For our series “Letters 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 from Katrin Ciaffa, to herself:
You were a California Dreamer since you first watched “Hair” at your neighborhood movie theater in Hamburg, Germany, at 13. Later, the Grateful Dead, combined with a solid dose of psychedelics, confirmed that San Francisco was the place to be.
Of course, it was the '80s and you were more than 20 years late to that particular party … but that didn’t stop you.
As a graduate student at the University of Hamburg, you applied to a bunch of colleges for internship opportunities in counseling, the primary criteria being that the campus was in or near San Francisco. Europeans tend to not quite grasp the vast expanses of the American West, and on a map, it seemed like UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz were basically just right next to the Golden Gate. Alas, neither of them welcomed you in.
Instead, it was Sonoma State University, located in the City of Rohnert Park -- who had ever heard of that? Rohnert Park was most definitely not San Francisco, but it was mercifully close to it.
With the assistance of Golden Gate Transit, and a dear new friend of a friend, a hip and kind hairdresser with a tiny apartment in the Mission District, you set out to capture your personal version of the California Dream. And you succeeded -- perhaps more than you bargained for.
Twenty-five years later, you are still here -- with a California husband (born in Yonkers, NY, but raised in Orange County), a daughter born in Santa Rosa (who currently is exploring her European roots as an au pair in Germany -- full circle, anyone?!), and your 93-year-old mom who sold her house in Hamburg and moved to the Sonoma Wine Country 10 years ago.
Seems like the California Dream is contagious across generations.
What a long strange trip it’s been!
Peace and Love,
We’d love to see your letter to your family’s California Dreamer. Maybe it was a parent, a great-great grandparent or maybe even you were the first in your family to come to California with a dream. Fill out the form here and share your story with us!