Letter to My California Dreamer: Seeking Love and Freedom in San Francisco

4 min
Amber Evans' parents with Amber in utero. (Courtesy of Amber Evans)

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For a series we’re calling “Letter To My California Dreamer,” we’re asking Californians from all walks of life to write a short letter to one of the first people in their family who came to the Golden State. The letter should explain:

What was their California Dream?
What happened to it?
Is that California Dream still alive for you?

Here's a letter KQED listener Amber Evans wrote to her mother:

Dear Mom,

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Thank you.

You left your abusive mother in New York City to start a life in San Francisco, lured by stories of the Summer of Love. Meeting my father on arrival, he was drawn from L.A. by the same freedom found in San Francisco’s late 60s hippie culture. Your dream was to find love, make love. And with me, your only daughter, you say you learned what love was for the first time.

You raised me as a single mom. And as a social worker, you made roots in San Francisco, pioneering a Single Parents Network in the Family Service Agency. You facilitated a gathering of single parents to discuss the challenges of parenting alone. You made sure I was educated by California public schools.

I went to a collaborative preschool with kids whose parents were in the San Francisco Mime Troupe and the radical Symbionese Liberation Army, embedding me in San Francisco history forever.

From public schools in San Francisco, I graduated to UC Santa Cruz to find my own love (a second generation Californian himself). Now, my only son is graduating from Berkeley High this week to head to my alma mater UCSC.

Amber Evans and her son Kyle Troll on the day of his high school graduation. (Courtesy of Amber Evans)

My house, bought as I started grad school at UC Berkeley, is paid off, and unlike so many in the Bay Area, we feel secure. But much of my extended family have moved out of California, sighting the crippling cost of housing.

Also mom, you are now showing signs of dementia, and there is nothing more dream-crushing than facing the loss of memory. Your husband of 35 years, watches the retirement he dreamed of with you slip away, as we face great financial risk.

Amber Evans' mom and her extended family. (Courtesy of Amber Evans)

Living only in the liberal enclaves of San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Berkeley, the Golden California Dream, one attained by you, passed through to me ... to my son, for him to now flourish while I settle into my middle-life, juggling his next steps with yours, as you pass into your fog -- the dream now muted.

All my love,

Amber