Florida, my home
I’m a hair more moody these days, looking at life through my azure tinted glasses, but there’s a good reason. It’s nothing serious, just your garden variety, mid-medication change depression. I just thought I’d say this post is an example of effect, not cause.
Last week we said goodbye to my in-laws. They’re doing something I haven’t done since the leukemia diagnosis, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous.
They’re taking a vacation.
The kind where you go someplace.
What’s worse, they’re going to New England – my first home, making stops in New Hampshire and Maine. Then they’re going to Canada, specifically Montreal.
I wanna go.
Most people would be satisfied with a self-pity party, but I’m the type to throw myself a parade. Poor me, I can’t go on vacation while the nation grapples with crippling unemployment.
Before we said goodbye we all went out to dinner to celebrate Beth’s birthday early (since they’ll be gone for the real thing). Due to a series of events I won’t bore you with, I ended up meeting everyone there… and driving myself home. It was on this drive, thinking about the vacation I wasn’t taking, that I took a few back roads I hadn’t seen in a while. I passed the hill I rode my skateboard down as a kid, on a dare. I passed a relatively new subdivision of homes. I saw a flat wasteland of tasteless, identical snout-houses, and a conspicuous lack of shade. Instead, not so many years ago I saw dense woods, often with a friend around, tempting our childhood eyes and imaginations, but thwarted by chain link, dark shadows, and countless warnings: “NO TRESPASSING!”
Well, it kept us sufficiently warned most of the time.
I turned left at a traffic light and looked in my rear-view mirror. The four-lane divided highway that used to stop at the traffic light, now wound it’s way down the hill, where more woods had succumbed to asphalt. Although I’m used to this sight (I see it twice every day), it still brings more pain. These woods were ours – all of the adventure and imagination, and none of the chain link. It was a jungle of hardwood canopy, dense hanging moss, saw palmettos, hard fought trails, and dug-in, hidden nooks to hide if on the run. There was always some reason to be on the run, those ruthless palmettos sawing at our shins with every misstep. It was a seemingly endless expanse of adventure on demand.
In the moment, this moment of negligent musing behind the wheel, this same intersection contained my parents’ neighborhood – another walled in subdivision, protected from the unknown evil of the wandering outsider’s eye. When we first moved in, the lots sold but no one built. Oddly, our upper-middle class house and a few others like it spent my childhood surrounded by well protected, abandoned sand. It was all that was left of another clearcut orange grove, ground up to feed the beast we call sprawl. Over the years this sand grew wild watermelons. For a while it grew into a small test track for my (off-road) motorcycle. It was lots of room to line up imaginary, long, game winning field goals off a kicking tee, over a swing set in my back yard. I only broke a few of the cement tiles on our roof.
Down the street, on the other side of the neighborhood, we had another natural playground – a mix of pine, gentle undergrowth, and relatively hard packed sand. It was more open, the ground more accommodating to bikes, allowing deeper expeditions further from parents’ eyes. We were on our own, or so it felt, and it was exhilarating. Then as startled kids we watched the fences go up, the trees come down, and a giant hole appear. Now it’s the county’s largest manmade, drainage detention asset, tastefully decorated with chain link.
The moment passed. In a blink, my mind shifted from the present to my childhood an back again. It was all gone. It’s been gone for a long time.
I drove down one hill, up another and I was home.
Or was I?
They say you can’t go home again, but what if you never really left?
What if home left you?
You really are a fine writer. This is a terrific essay.