As the saying goes, "Home is where the heart is." For me, home is a small suburb of East Los Angeles called El Sereno, in an even smaller community called Hillside Village. The best part of growing up here, is that I lived so close to my high school, which of course meant that my home became the preferred ditching destination. Now, of course being a mother and raising my kids in this community, I see the value of living here differently.
I can't erase or hide the fact that I live in a "low-income" "gang infested" area of this country. I grew up here, and on several occasions I have seen the search light from a police helicopter shining through my bedroom window. On a daily basis I will hear the "ghetto birds" over head accompanied by police sirens, sometimes a few times a day, and a lot of the time at all hours of the night. In the almost 20 years that I have lived here, I have seen so much change, I am proud of where I live and where I have chosen to raise my children.
A Hillside Village Halloween
I have spent almost every Halloween of my life here, in this neighborhood. As a child, this house belonged to my grandparents, so every Halloween, my sister and I would meet up with all of our cousins and trick or treat in this neighborhood. I think one of the factors that makes this neighborhood appealing, is that there is a definite feeling of "safety in numbers." Within the surrounding 5 blocks, you can see the excitement of Halloween all month long in the crazy decorations that people put out. And on the night of, there are numerous haunted houses or little shows that the home owners put on for the kids, our house included. Our house is decorated the first weekend in October, and on Halloween night my dad sets a table up outside with his fog machine handy, while my mom makes all the kids say "trick or treat" if they want candy, and makes endless comments on all of the costumes. In the last 10 years or so this neighborhood has become more popular, we have estimated that we see close to 500 people every Halloween night. It never fails that we run out of candy and have to retreat inside while another hundred or so kids continue their search for candy. Now my girls are growing up knowing and appreciating this fun holiday, and look forward to it every year, the way I do.
A new tradition that has started the past few years around our neighborhood, is Christmas Carolers! Christmas Carolers are straight out of old movies and needless to say pretty uncommon in most present day neighborhoods in East Los Angeles. I am not sure of which group puts this together in our neighborhood, but I am so grateful that they do. This is the second year that my girls have seen them, and last year, we just happened to be baking peanut butter cookies. My oldest daughter Lacey proudly passed cookies out to the carolers. I love that a group of individuals, with the holiday spirit in tow, go out into the cold, walk around the neighborhood, and sing songs, with the intent of spreading joy.
Wilson High School Fireworks
Hillside Village surrounds Woodrow Wilson High School, my Alma Mater. Something that Wilson High School does, that a lot of high schools don't do is put on a firework show twice a year. Every year at Homecoming and at Graduation the school puts on a pretty impressive show for the community. When your a kid, fireworks are usually a once a year treat, on the 4th of July, but that's not the case for us here. It is awesome that during the Fall and annually in June, my girls are treated to fireworks. It's the small things in life that you really have to take a minute to breathe in and appreciate, becoming a mother has instilled this into me, daily. The look on your child's face as they see fireworks is special, and priceless and should be appreciated.
4th of July
Every 4th of July, the people of this community go out into the summer heat and line the streets to watch the kids participate in the parade, which leads to the fair at El Sereno Park. Our little community park becomes overwhelmed with people as we search through the crowds for familiar faces, and support our local organizations by playing the games set up for the kids, buy the food, and listen to the music. The evening ends while the kids faces are lit by the show of loud, colorful, fireworks.
|Our View from Ascot Hills|
In the past few years, the city developed the piece of land across the street from Wilson High School. Ascot Hills is such a beautiful, hidden spot of nature in the middle of the concrete jungle that is Los Angeles. It really is so amazing, to walk 1/4 of a mile and be surrounded by the smell and sounds of nature. There are several hiking trails that take you to the tops of the hills where you can see the Downtown Los Angeles skyline. This past Earth Day we attended the 2nd Annual Kite Festival at Ascot Hills. It was a lot of fun for the girls, they received a complimentary kite, we hiked up to the top of the hill and flew our kites. As we walked down, and on our way out, our local councilman handed Lacey her first trophy for participating in the kite festival. It is all of these little things that matter in life, the proud and confused look on her face was unforgettable.
I am proud to say that this is where I am raising my children. I hope that they will one day understand and appreciate the sacrifices that we make for them, to be able to grow up in an area so enriched with community support, diversity and beauty.
|Downtown Los Angeles Skyline from Ascot Hills|