Los Altos sits in an odd overlap between the cozy, ranch-style houses of suburbia and the decadent wealth and privilege of the Silicon Valley. It’s the kind of place where the high school parking lot is a hodgepodge amalgam of used Craigslist Toyotas and Benz’s, where twelve year olds use their parents’ Nikons to take Instagram pictures.
Soon, I hope to get on a plane with two large suitcases and fly to the East Coast. Eventually, the house I live in will become “my parents’ house.” Los Altos will become a hometown, three assonant syllables dripping with nostalgia and an escapist longing for the blissful naivete of childhood. Childhood.
I won’t see Google self-driving cars or preteens taking pictures of themselves in Brandy Melville for months at a time, then years, and then I’ll return to the bed I slept in for seventeen years and the memories will come rushing back.
But I’ll have forgotten the details of this place: the feeling of biking with a backpack on and a Starbucks in one sweating palm, the hellish gladiator ring that is the front parking lot after sixth period. These things will be gone, but their residual feeling will remain.
Because I love this place, dammit. I’ve worked for the past four years to run to the East Coast, as far away from Rainbow sandals and self-driving cars as possible, but no matter what I tell myself, I love this place.
There are also so many things wrong with this place: Los Altos is a homogeneous bubble of wealth, STEM-centric and bland. With a subtly proud, guilty amusement we joke about our privilege: “That’s the most Los Altos thing I’ve ever seen” tends to refer to freshmen driving orange sports cars or head-to-toe Lululemon, headed to Soulcycle.
Los Altos is all of its problems but also all of the people in it, the people and places that I’ve grown up with. It’s being a fourth grader and walking with friends to Andronico’s to buy candy and eat it on the grass, sitting on our backpacks. It might be problematic, but it’s home.
I’ve wanted to leave this town since I was old enough to walk home from Loyola. But now that I’m on the cusp of going, I find myself grasping at the details of Los Altos, bits and pieces that will eventually slip from my fingers like fine sand. I’ll miss this place.