My dad says that whenever we’ve arrived at our destination. Someone–his mother, maybe? I really need to start writing these things down–used to say it, and now he does. We don’t travel much as a family, so I haven’t heard it all that often. Nonetheless, I’ve picked it up myself.
This must be the beach.
We were headed to the beach, and now we’re here. So this must be the beach.
I lived essentially all of my adult life (so far, anyway) in a city. I grew up on a farm–most people know this about me, if they know much about me–but it didn’t take me long to replace the evening music of crickets and irrigation sprinklers with the irregular chorus of sirens and subway thrum.
Thirteen years ago I stepped into Harvard Yard with a guitar case and a stuffed panda bear and most of the other belongings that mattered to me. I stayed in Boston for two degrees, three Red Sox World Championships, three apartments, one disastrous breakup, two teaching licenses, one totaled car, the Marathon bombings, two adopted cats with snipped ears, countless beers, too much snow, many oysters, the issuing of the first legal same-sex marriage licenses in the nation, and my own wedding, just over a year ago, looking out over the Charles River.
The city adopted me. I don’t know if it loved me, but certainly I loved it. My heart catches in my throat when I see the skyline coming into view as my plane approaches Logan. I sweated there, and bled, and cried. I shouted myself hoarse, nursed broken hearts and whiskey, breathed the air and knew I was home.
Now I am back in a place where tractor fumes and cut hay dance on the breeze. These hills aren’t my hills, not yet, but the grass and the sky and the deer are familiar. Drivers wave when you pass on the road. Walgreens sells cases of Bud. At the high school football game you will run into women from your third grade class, now bouncing fussy babies on their hips. You may not recognize that guy in the John Deere hat, but his cousin used to date your babysitter.
Crossing the northern California border used to unlock my heart. It was almost a physical thing, that small release of a part I didn’t know I’d hidden away, revealed only when I finally came home. I haven’t felt it, not yet, but every hummingbird and every back porch chips away at the dirt from the city.
Not home. Not yet. But the beach, maybe. This must be the beach.