Suddenly my isolated little world seemed, well, isolated.
For a time, I kept us in our remote part of the world, believing that the peaceful sanctuary we had created would provide order and continuity for my son. We continued to make long journeys to visit specialists in Sacramento on a regular basis but I was reluctant to leave the haven I had built. But when he started school I discovered a disheartening truth, resources were limited in our part of the world and as my son grew older he would need access to a greater number of things, assistance that was most readily available in an area like Sacramento.
By the time my son turned 12, I had made the painful decision to move us back to the Sacramento region. It was a heartbreaking move for me. I knew it was necessary and I wanted my son to have the best opportunities possible but it felt so much like I was letting go of a dream. It was hard to believe I could be happy here. And yet, a little over a year later, my only regret is not having made the move sooner.
Cost-of-living is higher here, which has meant occupying smaller living space. Our garden was the biggest sacrifice in this, having since been reduced to a few potted plants on the patio. But we have discovered a large community of bountiful farmer’s markets that more than supplement our patio garden and make for lovely outings. We have also discovered the secret, isolated gems of the city, places that make me wonder how I ever missed them to begin with! The American River Parkway offers beautiful walks with many spots for peaceful contemplation as does the River Walk Park of West Sacramento. Downtown, we have discovered the Tower Café with its incredible outdoor garden area and food that is to die for!
Perhaps more importantly however, we have discovered a community of love and acceptance. Sacramento is a diverse community that treasures its diversity. With access to resources and an open and accepting community, my son has a true sense of belonging here. Such a thing is a gift beyond measure for a parent of a child with special needs. Additionally, being close to the political scene of our state’s capitol, he is learning to advocate for himself and others, finding his voice and becoming a true member of society.
I never imagined I would find myself back here as an adult but now I can’t imagine leaving. It seems my parents were right after all, Sacramento is a vibrant, diverse community with all the benefits of a big city and all the natural, isolated wonders of a small town.
This post is a part of our Lore series where we invite local writers to share their perspectives on the Capital in which they live. If you want to write about your State Capital please get in touch. We are especially interested in hearing from unique and underrepresented voices. I want to give a big thank you to Kara for sharing her story.
Images used in this text
Cover Image by Xia Gordon