Valley Voices

Jill Simonian: Big-city mom finds herself crushing on Fresno

Jill Simonian with her two daughters, flower girls in a recent family wedding, and her husband, Dr. Andre Panossian.
Jill Simonian with her two daughters, flower girls in a recent family wedding, and her husband, Dr. Andre Panossian.

It happened again last month, for the third time. I was at one of my younger cousin’s weddings in my hometown and felt it.

I knew that feeling from a few times before. The very first time it happened, at another younger cousin’s wedding also in my hometown last year, I thought it was a fluke on account of being away from my usual daily routine. The second time it happened, at another younger cousin’s wedding, I got suspicious.

And now it’s happened again. At yet another wedding.

That same feeling. IT. A precise, 50/50 mix of happiness and sadness at the exact same time. Simultaneously. Strangely. Uncomfortably. Maybe I just have a thing with weddings. Maybe I just need more dressed-up events in my everyday mom life to counter the ongoing cleaning and feeding and dressing and spelling words out and being the end-all-be-all for my two little dolls.

Or maybe I’m homesick – for a place I thought was so dull growing up.

Yup. I think I might be homesick. (Crap.)

Homesick? This is one of the most shocking fails I’m admitting to as a mom. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

How could I be homesick? How?!? I love living where I live. I love what I’m doing. I love my husband and my family and my friends and the life we have here – away from my hometown.

I was always intent on moving away from Fresno. Since the time I was around age 8, I’d proclaim to anyone who’d listen that I was going “to move to L.A.” when I grew up.

I’d tell family members that I wanted to go to UCLA – not because it happens to be an incredible educational institution, but rather because it had “L.A.” in it’s name. Anything that had “L.A.” in its actual name was surely more fabulous than my small hometown that so many folks referred to as The Armpit of California.

There was no reason for my young restlessness with my hometown. My childhood was so close to ideal it was ridiculous. I was a happy kid with lots of family and friends and fun all the time. I was involved with school, Good Company Players, church, Fresno’s Junior Miss and all kinds of community activities. I even opted to compete a few times in the Miss California pageant because it happened in Fresno. (I pray my girls remember their childhood like I remember mine.)

It’s just that growing up in Fresno seemed so – small. Lifelong options seemed limited – like there was so much more “out there.” And there was. There is.

But, after becoming a mother, Fresno looks and feels so different for me. Before babies, Fresno was hot, boring, too small and painfully simple. Now (after babies) Fresno is family, old friends that you remember going to football games with and neighborhoods you remember casing with friends in your dad’s red Bronco. Fresno is still home. There’s really no other way to say it. The more I visit, whether it’s for non-occasional trips or big family weddings, the more I feel that feeling.

I blame my kids for my change of heart. There’s something awakening about watching your daughters try to coax an elusive bunny rabbit out of the bush at your grandma’s house.

There’s something awakening about trying to take a family photo with wiggly flower girls in front of the same church where you were many times a flower girl yourself.

There’s something about catching your 5-year-old – who just started elementary school – standing on the same spot in your parents’ front yard that you did when you waited for the bus to take you to kindergarten.

There’s something about it all. Something I didn’t understand or appreciate until after I had babies.

This year marks the tipping shift of how many years I spent at “home” in Fresno as a kid versus how many years I’ve lived in Los Angeles as a grown-up. I find myself wanting to take my daughters to Fresno more and more. So they know it. So they don’t forget it. So they feel it too.

Do I want to move back to Fresno? No. But there’s a pulling and a hold I can’t quite make sense of and let go of. It’s blindsided me. Never in a zillion years did I think I’d ever write something like this (the 20-year-old me is flipping out right now). The irony is, I’m trying to raise my girls with the same “Fresno” experience I had in a sometimes-overwhelming and mostly complicated Los Angeles scene. Well played, Fresno, well played.

As I wrote this in my kitchen, my older girl serendipitously shouted from the den, “Mommy! My na-na [blanket] smells like Fresno!”

I ask her, “Is that a good thing?”

She replies, “Yes! And sissy’s [sister’s] does, too.”

Done deal.

So let it be noted: I live in Los Angeles – and I love it. But Fresno is my home – and I love it. I guess I’ll raise Fresno girls who happen to live in L.A. Sounds fab to me.

Jill Simonian was born and raised in Fresno and graduated from Sanger High School. She often appears on NBC’s “Today” show, HLN’s “The Daily Share” and writes for a variety of parenting websites. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters. This article was originally posted on Simonian’s lifestyle blog for moms,”