When I was seventeen years old, I stood on the shores of Lake Michigan for the very last time. I was only three years old when my dad took us from the sunny shores of Southern California to Detroit. I had no real memories of California and always considered Michigan my true home. I knew the streets better than the lines on my palms. I visited that very lake every summer as I grew up, and then I was expected to say goodbye. No warning. Just like that.
A week later, I was standing on a different shore. Lake Michigan was large enough so that it sometimes felt like you were staring out at the ocean. But the real ocean was different. A canvas of greens and blues stretched out as far as the horizon. The waves were big and imposing, the water salty and green. It smelled different. Even the sand felt unfamiliar and foreign. There were no fond memories associated with this place. No nostalgia. I just felt so very lost.
My dad's parents once owned and ran an orange grove within the San Diego county limits. It was back before cities and housing developments covered every inch of land. But as my father grew up, so did the rest of the county. And by the time he was an adult, the grove was reduced to a few acres of land. Even though I'd lived there as a little girl, I hadn't been back since the day we left. I barely remembered running through the orange trees, and so I felt no real loss when I discovered nothing was left of the grove now, save for a few trees in the backyard or scattering neighboring properties.
My dad inherited the land after his parents died. But since we were restarting our lives in Detroit, he sold off the grove and kept nothing but the house. Which he'd rented out to random families until deciding to claim it.
I knew nothing about California. My home was in Michigan. To me, California was just the place where movies were made and the beaches were warm. I saw it on TV, heard about it in my dad's stories, but I didn't know it. And at that moment, I never wanted to.
I knew why we'd come back to California. And more importantly, why my dad suddenly decided to drop his entire life to return, but that didn't mean I wasn't angry about it.
He claimed I needed a fresh start. To live in a place not associated with dark memories or pain.
But it was more than just the bad memories I was leaving behind in Detroit. It was the good memories he had left behind in California.
Our new home was strangely lush and tropical. We were living in a town named after its close proximity to the ocean, and even though it was only March, the air was heavy with moisture and the sun was too hot. I didn't like it.
The house was actually six miles east of the waterline. It was a big, old house hidden behind orange trees and unkempt palms. The grove was long gone and new little houses had been built in its place, so the building stuck out as out of place. My new bedroom was the room my dad had when he was growing up. His furniture was gone, but the remains of his childhood still lingered in the room. There was cowboy wallpaper and markings of his growth in the closet. It smelled old and unused for the first few days.
My window looked out over the bare backyard with the few remaining orange trees and a single apple tree he'd planted for my mother. I could see into the neighbor's yard through the chain-link that divided us. White jasmines had taken over the fence. They were in full bloom, and at night when I laid in my new room with the window open, the air was permeated with the scent of them.
When I was a kid, I used to get hurt a lot. There were a lot of average childhood injuries, like scraped knees and bumped heads., but there were other things that weren't just the result of a clumsy rambunctious child. It happened with such alarming regularity that my dad began to joke I was cursed. He called it the "Lunacy Fringe." I looked it up in a dictionary once, just to see what that meant, but it had nothing to do with curses.
Either way, it was something I'd lived with since I could remember. Anytime something odd or inconvenient happened, it was the Fringe. Anytime I got hurt or made a life-altering mistake, it was the Fringe. Once, my dad admitted that my mom had been afflicted with a similar curse. But he didn't talk about her much. He preferred to keep moving forward. Never look back. If it wasn't for the Fringe, and the few comments about how I looked like her, I'd have no connection to her at all.
My dad said to keep my eyes forward, and now she was the future. And so we'd packed up and moved across the country because my dad had left something behind that he'd regretted every day since we left for Detroit.
I had a brother. And even though my mother was no longer my dad's future, he was. And as soon as he'd tracked them down, and the demons of Detroit began to break me, he had nothing tying him there anymore. Nothing but my entire life and childhood and everything I'd ever known.
So when I stood out on the beach that morning, watching the sunrise from behind me, I blamed the Lunacy Fringe for bringing me there. For taking away everything I loved and knew. And even all the dark things that kept me up at night and threatened to drown me. My dad always said the Lunacy Fringe would go out with a bang. He said it would cause all of the good and bad things to happen in my life, and when it finally left, I'd know it. And I hoped that it meant the Lunacy Fringe was done with me now. I could have a normal life and be a normal teenager with normal problems.
But I was wrong. The Lunacy Fringe would bring a lot of change to my life. Some things would be scary and life-altering, but some would be amazing and wonderful. I'd get hurt. I'd feel pain and fear. But I'd feel love too.
I just didn't know any of that yet. I stood there on the beach, watching the clouds change colors, and I hoped the Lunacy Fringe was finally letting me go. Funny really, since it was just getting started.