My family moved to Arizona 15 years ago, when I was only three years old. My dad had come to visit the Phoenix area while on a company assignment. This was the summer of 1990 when Arizona reached 122 degrees!
He returned home to San Fernando Valley, California, very excited about Phoenix. He thought it was a great area, where he could afford the house of our dreams and where he could raise his family. My mom laughed, thinking that his brain cells had been cooked back in Phoenix. However, she did agree to come and visit with him the following Labor Day weekend.
Gang activity and crime had increased by over 300% in the ten years that my parents had lived in the San Fernando Valley area and, unknown to us at that time, my parents were worried about raising my brother, sister, and I in that type of environment. They had talked about finding another area to raise our family, but were concerned about the rising housing costs.
The Labor Day weekend arrived and mom and dad went on a mini-vacation to Phoenix to scout the area; my siblings and I stayed back home with grandma and grandpa. While on their visit, they both found the house of their dreams and they knew they had also found the perfect area where they could raise their children – Ahwatukee!
My parents paid a deposit on our new house and went back home to place our old house on the market. My mom’s family thought my parents were crazy leaving California. They were criticized for making such a bold and quick decision, but my parents knew (and I agree) they had made the right decision.
It took us a while to move to Phoenix because my dad’s job had a freeze and no one could transfer out of his or her departments. However, we would drive to Phoenix after my dad got out of work on Friday nights and returned to California on Sunday. We did this for eight months and it was hectic, but we enjoyed it because we felt as if we had a vacation every weekend.
Finally, in August 1991, my mom told my dad that she would have to move permanently to Phoenix because my sister was going to start high school at Mountain Pointe High School and my brother needed to register for middle school. Luckily, my dad’s company agreed to grant him the transfer with his family. Our “official” life as “Arizonans” began on August 12, 1991.
We were all so excited that we could finally move to our home in Arizona. Our house was huge, compared to our small home in California. We all had our own room and my sister and I didn’t have to share one bedroom anymore. We had a big yard and a beautiful swimming pool, where we spent many summers playing and swimming. My parents liked that we had privacy with the mountain preserve behind our yard. They also liked that we lived in a cul-de-sac and we could ride our bikes or skates without fear of traffic.
I don’t remember much of my life in California anymore, since I was so young when we moved here. In my heart, I feel that Arizona is my home. Our little town of Ahwatukee has grown much since we moved there in 1991. It is tucked against South Mountain and we have a spectacular view of the Estrella Mountains. Residents of our area are friendly and kind. They love the outdoors and at any time, you can see people walking, jogging, riding their bicycles, skates, etc. We have easily accessible walking and bicycle trails throughout our neighborhood and on the mountainsides.
Our school districts for elementary and high school education are tops in the nation. Most of the students from the two major public high schools, Mountain Pointe HS (where my sister attended) and Desert Vista HS (where my brother and I went) graduate with honors. These two highs schools are very competitive and they compete in the annual football “Ahwatukee Bowl,” which is a big local annual event.
I recently heard someone compare Ahwatukee to the fictional little town of Mayberry of the Andy Griffith Show. I had never thought of it that way before, but after she mentioned it, I agree. Ahwatukee has a strong sense of community. We have a YMCA has many programs for members of all ages. There are also many clubs for children, adolescents and adults to join, depending on their personal interests.
During Easter, we have the Easter Parade, where I’ve been very fortunate to participate for many years, including as a second grader Girls Scout Brownie Member, to last year, as a member (President) of Desert Vista’s HS Key Club float. We also have the annual 4th of July celebration, where everyone goes to the park and picnic (yeah it’s hot), but when darkness falls, the sky lights up with the most awesome fireworks display.
After Thanksgiving, there’s a big community party in the park, where all the neighbors gather. There is a Santa Parade, where Santa appears with all his “elves” in Harley Davidson’s and participate in the “lighting ceremony,” where all the trees in the medium for a few miles are lit up. We later have horse cart rides around the neighborhood, where hundreds of small smiling faces gather to see the beautifully illuminated homes and then end their trip at the trailhead, where they are treated with hot chocolate, sweet popcorn, gingerbread cookies, and other goodies. They also have the option to take a small trail walk along with the luminaries that adorn the path.
I have to say that I am very blessed to have Arizona as my home. We live in a stunning state, where the beautiful desert abounds, yet a couple of hours away, you can be within miles of green mountains and pine trees, and surrounded by lakes, rivers, and streams. Arizona is the home of one of the Wonders of the World – The Grand Canyon. This is a beautiful place, which takes your breath away, especially if you’re lucky to be there at the perfect time when the sunsets!
Although I was accepted at USC in Los Angeles and UCSD in San Diego, I chose to stay in Arizona and attend The The University of Arizona in Tucson. U of A is a great university and has a superior medical program. I am an entering freshman and will graduate with a degree in Physiology. I then plan to attend U of A’s Medical Program and become a Cardio Surgeon.
I thank my parents for making the big decision to relocate their family to a better place – Arizona - that hot summer of 1990. Although it took us a year to make the complete transition to our new home, it was time worth waiting for! It was the right decision! I will always say, “Arizona is my home!”