Before moving to Fontana, my parents had shared a condo in Los Angeles with my aunt, uncle and cousins. My mom wanted some space and was a bit uncomfortable in my uncle’s apartment, and my dad agreed that I needed a proper home to spend my childhood in. My parents decided to move to Rancho Cucamonga to a town home, and later to the spacious house in Fontana that I grew to love. My uncle’s family followed suit and moved a couple of blocks away from my home.
I still cherish the four years I spent in Fontana; for me, it will always be the perfect place to live. The city was along Foothill Boulevard, which was part of the Historic U.S. Route 66 freeway. When you entered the suburban city through Foothill Boulevard, you would immediately be welcomed by the stores on Baseline Avenue and a view of Cucamonga Peak. It was always sunny and dry during the spring, scorching hot during the summer, windy during autumn (to the point where garbage cans would be flying), and in winter, the skies would be cloudy with rain here and there. The suburb had rolling fields, a palm tree in every corner, and wide roads where teenagers would sometimes take joyrides in. There were stores everywhere, and as we drove around town, I would always pester my mom to take me to Del Taco for their cheese and bean burritos with fries. The parks were large, and Fontana was so spacious that one would often forget that over 200,000 residents were within city boundaries.
My old house was large. Outside, my mom had lovingly planted roses along the porch and every spring, they bloom beautifully, delighting everyone on sight. The walls of the house were white and a kitchen island separated the family room from the kitchen. Upstairs, we had an enormous loft that led into five other rooms. During playdates, my friends and I would run around upstairs because of how much space there was. Our garden, however, was what made our home special. The garden had a large unused fire pit, and blossoms of pink bougainvillea everywhere. In the middle of the garden, there was a large patch of grass and surrounding it were tomato, lemon and apple plants, that my cousins still pick from every once in awhile.
I remember my first day of kindergarten as a student in the Fontana Unified School District. My mother had cut my hair short, too short, I thought. In an effort to look more effeminate, I often went around town wearing headbands and this one purple cap from Children’s Place to look effeminate. I was a smiling chatterbox and enjoyed Tutor Time Preschool, where it was a nice supplement to things I already knew and enjoyed doing, like reading books (yes, I could read picture books intended for first graders by the age of four), learning how to count even more numbers beyond the number thirty, and having fun with the toys available.
At the time, I recall having a very jovial conversation with my parents about going to kindergarten in the old blue Hyundai Sonata. My father asked if I wanted to go to school, and I wholeheartedly agreed, contrary to what other kids my age would have replied. Most kids would have clung to their mothers, but I didn’t; I said that I wanted to go. When my father pointed to Grant Elementary (which I affectionately referred to as Dorothy Elementary and said that Elmo’s goldfish went there) and asked if I wanted to go there, I excitedly agreed. I remember jumping out of the car and eagerly running towards Mrs. Matheson’s classroom with my parents proudly looking on towards their little girl approach her education with enthusiasm and vigor. Looking back, I only remember the good times back in Fontana, which is probably why I still call it home, even though I’ve lived in Dublin longer.
I knew many people in town. My cousins, Jameel and Asheeka, lived two streets away from us; we would often come over to each other’s houses and play with each other. Jameel and I went to the same school, and I would always embarrass him by waving and making faces at him during lunch in front of his friends. He never was amused with my antics. My best friend in school was Brianna Barnes, who I had met in kindergarten. We often had playdates and her mother, who was a photographer, loved taking photos of the two of us playing; in fact I still have the photos that she took. My other best friend was Sabeeca Vadakan. We often went to Michael’s together for art projects and liked making our younger sisters play with each other (our sisters are the same age). I also knew our next door neighbors, and their son Andre. I would wave at him, and he waved back.
Summers were were quite memorable. During these times, my family and my cousins’ family would all get together to do something fun. One memory I have is of the entire family going to Disneyland. I was four years old and had kept pestering my parents to go to Disneyland. Eventually, my parents gave in and had my uncle get free Disneyland tickets for everybody from the university he was working in. We went to many rides, and my parents took many pictures of our families. However, my favorite ride out of all of of the attractions at Disneyland would have to be “It’s a Small World”. It happened to be my very first amusement park ride too. I remember sitting next to Jameel on a boat while going inside a white castle with fairy lights strewn over. There were tiny little dolls singing around and there were multiple countries being represented. I was especially happy when my dad pointed out the dolls representing India. Overall, Disneyland was greatly enjoyed by all.
I moved to Dublin eight years ago and still visit Fontana from time to time. Although I’ve lived in Dublin for a longer time and am more accustomed to the Bay Area, my heart lies in Fontana and Southern California. I still identify as a Southern Californian and am closer with people in Southern California than Northern California. As a result, I have often felt out of place simply because I cannot really connect to Dublin; I am just more emotionally tied to Fontana and the good memories I have of my early childhood. The memories I had in Fontana always pop up in waves of nostalgia whenever I am in Southern California too. However, as I grow up, I am also changing. I wonder if the warm city I call home is undergoing any change as well.