Mari Katherine Raftopoulos
Mari Katherine Raftopoulos' column appears in the Craig Daily Press
and the Saturday Morning Press
We roamed around the island of Catalina - on foot and on bike - mingling with the locals and wandering with no distinct direction.
Not only was this adventure a kickoff to summer, but it was also my goodbye to the sandy beaches, best friends and a summer romance that turned to much more of California.
One thing stuck out the most to me upon this wandering adventure. It was a white-washed, wooden, wiry sign.
It was the kind of sign you see at a home decor shop that gives you a warm feeling inside or reminds you of one person.
The sign that is a common gift among women, because when all else fails, a wiry sign like this as a gift can always be counted on to bring a smile to the face of the recipient.
There usually is a quote adorning these antique-looking signs that gives it all its spark and sentiment.
Some of them are cheesy and some of them confusing, but the one that clenched me was the wiry sign in Catalina.
Confirming all my decisions for the this summer, it read, "Home is where the stories begin."
It didn't say home is where the heart is, even though I do believe in that quote, no matter how cliche it is. Instead it spoke of the stories that are created at one's roots.
I have created many stories among my travels overseas and time spent in college. Some of them are too wild to repeat, some of them too funny that they are repeated 100 times and never get old, and others, well, they have me tearing up just thinking about them.
But, aside from these stories and these moments, none of them compare to ones that are shared at dinner time over a glass of red wine and a perfectly marinated rib eye with my family at home in Colorado.
Last night, I decided to put a little spice into the Raftopoulos kitchen menu by making a homemade barbecue chicken pizza. Yes, homemade the dough and everything.
As my brothers trampled in with their boots, spurs, dirt mustaches and a bottle of wine, I knew this would be a night of infamous storytelling.
Each of us claimed to be experts on pizza making as Angelo used the rolling pin to flatten the dough; George tossed it up in the air yelling 'OPA' and dropping half on the floor and the other half on his cowboy hat.
And me, well I swore that I had my yiayias hands for dough. While none of the methods resulted in the perfectly circle or rectangular thin crust that we were aiming for, it was yet another story created at home.
As we reminisced, our family was extended when a comforting childhood friend, Derek, enlightened us with some of his memories.
It seems as though the present was rarely mentioned because I believe that by living in the moment the present smoothly passes and therefore there is no need to mention it.
We retraced through high school romances, the best wedding reception bloopers and hilarious cattle driving stories. And it was a constant cycle, being that one story lead to the next.
While to an outsider these story jumps could seem unrelated, the randomness flowed to us perfectly and elegantly.
Whether the jumps were from our cleaning lady stories, our grandparents stories, or our very own, they all had a unique bond.
I had my calendar marked up for the summer in San Diego.
Concert one weekend, Sunday night barbecues, photography on days off and a trips across the United States.
Although it seemed like a summer from paradise full of more stories and more memories, something just didn't feel right, as if I was missing something.
As a forgetful person, I examined my checklist, but the necessity I was lacking wasn't materialistic and couldn't be written down.
Instead, it was the stories from my home that I was forgetting.
With life being so unpredictable, why do we always try to predict it?
Oftentimes, we deny the signs that tell us the right decision and try to predict what is right instead of letting it just happen.
By listening to these signs, I canceled all the San Diego festivities out of instinct and came home for the summer to reconnect and ground myself in the stories that have created who I am.