We've had an influx of new wives to the PD this year (coincides with new officers . . . go figure) and they've been talking about how hard it is moving away from home. That's made me think about how it was for us so I thought I'd jot down some thoughts. I have to go back and try to put myself in my shoes of 23 years ago and try to really remember how things were "once upon a time."
Moving from the spread-out-everything-within-just-a-few-minutes San Jose/Santa Clara Valley to what-do-you-mean-the-Country-Mall-isn't-a-real-mall town of Willits was a bit of a culture shock. Did I say a bit? Make that HUGE culture shock. I remember the first time I went to Safeway after moving here. I was standing in line to check out and everything was moving so slowly! "Good Lord, can't these people move any faster? What in the world do they have to talk about? For that matter, WHY are they standing there gabbing. Chop! Chop! Get a move on! I've got things to do, people to see, places to go!" This was all going on in my head of course. Well, I didn't really have any of those things to do. I was just still in the SJ mindset. In SJ, checkers actually had little signs posted at their registers telling them to move people through quickly and to NOT TALK. Wow. What a difference from here. Here, I discovered, people all knew each other. Going to the grocery store was a social event. You ALWAYS ran into someone you knew so you'd stop and chat and catch up on the local news and gossip. You also knew all the checkers because you'd been going to the grocery store all your life and you probably went to school with them or their kids and maybe you even used to go over and play there or whatever. So, as I discovered, people chatted in line. They weren't in a hurry (generally speaking) and they weren't rude. It's hard to be rude to someone who you know you're going to have to deal with every single time you go to that store. It's not like there are a lot of options to shop somewhere else. So that was my first experience with the differences between my old home and my new home. My first impression was that they were so SLOW here. Turns out that's not a bad thing to be.
Lest I get sidetracked, let me interject something here. I wasn't only adjusting to an entirely new and different place to live. I was adjusting to a new lifestyle. I'd spent the entire prior year working full-time while Mike stayed home with the girls. I worked in a medium-sized semiconductor company. I was one of the two HR Reps. Before getting married, I worked in HR and was fortunate in that I got to do college recruiting. I went to various colleges on the west coast and got to interview engineering soon-to-be-grads to see if they'd be a good fit for our company. This was back in the day of startup computer companies. You know when the company would provide KEGS on Friday afternoons AT WORK. Ok, so I got sidetracked. Where was I? Oh yeah. Big changes. Back to grocery shopping.
So how long did it take for me to adjust to that one thing? I'm not really sure. I think it was a couple of months. I got to know the checkers so eventually I was able to join in on the chatting.
That first year or so I probably went home once a month or so. Maybe even more because I remember going home when Mike was working. I also probably did that for longer than the first year. My sister's kids are the same ages as mine, within just a few months of each other so we used to do a lot of things together. I missed that and I missed all of them. I didn't have as many friends down there as most of them had moved away, but most of my family was there. At that time it was a four and a half hour drive. There've been a lot of changes to 101 between then and now. Now it only takes three hours and fifteen minutes.
What a culture shock it was coming here. At that time, all there was in Ukiah was a Penney's and a ratty old K-Mart. No Mervyn's, no Kohl's, no Home Depot, Walgreen's or WalMart. There wasn't even a Ray's. It was a big empty shell that had been started but never finished. I think the Rite-Aid was a Thrifty's back then. I went from having everything I needed just minutes away to those things I THOUGHT I needed now hours away. To my utter disbelief, the nearest mall was an hour and a half away. And, hello! The Country Mall? (Currently JD Redhouse) That wasn't a mall! It was an old building with a few little shops and a restaurant in it. I thought I'd die. Not really, but . . . no mall? Really?
I love my old home, but the San Jose I love is the San Jose of the 60's, 70's and early 80's. After we left in 1987, it really started changing. In our own little middle-class neighborhood, houses were torn down and big mansions built. Whole cities were completely changed so that now I don't recognize them. I lived there for nearly 30 years and now when I go down there, because so much of it has changed so much that it's unrecognizable, I lose my bearings and get lost! Thankfully, some of it hasn't changed at all so, in parts of it, I can still feel like it's my old hometown. Now there's only one sister left in San Jose. That means that I only go down there a few times a year. I wish it was more, though, because I miss her and I still miss "home."
