stanford postcard.jpg

Into the Sunset
by Sheila Scobba Banning

I found a new home for my calico tabby before I left (no pets in dorms; my mom hated cats), and left behind my purple passion plant, sacrificed to California’s agricultural restrictions. I had been surrounded by corn and soybeans all my life, but Iowa has a hard freeze every winter. Imported pests were unknown to me.

My childhood had unspooled in a town of maybe six thousand people — and in the virtual adventures found in the hundreds of books I had read. There is a certain comfort in being known, but the years before the Internet could be stifling in ways difficult to explain. I hadn’t seen the campus I was moving to, hadn’t visited any university anywhere. But I had been preparing to leave forever.

I was hitching a ride with my sister and her husband who were taking turns driving while I provided conversational support. We stopped for food and restroom breaks when necessary, their two cats in the back of the van howling with displeasure at each change in momentum, the disturbing and comical soundtrack for my memories. From the endless flat of Nebraska through the flat tire sunset in Salt Lake City, I could feel the increasing pull of the Pacific and my manifest destiny in the unknown West.

There was a lag between our arrival in the Bay Area and my move to Stanford, but I can’t claim the time provided much adjustment to a world with no distance between cities where the people around me were the face of the world. Carrying my meager belongings past the exotic palm and magnolia trees up the steps into my red-tiled dorm, I realized it wasn’t the destination I had expected; it was a launch. I was home.

IMAGE: Stanford University postcard.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: After living in the same house for 18 years, I moved on and off campus every year I was in college, moved into many different jobs after I graduated, moved in with my husband on our first date . . . but the move that had the biggest impact on the rest of my life was the decision to go to a school half a continent from where I grew up. Had I not been encouraged to expand my college application horizons by my high school guidance counselor, none of the rest of my moves would have been possible.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sheila Scobba Banning has been writing since she could hold a crayon. Her books include the collection of short stories Intersections, novel Terroir, and the YA Carter Bros mystery series. Her award-winning short fiction and personal essays have appeared in BALE, New West, The San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, NCYMidnight, Rosebud, The Tab, and A Picture is Worth Five Hundred Words (or Less). She grew up in Iowa and lives in California with her husband, sons, and menagerie of pets. She creates fascinators and outlandish hats, throws fabulous parties, wears vintage dresses, and laughs until she cries every day. Her super power is catalysis.

AUTHOR PHOTO: Book signing for Terroir at Hi-Time Wine Cellar in Costa Mesa, California, November 2013.