Different Shades of Gray

Different Shades of Gray

Excerpt from the Multiple Award-Winning Memoir, “What Lies Within”

I arrived in California on Memorial Day weekend 1961. Expecting sunshine and flowers, I encountered moisture-laden gray skies and barren desert. “Where’s the sun?” I asked my uncle, who had driven my mother, sister, and me across country. “You told us we were going to sunny Southern California.”  

“We don’t get much sun this time of year,” Uncle Richard replied. “If it comes out at all, the sun will appear late in the afternoon.” 

My expectations fell once more. I had not wanted to leave New Jersey and suspected the gray skies portended things to come. While I’d experienced many gray days growing up back East, I thought California would be different and return the sunshine to our newly changed lives. 

Unc tried to lift my spirits by taking me to the beach the next day. We drove from Alhambra to Redondo Beach, where I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. The sun shone on the inviting azure-toned water, so different from the leaden-looking Atlantic. We strolled down to the beach to get a closer look. Teenagers resembling models in sun tan lotion ads strolled along the shore.  

I just stared, feeling like an awkward, pale-skinned, dishwater blond from New Jersey amidst the bronzed, bikini-clad California girls and the guys who hung all over them. They all looked so tan and confident. 

“Let’s go,” I pleaded. “I don’t feel like swimming today.” 

Bewildered, my uncle drove back to Alhambra, wondering what had happened to transform the sunny day to May gray.