In 1943, my father exchanged his iceman’s uniform for a suit and tie. Union Ice Company was having financial difficulties, and Dad had enough sense to get out of the cold. Offered a management position with Sprouse Reitz, he had the option of running a five-and-dime in Sonora or Sonoma. What a difference one letter makes. I don’t know why he chose Sonora over Sonoma, then a small town that was mainly dairy farms and walnut groves. Perhaps he thought Sonora was up and coming. Or maybe he simply got lost. He had a terrible sense of direction.
The family lived in gold country for the next 10 years. My brother and oldest sister graduated from high school, and all four of my siblings went through grammar school there. I, too, would’ve gone to those schools, but I was four when we left. Had my father decided on Sonoma, our lives may have turned out quite differently. Maybe my mother wouldn’t have abandoned her children and disintegrated as she did. Maybe my 12-year-old sister wouldn’t have been kidnapped off Sonora’s main street on a summer evening by four riff-raff with bad intentions, maybe my oldest sister wouldn’t have had to get married her senior year, maybe my parents wouldn’t have divorced and lost everything, and maybe our family wouldn’t have scattered like the wind.
Though certainly, had not all this occurred and had my mother not behaved so badly, I wouldn’t have had much to write about.
Interestingly, I ended up in Sonoma 30 years later. I’d left a five-year marriage with a four-year-old and a baby of less than six months. Unlike my mother, I kept my children. It’s also interesting that my first job here was with Old Healthy’s at 136 W. Napa Street. It was in the Peterson building that’s now the Bank of Marin, which also happens to be the same building Sprouse Reitz was in during the mid 40s, and where my father would’ve worked had we come here.
What are the odds I’d move to Sonoma and work in the same building my dad would’ve worked in? Was it coincidence? Was it synchronicity? Was it fate? If you believe everything happens for a reason — which I do — then it could be all those things.
As we could not survive on $2 an hour and Food Stamps for very long and still live indoors, I quit the health food store and opened my own business. In 1975, a partner and I started a fresh carrot juice company; Country Fresh Products still operates today. I moved on and earned my real estate license in 1982, and have worked in that career since, running the company, showing property, getting lost (I take after my father), and finding my way in the world.
I met Stephanie Moore and joined her dance class, and then Michael Naumer and enrolled in his work on consciousness and relationships. Stephanie became a writing teacher and for five years I sat in her Monday night class and wrote stories about my family. They evolved into a book, and subsequently I wrote another, both influenced greatly by those two teachers. A month ago I voiced that I wanted to expand my audience, the universe listened, and I was offered a column in the Sonoma Valley Sun (this is my first) and a radio show on KSVY. I love it when the universe pays attention!
So, meandering on this long and winding road is how I got here. I’ve become entwined with this Valley, my home for 43 years. I was meant to be here.
An irreverent humorist, astute storyteller, and local author, Catherine co-hosts Random Acts, a monthly open mic at Readers Books, hosts a radio show, Speakeasy, on KSVY, and posts a weekly blog at Sevenau.com. [email protected]