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Calling Mom from California

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Kate’s Take

By: Kate Cayanni  |  May 2, 2024

My mom and I have forgotten how to talk to each other. My parents recently visited us, for two weeks over spring break, and I found it so difficult to connect.  It felt challenging to have even simple conversations, which seemed to make the quiet pauses even quieter, longer. When I said goodbye and put them on a plane back home, I felt grief for the closeness I’d like to have with her, and relief that tomorrow we would all be back in our own spaces of comfort, and could continue to play our roles in a distant connection.

Like many things in life, it’s complicated. 

I grew up in Oklahoma.  After I graduated college, at the age of 22, I moved to California to attend culinary school. I didn’t know anyone here. I’d never even been to California before, but it was nine months of learning to cook in the Napa Valley and I. Was. Going. I found a room for rent in a retired couple’s home in St. Helena on Craig’s List.  I rented it sight unseen.  My parents insisted on driving out to California with me (much too dangerous to do on my own), so we caravanned in our Nissans out of Oklahoma, through Kansas to Colorado, up to Wyoming and across Utah, Nevada, then into California.  Mountains, desert scruff, the great salt plains, more desert, golden California hillsides, then vineyards and up route 29 which is dotted with all of the wineries and restaurants that I’d only read about in magazines before this.  I remember the excitement and the awe at how beautiful and picturesque the Napa Valley was.  We turned off 29 in St. Helena and the road up the hill snaked steeply.  Near the top of Spring Mountain Road, we took the correct forks, as directed by my new landlord and pulled up, all of my possessions crammed into the trunk of my car.

We were greeted by Bev, one of the homeowners, and she told us to wait and we’d unload in a few minutes, we can just look around first.  The house was absolutely enchanted with a little vineyard on the property, a wine cellar, a little theater room and a chef’s kitchen.  Beautifully carved custom wood accents decorate the doorways and the molding.  Through the dining room, you step through French doors that put you on a deck that looks out over Mount St. Helena and the vineyards below.  Bev follows us out with glasses of wine and a cheese plate and we sit at the dining table on the deck, which is covered by climbing vines of wisteria, and we look out over the view.  The next year of my life in this place -- a place unlike anywhere I’ve been before -- fills my brain.  My mom sits across from me as I take it all in and she sighs, “Oh, Katie…you’re never coming home.”

As is often the case with moms…she was right. The year of culinary school turned into years of working in the hospitality industry in Napa and then in San Francisco. Years of no time off for the holidays and visiting only in January. Years of growing up while living away. There were moments dotting this time where I might have moved home: a job opportunity, a bad roommate situation, but my mom’s prediction was solidified when I met someone who I’ve now made a life with. I was never going home. 

It isn’t easy, the decision to make a life away from our mothers. I went from my twenties to my thirties, keeping in touch with phone calls and occasional visits. Updating her on work drama, roommate stories, new hobbies and friends. My life was filled and busy with people she’d never meet and places she’d not likely visit. After becoming a mother, myself, I was completely humbled by the immense and immediate love that swells inside. I remember distinctly the new appreciation I had for my mom, and when she visited after my first baby, said, “you never knew you could love something so much, did you?” Right again. I poured myself into mothering, and had little energy to report on anything else.

Now, that baby is 7 and she has a 4-year-old little brother. My mom generally makes a trip to California once a year. We try to go to Oklahoma annually too. We talk often on the phone; I show her the kids running through the house like crazy on FaceTime. I tell her about our busy lives, the work I’m doing, what’s for dinner, how many birthday parties and playdates are filling our calendar. When she visits, it’s tough sometimes to feel connected. I have new hobbies now, a completely different job, and friends she doesn’t know. The quiet pauses, the lack of knowing what to ask or what to say comes from not really knowing each other very well anymore. My choice to go to California was an adventure and a challenge to see if I could do it. My choice to stay was a series of decisions to follow a new opportunity or not give up in a particular challenge. California empowered me in a way that home in Oklahoma never did. We grew up without much money and my mother worked so hard. She did not have the same opportunities or resources that I do now. I have her voice in my head to thank for my own ambition and initiative to go after my dreams. It is my hope that these experiences continue to push me to build connection with my kiddos at every opportunity. I can’t depend on my children to always stay close by (not with the example I’ve set), but perhaps when they seize their own opportunities in life, they will remember to call their mom and come home and tell me their stories.

I look back on those years after moving to California, and the version of me that braved moving into San Francisco and the version that fell in love and the version that started her own business and the version who poured herself into motherhood until she hardly knew herself anymore. The version now who finally sees all of those parts and has begun to know herself more fully than I ever dared before. To my mother, I think I’m still that girl who went to California and never came home. But I’ve been so many other women since then, living away from her mother. 


Kate lives in San Rafael with her husband and kiddos, Zoey and Sam.  She enjoys handwritten letters, home baking projects and writing.  Through her business, Good Smart Funny, she offers life and leadership coaching to entrepreneurs, mothers and people leaders who are interested in leading an intentional life.
More from this issue:

A Love Letter to Mothers HERE >> 

Advertorial: One in Ten—Understanding Secondary Infertility HERE >>

Calling Mom from California HERE >> 

May is Maternal Mental Health Month HERE >> 

Midlife Review HERE >>