I first fell in love with the USA through books. My collection of hundreds of books that held the secrets of other worlds hidden within their pages, waiting to be devoured and relished. We couldn't afford to go on holiday when I was growing up, so I spent my summers curled up in the shadows of trees, exploring foreign lands through literature. The majestic mountains of Kefalonia in Captain Corelli's Mandolin, the haunting landscape of Chile in The House of The Spirits, the intoxicating and ethereal ambiance of Japan in Memoirs of a Geisha.
I fell into these other worlds eagerly, longing to be transported to places I could only dream of, where life was bright and opportunities endless. If I shut my eyes and let my thoughts drift away, I could picture myself in the land of the free, I could almost feel the salty sea air on my face, see the palm trees as tall as buildings, swaying in the breeze, the sun full and round, shining brighter than any star I'd ever seen.
One of our regrets after William and Noah died was that we didn't take the opportunity to go travelling. In the days and weeks afterwards, when grief consumed us and made us heavy and sunken with sorrow, day-to-day life became a battle and it didn't occur to us to do anything but struggle to survive each day. With hindsight, we wished we had packed our bags and flown far from the house which held loneliness and silence within its walls. We should have forgotten Christmas, and the faking of frivolity for the sake of others. We should have left the woe and disappointment behind us, and fled to somewhere new. We should have gone to all the places we'd always dreamed of going, and experienced at least one of our dreams, since life had killed the dream we had of raising our twin sons.
I dream of California and all the things we might experience there. The warmth of the sunshine on our faces as we watch a spectacular sunset over the Pacific, the wind through our hair as we drive a vintage Cadillac convertible on Route 66. Breathing in the tranquility and peace of Yosemite. Marvelling over the beautiful Santa Rosa mountains. Kayaking down the splendour of Lake Tahoe. Feeling small and humbled by giant redwoods at the National Park. Exploring the quaint and picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea. All these things and more. Perhaps it would help us heal, help us believe that life can be good again. And then for the fun. I'd thrill my inner child at Disneyland, take a ubiquitous tourist snapshot underneath the Hollywood sign, be wowed by a trip to Universal Studios. Let go and laugh and forget for a moment the heartache we carry with us.
And my ultimate Californian dream? To make it our home. To live there, in and amongst the wonder and possibility.
Who knows, maybe one day soon my dream may come true...
For more info on the #DreamBig Project - Visit California