The Things We Take for Granted

August 4, 2014 No comments » [ssba]

You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone

It’s been seven and a half years since I packed up my car and moved across the country to Pittsburgh.  I am a Southern California born and bred girl who fell in love and moved 2600 miles away from my job, my family, my friends to a city I’d never been to; a city that got lots of snow in the winter; a city in which I knew exactly one soul. My stomach still gives a little lurch when I think about these things now, all this time later.  I think to myself, “Was I crazy?”  I mean, who does that!?  Well, I did.  Thank goodness it all worked out, but if my child comes to me one day and wants to do the same thing, I’ll be devastated (mom and dad, I’m sorry about that).  I now use the word “home” dually.  When I talk about home in Pittsburgh, I mean San Diego.  When I’m here in California, home is Pittsburgh.  Today, I sit here at my parents house in Fallbrook (just south of Temecula Wine Country), where I’ve been visiting for four weeks.  I’m not sure why it has happened on this particular trip home – California home – but I have been completely absorbed in soaking up all that I can’t get in Pittsburgh.  I’m grasping all that I ever took for granted living here and it has all been wonderful.

The first thing is the beach.  I suppose many people who grow up with the Pacific Ocean being right at their fingertips neglect it.  It’s always there, you can go anytime you want, it’s not going anywhere.  That’s a little how I felt growing up.  Sure, my family and I spent our fair share of time on the coast, but as I grew older I rarely went.  I could drive along the coast and never once look over at the beautiful, blue vastness of water that brings in coveted ocean breezes on hot days.  I’d do anything for a cool breeze of wind sometimes on the humid, stale summer days we get in Pittsburgh.  On this current trip, I haven’t been able to get enough of the beach.  I’ve taken my son every week, each time to a different stretch of sand.  He digs and builds castles, I sit on a big blanket and think, “I should’ve learned to surf.  That would’ve been cool…why wasn’t I here on every single day of summer vacation and every single day off of work I had when I lived here?”  I find myself driving along the coast every chance I get, even if it takes a lot longer to get to where I’m going.  Yes, I’ve fallen head over heels in love with the Pacific for the first time in my life now that my address is nearly 3000 miles away from it.

The second thing is wine.  Sure, we have wine in Pennsylvania…but not like y’all have it here.  At home – Pittsburgh home – I have to go to a government-run store called a Wine and Spirits store to purchase wine.  These places have a good, but not a consistent selection of wines, and because there is no competition among distributors, prices are higher – sometimes substantially so – than the same wines here in California.  Here, I can walk into any grocery or convenience store and grab a decent bottle of wine, not to mention the Wal-Mart’s, Bevmo’s, Costco’s, Cost Plus’, etc, where it is also readily available.  It’s almost overwhelming; I have no idea where to find the best deal!

No shortage of wine here, or anywhere in California, for that matter

Going wine tasting here in California is another plus.  Actual “wine countries” are a beautiful thing because so many wineries are in one general location.  In Pennsylvania, going “wine tasting” often means going to one winery because tasting rooms are so spread out over the state.  During the past four weeks I’ve been to Temecula wine country four times, spending most of my time at Ponte, of course, getting my fill of their wines – the ones that can’t be shipped to me in Pittsburgh because PA won’t allow it.  My highlights have been: happy hour at The Cellar Lounge – try the Arancini!, the carrot-ginger chilled soup and the watermelon tomato caprese salad at The Restaurant, and the new Pas Doux wine – amazing representation of a dry rose wine.  I must say, Robert Renzoni Winery was also fantastic; I was astounded that they have Brunello on their tasting list.

The third and most significant thing that I realize I’ve taken for granted is family. This trip has not been a relaxing one.  On the contrary, I’ve been going nonstop trying to spend time with cousins, aunts and uncles, brothers and grandparents, not to mention work associates and high school/college friends.  I grew up with family all around me.  Holidays were loud, there was always a wedding or birthday party to look forward to, babysitting was always done by the teenage cousin or the grandparents.  I am happy living in Pittsburgh, but the one thought that makes me tear up every time is my son not growing up with all of his cousins the way I did, because it was a wonderful way to grow up.  And so, of course, he has spent his time here surrounded by family, by all of his little cousins.  His daily schedule has been demolished, his eating habits are destroyed, and I don’t look forward to trying to get him back on his daily nap routine once we fly back home next week. But it will be a small price to pay for the joy of watching him giggle and run with his first cousin, and of hearing him talk with my grandmother. I hope he remembers her.

Ponte: a perfect place to spend time with family

While this is neither my first nor my last visit to California, it has by far been the most poignant.  It is an amazing feeling to really open your eyes and see.  As humans, I think we all realize that we shouldn’t take good things for granted, but sometimes it’s so easy to.  Whether your good thing is the beach, access to wonderful wineries, a plentiful family, or something else completely, my advice is to step back every once in a while, focus on it, and take advantage of as much of the good as you can.


–Erica Martinez

–What wonderful thing in your life do you think you take for granted?

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