Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Left My Heart in Claremont

It's a fun thing to journey back to the places that made you who you are.

After Julie's class on Saturday I got very nostalgic thinking of Claremont, this city I had grown up with and loved so much. Really, I owe my love affair with this city to my family. My mom introduced me to Stamp Your Heart Out and as I grew older she shared more and more with me; for a great scoop of ice cream go to Bert & Rocky's, for a delicious Italian meal go to Arufos, for coffee and pastry to start your day right, there is Some Crust Bakery, and for beautiful artwork and shopping go to Carkle Sudie. My mom was obsessed with Mary Engelbreit's art for quite some time and Carkle Sudie was the only store that carried her products. We were in there so often that we learned that the store's name came from a nickname the owner had been given as a young girl from her grandparents. It was my grandma who also did volunteer work in Claremont, at this thrift store called the Economy Shop. She would always let me buy hats and vintage jewelry when I'd go to help her out. When I passed by these places on Saturday I felt a pull. And for some inexplicable reason I felt almost sad that so much time had passed, that such a gap remained between me and these memories. I felt almost guilty that I had not thought of these places or walked these streets for so long.
So with a childhood spent in Claremont, it should be no surprise that when it came time to go to college my top pick was Pitzer (www.pitzer.edu). What's funny is that while this seems fated now, at the time I actually had no idea where I wanted to apply until the last minute. But when I found Pitzer it all just made sense. Claremont is actually a college town, in fact, all the streets are named after ivy league schools. While going to school there I made new memories, new discoveries about great local haunts that I got to inform my mom and others about. For an incredible slice of pizza, there's Pizza n' Such, for a great vegan meal, drinks, and a show go to The Press (where I actually spent a Valentine's Day), and for the BEST cookie ever (and they're vegan) along with a delicious cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, go to The Motley at Scripps college. I am forever grateful to this city that I called home for 3 years while in school. I received the best education, where my peers and professors indulged in creativity, pushed me to write, and believed in me. As I am writing this I realize that perhaps this is too fluffly, as college was a challenge. The sleepless nights, the papers, the stress. But truth be told, I would give a lot to go back to those days, when happiness and a day well spent meant walking to the village for coffee, sitting in the library reading, and writing until I fell asleep. How lucky I was to find my voice there, to find the right words.
People in Orange County sometimes have these pre-conceived prejudices about cities and towns further inland. But I encourage you, if you are ever on your way to L.A. or are looking for a great academic experience, to stop by Claremont and give it a stroll and a chance. There are five undergraduate colleges, one graduate university, art museums and antique stores, and this great downtown square. They recently developed the area to include a movie theater and new shops and restaurants, which is really cool, but I still prefer the older part of town, as that's where all the memories are.
Perhaps we all have places like this, shaped by our family into the houses of our memory. I know where I come from, I know where I've been, the streets I've walked to get here. There's a large gate that stands between the entrance to the Claremont village and Pomona College (the first of the five colleges found in Claremont). I did not walk far enough down to get a picture of it, but the words inscribed on the gate have stayed with me for all these years, "Let only the eager, thoughtful, and reverent enter here." I would hope that I am still worthy to enter onto these grounds, that I have maintained my sense of self, and more importantly, that I am still eager to learn. May we all remain thoughtful, mindful of the places we come from, and open to where we will go. I was hesitant to leave those gates when I graduated; to leave the safety and confines of the life I knew and to enter into the world. But I am ultimately grateful that I stepped outside my boundaries and into the discomforts of the world, because I know I can always go back.


  1. Thank you for sharing such wonderful memories. Claremont has been my little refuge for about 25 years now. Coming from college in San Francisco to LA, then settling in the OC for a bit, moving to the affordable IE was a bit of a let down. Back then...not even a Target! Claremont was and continues to be that tiny slice of heaven for me.

  2. claremont is also a favorite city for me and spent much of my childhood shopping there with my grandmother. love,love,love,the lemon bars at the some crust bakery!

  3. I used to have several favorite haunts in Claremont that were well worth the drive out to this charming town.
    Rousseau's garden on West Bonita Avenue was a favorite for the most amazing and inspiring silk floral creations, furnishings and gifts.
    Another favorite is Barbara Cheatley's on Yale Avenue always filled with nostalgic gems, gifts, cards, decorations and more.
    Thanks for the reminder, I will be going back with your suggestions tucked in my pocket for a day of pleasure.

  4. Love your writing! You gave me chills. Thanks for sharing this special place with us!... And yes, we can always go back, you can't imagine how perfect the timing of your post is.

  5. My parents live in Claremont and I grew-up in Upland. I used to have coffee at Nick's all the time. My husband and I had our rehearsal dinner at Walter's. Small world! Looking forward to seeing you on Monday.