You know, when we decided to move up here, we intended to stay in Willits for two years or so. In April we'll have been here 23 years. This town kind of grows on you. :o) You get invested in it and in peoples' lives. It takes a while, though. Before we moved up here, we had one weekend to find a place to live. Our first home was in a dark, very shaded house off of Birch. (Thank you Jack Tuttle and Jim Miller for showing up to help us unload our very first day here!) It was down a hill and in a little valley. It was great for walking down to Summer Lake . . . when there was a Summer Lake . . . and for taking walks and hiking on the logging trails. That part of it was great. But we absolutely froze during the wintertime. We weren't at all prepared. Thankfully, we were able to find someplace else after a couple of years. That was a couple of years too long, though.
Other than people at the PD, I started meeting people through my kids. It took about a year, though, because they were only 2 and 3 1/2 when we moved here. They didn't go to preschool, but when Cherlyn started kindergarten, I started making non-PD friends. It was kind of difficult, too, because when we came here, EVERYONE else had either been here for years or they'd lived here forever. There wasn't anyone else with little kids. In fact, the next oldest ones were in high school. The PD definitely wasn't as much of a family place as it is now. I didn't really know the other wives very well. (In fact, some of them had nothing at all to do with the PD.)
That first year was a difficult one. Mike started in April and in August, he and two of the other guys went to a call where a man was refusing to give his son back after visitation. It was in the Van Hotel (back when those were apartments). They got there and the guy had a gun. Turned out one of the guys had to shoot him with, Mike and the other guy as his backup. It was a bit stressful for me. I think what I remember about it the most was Mike coming home from work and us getting the girls up from bed and then going over to one of the guys' house for a bit of a debriefing. The other two guys and their wives were sent to a shrink for a formal debriefing but for some reason they didn't send the rookie and his wife. Go figure. We went to Disneyland on vacation a week or two after it happened and I remember a comment being made about that being our debriefing. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I could've used it.
Mike was in his dream job and he threw himself at it completely. So much so that the rest of us didn't receive as much attention. In fact, after about a year and a half we had to have a "come to Jesus meeting." Things were not good, but they got better after that. For the wives/girlfriends new to this line of work, I would heartily suggest you go on as many ride-alongs as your husband/boyfriend will agree to. I know it's hard with little ones. I rarely went on any because we never had anyone to watch the girls. I always felt left out because there were a couple of other wives who were able to do it whenever they wanted and I couldn't. It's important, though, so that you know what's going on at work. What's the saying? Hours of boredom following by 30 seconds of sheer terror? That's close enough. That's fodder for another note, though.
Back in the older days of the PD, we used to have lots of socializing, plenty of barbecues. I miss those a lot. I think the last time we did anything was at Heiken's house before someone left . . . Tim Snider? No, wait. Jeff did the pumpkin carving at his house. Ok. Never mind what I said. But we need to do more. :o)
I said a ways back that we only intended to stay here for a couple of years and then move on. We actually almost did move on four or five years ago. Mike applied at Sonoma SO and actually got to the background point. Apparently they really wanted him because they kept bugging him and bugging him to do it, but he didn't. He kept putting it off. I finally asked him if he thought maybe there was a reason for that, that maybe he really didn't want to leave. Part of him did (want to leave), but a bigger part of him felt like he needed to stay, that there was still more to do here. So we stayed. Our retirement won't be as good as if we'd left (like probably by half!), but we both think we did the right thing by staying. Others left at the same time for their own reasons . . . all of them good and valid, but we stayed for our own reasons . . . also good and valid. You have to do what's best for your own family, for what feels right for you.
So to the newer people I would say, welcome to your new home. Get to know people. Get involved. Learn about your husband's job. Stay focused on the two of you . . . let him know that there is life outside his job and he needs to remember that. Still visit your old home. Give yourself time to move your heart from there to here. It takes a while, but it will get better. Oh. And Spring, Summer and Fall are beautiful here! They make up for wet, cold, grey, depressing winters. Wait until you see the lilacs and daffodils in the Spring.