A Story Setting: Welcome to Santa Cristina, California

My latest story takes place in a fictional town that I named Santa Cristina. The name may be from my imagination, but the descriptions I use are from all around me.

I haven’t traveled far in all the years I’ve been in this world. That’s mainly because I’m such a homebody. I love being at home. I have everything I love within reach at any given time. Cat, garden, books.  Mexican food down the street. Ocean up and over the hill. Mountains up the other side. Family and lifelong friends a car or bike ride away.

Road trips and hotels mean waiting, wanting, and the possibility of being stranded in a less than desirable place. (Which, for me, is any place other than my hometown.)

My attitude toward travel could be because I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. That’s not just my opinion. Tourists and transplants say this to me, a person who has been blessed to live in Santa Barbara, California, for over fifty years. I just nod in agreement and think to myself I wouldn’t know. Santa Barbara is all I’ve really ever seen.

And it’s the place my story’s characters get to live.

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I chose Santa Cristina as an homage to my mother, whose name is Christine.


Text image from Google/Wikipedia name search

It’s a beautiful name.

Cristina is the Spanish spelling, which goes along with the Spanish heritage that Santa Barbara owns and celebrates. Throughout my story, you’ll find pieces of Santa Barbara history woven in. In fact, my research is uncovering many stories that I never knew about my town despite my many years of living here. I’m loving it.

When I say the name Santa Barbara, I not only think about how blessed I am to live here, I also think about my younger sister.

And this is why:

My family moved to Santa Barbara in 1961. We were a family of seven — father, mother, and five children. I was the youngest at that time. Soon my mother was pregnant with a sixth child. My father was serving in the Air Force.

As the beloved story goes, one of my brothers was playing with matches. A curtain went up in flames. Soon our house was burning down. Mom had gathered her children and placed them out of harm’s way. She counted to make sure and realized there were only four in her presence, besides the one in her belly.

Her littlest one was missing.


I remember my mother’s smile as she told me this story years later. She had run back into the burning house and found me in a room, crying but holding on to my bottle.

I was less than two years old.

Mom grabbed me and we reunited with the rest of our family. We lost all of our possessions in that fire, including family photos and other treasures that my parents had brought with them from Ohio, where we had lived.

This is where my younger sister comes into the beloved story.

The City of Santa Barbara came to our rescue and provided a new place to live, clothing, food, and toys for us. My mother was so grateful that she told a newspaper reporter, “If my baby is a girl, I am going to name her after this city.”

She did give birth to a girl. And she kept her promise.

Mom named her Sandra. Her middle name is Barbara. Sandra Barbara.

I never tire of that story. It lifts my heart. My mother saved my life. She gave me a sister with a wonderful and unforgettable name. I’m hoping that my story does justice to the city that I know, love, and take for granted. (I really have to stop doing that.)

Have you ever visited Santa Barbara?

Darla McDavid

I'm Darla, a writer of stories about family, friends, goodness, and God. I love cats, coffee, gardening, and tall stacks of books. Click here to subscribe to my blog. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram. In my other life, I'm an administrative professional and a Sunday School teacher for preschoolers.

14 Comments Write a comment

  1. What a lovely story, Darla! Sandra Barbara–a perfect tribute to the city who helped out your family! My grandparents and aunt lived in Vista, so the San Diego Zoo became our favorite place. Naming the setting for your mother will make your story very special, and the pictures are beautiful.


    • I visited San Diego once. We went to Sea World, of course, when my son was just a little one and we loved it. Your part of the country is pretty spectacular, too, but I’d never last there for more than a visit. I’m too used to warm weather!


  2. Santa Barbara looks lovely – a wonderful setting for your novel. Will there a character who grows tasty homegrown watermelons? A heart warming post Darla.


    • So, how did you know that I grew watermelon? I do think I blogged about it once. Victory gardens are mentioned in the story, so maybe I will include that fruit! Thanks, Bruce.


      • 🙂 I looked closely at your photo gallery and liked the progression of photos of growing the watermelons – my 2 favourites were the one with your son holding the watermelon and then when it was first cut open.
        Cheers to you – Bruce


  3. What a lovely story, Darla. I’m relieved that it had a happy ending. I was five years old when our house caught fire, and I will never forget the terror.

    I love your idea behind your fictional town. I have only been to California a few times, and the images you chose to show here match my memories almost exactly.


    • I’ve never been in another house fire, but we’ve had several awful wild fires over the years. A fire was racing across the city when my son was a year old. That was scary!


  4. We have not been fortunate enough to see that beautiful city and the pictures have us wanting to scream, “Road Trip!”. LOL Mathair has always wanted to travel and considered becoming a stewardess when she was younger. I, on the other hand, am very much a homebody. Your story was beautiful, Darla, and a true testament to that beautiful city.


  5. I used to get embarrassed when you all would tell the story of my name, but now I love to hear it. You tell it very well.

    Love you,
    Sandra Barbara


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