Josey and I went for a walk this morning, past our old, favorite coffee shop which is now being confronted with construction and workers and the trading of the nearby park for another on-ramp, Josey looked around and said, “I can’t tell if I’m sad so much is changing as we leave, or if it’s fitting. Like it’s packing up to move with us.”
From there, we wondered past our old, favorite market, the one just down the road where the little old ladies would wave at our girls and hold their hands. It too is closing down, scattering its venders around the city, making way for newer and better.
The city has changed a lot since we first arrived, in large and small ways, but we've changed with it. Because we're part of it. But once we leave, it will continue on without us. Like bricks in a building, our imprint will soon be covered up or torn down and quickly forgotten; it will no longer be home.
Even if we're fortunate enough to some day visit, it will be as that, a visitor. Because like us, it will have moved on.
Two months ago, my brother sent me this message, “I love you brother. Just wanted to let you know you are always in my thoughts. America is a shitstorm right now. You know how I think, . . . anyways, prepare for a different world when you come back. We have each other no matter what.”
Maybe that’s what home is, family. Not a country, not a building, not an address.
But maybe it is also those things. Even now, almost fifteen years after living in my parents’ house, when I come across a freshly cut lawn or stand in the midst of cottonwoods, no matter where I am, I say, "It feels like home." When the sun sets a deep gold across the land, Josey and I remember our first home in California. Pumpkins and the sound of crisp leaves falling from trees hold memories of our home in Pennsylvania, while grilling with a beer nearby is Wyoming.
Because home is all of those places.
It is scattered everywhere, and its nostalgia creeps up at the strangest of times and just about knocks me over. Like the time I was riding in a rickshaw in downtown Chengdu during a heavy rain and felt like I was heading on a fishing trip with Dad – my hands aching for a pole and the tug of a big hit.
The city changing as we leave is appropriate, I think, because it's life.
We can never return home because it's no longer there. The remnants are, and some bits and pieces of the sights and sounds, but Home is gone. At least physically.
At the end of her brilliant TED Talk, Chimamanda Adichie reads, "The American writer Alice Walker wrote this about her southern relatives who had moved to the north. She introduced them to a book about the southern life that they had left behind. 'They sat around, reading the book themselves, listening to me read the book, and a kind of paradise was regained.'"
A paradise regained as they read, laughed, and cried over stories from home, with their families, in their new home.