A Sense of Home

Written by Mary Nunez

My grandfather came to Fillmore in 1962, driving up in an old station wagon with his wife and his then six kids. He was moving away from his family down in Orange County, but as it turned out, he was leaving them only to find a new one. A quirky, hard-working, wonderful community, filled with beautiful old souls. A rich valley ribbed with citrus groves and the lingering remnants of stone fruit orchards. A place with a sense of home.

That was the Fillmore he found, the town he entrusted with educating his children, with his ranch, and with his future.

I was born into that future in 2004. The daughter of a social butterfly, I was thrust into everything. I have entered every Fillmore Flower Show since I was 7(and attended the garden tour after), and in the Christmas parade, I was always one of the bedsheet - robed shepherds leading a goat down Central Avenue.

None of this really matters, except to point out that those things haven't really happened this past year and a half. And yes, it's to keep us all safe, and of course that's important. But for the past few months, I've been considering how important my community is to me also. How much I can feel those events not being there, marked on the calendar. I loved those occasions; the runs, parades, holidays. All of it.

But I realized something this past month, while in the middle of Faulkner's The Hamlet. A community is not made up of the events it organizes, its parades, or composed of only the floats who show up.

A community is based on people. People who come together, creating connections and joy. Talking, laughing, and making memories together, taking pride in our town. There is history and guidance in those conversations. Stories about Rancho Sespe, and Camulos, and the way it was. Tidbits on everything from raising plants to raising children. Funny stories, tearjerkers: relationships. But they can’t take place unless we are willing to make a commitment to our community, and recognize that the future of this place, everything that makes it special lies in our hands.

It would be too easy, as Covid, and it's Delta variant rage, to give in to fear, not to hope for the next conversation, the next time we can all be together as a community. To lose the tight-knit sense of family culled and protected over generations. Instead, as the library opens, and school comes back into session, I hope we come back stronger than ever, like chaparral after a fire. At my grandfather’s funeral, the church and hall were filled, with still more people spilling into the outside. Half of those people came from this town, and that is just as much a testament to them as it is to him. My only goal in this “letter” is to try and ensure that the respect, generosity, and friendship I have grown to love here does not get lost in these isolated days.

A friend of mine from Santa Paula likes to make fun of Fillmore - he knows it irks me. But I am proud that our town is small - that you can run into someone just by walking downtown. I am proud of the heritage of the grower., the pickers, and our Mayberry-ness. The ‘F’ on the mountain lighting up at night, and the way San Cayetano stands over us. I hope you’re proud too.