Something about the spring brings on wave after wave of almost staggering homesickness. I find myself near tears on public transportation, making mixes of the songs I played over and over again in high school as I stared at the ceiling, breathing in the scent of the soft brown carpet in my bedroom.
The funny thing is that my parents always assumed I’d be the child to run away and never come back. And I guess I embraced that some, flying out to the farthest opposite edge, from the country to the city, from grass and mountains to cobblestone and glass.
And I like it here, I do. I’ve fallen for Southie accents and watched the still-as-glass waters of the Charles reflecting the Boston skyline. I love the childlike glee that pours from apartment windows when the Sox or the Celtics pull through in the playoffs, love to feel the summer air on my cheeks as I bike down Columbus after dark.
But this is not my home.
There must be a certain amount of romance to my memories–I know this now. I know the place I was born is not perfect. I know it once felt stifling and small when I was younger and just flexing muscles new and unfamiliar. I know I discovered whole vocabularies absent in that place, spoken to me only once I fled.
I sometimes wonder if I have a connection to place stronger than most. I’ve always been a creature of habit, after all, wanting to feel the same furniture, the same geography, cradling my body. Before it was a bench, a wall, a seat always in the same place.
In my mind–in my heart–the tiniest details, the very feeling of wood and earth and grass touching my body, these realities have stayed with me where other remembrances disappeared long ago. Before I fall asleep in the summer I long for the rhythm of irrigation sprinklers in my ears. When I ride the bus in the city I try to close my eyes and feel the bed of a pickup truck on unpaved roads.
I tell myself now that I have made the right decision. I still follow the hometown news some–an entire library system closed, schools even in the strong districts laying off, slashing budgets, funds from timber all but dried up and voters still clutching tightly to their wallets.
And so many things I wouldn’t have back there, wouldn’t have had if I’d stayed. The woman I love. The people who feel like family out here. The lifeline of my brother in college, just an hour away.
“Love is the only thing that can be endlessly divided and never diminish.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I wrote those words in a notebook at fifteen, committed them into my prize possession, and believed them true. Believed them even through the heartache of my first breakup, even through the numbness of that first depression. But come spring my heart stutter steps, suddenly assessing the damage after a break-in.
There are pieces of me missing. There are holes in me unspoken.
And what goes there, in that small empty spot? Is it the heft of a bale of hay? Is it the smell of a first summer rain meeting dirt roads? Is it the night sky full of stars, full of more light than the city knows to muster, full of a heavy moon on the horizon? Is it first sunburns, fresh dew, lazy floating on the Rogue River, drive-through coffee kiosks, highway 99, I-5, Jacksonville Hill?
I’ve done better for myself out here. I’m not riding on my father’s name, waving from the same red pickup. I’ve broken the cocoon and found a voice I didn’t have out there. I spread my wings, broadened my horizons, made myself new.