In 1976, my dad announced to us kids that he had purchased some property in Cloverdale. It was to be the family’s weekend get-a-way/summer retreat. Born and bred in San Francisco, my three brothers and I were very curious about this northern part of the state that we naturally pictured as rolling hills covered in masses of green clover!
My dad and mom were thrilled to retreat to the ramshackle ranch house where my father happily enrolled in viniculture classes and dabbled in wine making. The dazzling fall colors were a delight to my mother who was an amateur painter. She looked like a little Monet sitting in her chair in the middle of the vineyard.
We quickly felt the pure exhilaration of being able to run free in the meadows, chase jack rabbits, cruise down the Russian River in old, beat up tires and explore the perimeters of the town in our old jeep. We picked persimmons off the fruit trees and created freshly baked delights! Our somewhat raucous family dinners at Mamma Nina’s and lunches at the Owl Cafe were special bonding times amidst everyone’s busy lives. The winter in Cloverdale could have seemed gloomy and dreary, but to us, it was quiet, calm and welcoming. We looked forward to the traditional Citrus Fair and especially the 4-H Club. We City kids had never experienced the responsibility of caring for barnyard animals!
After rearing my five children in San Francisco, I found myself once again thinking about the little town of my youth. A few years ago, we announced to our children that we had purchased a summer retreat in Cloverdale – a weekend get-a-way. Now, our extensive brood eagerly escapes the crowded, noisy San Francisco city life for a quiet respite with their own families. Still, there are the hot summer nights and lazy floats down the Russian River in old, beat up tires. Still, there is the wise Owl who nods to the past from the roof of the old Owl Cafe. It’s the same old Cloverdale in many ways, but I came back, back to experience the best yet.