On going home
You are sitting in your parents’ living room, watching the sunlight bounce on the heads of babies, and it seems as though there are a million of them—a million babies whose cheeks are glowing like candles in advent, like moonlight on windshields.
One of the babies (there are so many!) is in a toy car, the kind you can move with your feet, the kind that makes you feel older than you are, that makes you think maybe I am a grown up. But she doesn’t know that she is not and that it is so beautiful, so deeply precious that she is not a grown up and that she does not know the things that grown ups know. Her car is only plastic, remember?
she does not yet know the beauty of walking a plastic car around with shoes that someone else put on her feet; she has not had to look back on this moment yet and realize the delicacy of plastic cars and soccer balls.
she does not know that the plastic car will wear down and the soccer ball will someday need to be replaced; she does not know that this may not always be home or that home may not always be home.
she inches across the sidewalk, blissfully oblivious. you are in a house you did not grow up in watching a family you barely recognize—they are gorgeous, each and every one of them, but they are different. This is not the family in the pictures on the walls—the parents are older, the children are holding children—most of the grandparents are missing.
are you home?
home: frozen in time, cryonically sealed on the day you left for college (oh the red brick buildings!)
and still, every change feels like a tiny betrayal—every new curve in the road and painting on the wall a reminder that you are not there anymore. Buildings are moved and street names are changed and babies are born and hair is grayed, but you cannot always come back. Not for every moment or minute or hiccup or heartbreak.
but oh, how you love to be gone—
until the laundry or pain or sheer maturity of living piles up so high that you must return. Faced with the most persistent and tenacious of life’s dilemmas: it always keeps going, whether you’re there to indulge or invest or protest.
Like the feeling of suddenly coming to find that an old boyfriend has a new job, a new city, a new wife, a new baby(!) and to think: that was your life! there you were! having once had so much say—a VIP, all-access pass—and now all you have are pictures on a screen, six degrees of separation away.
And you realize that this is okay—that you don’t want his life or city or baby(!)—but you want to hold on to all of your worlds—your homes that you’ve built in different places and arms and cities. You want to cradle every bit of them—the plastic cars and soccer balls, the faded pictures and boxed up books, the ex boyfriends and lost friends, the family dog and the sick sibling, the overheard arguments and forgotten vacations, the lost games and empty chairs, the time you have to watch everyone grow up —even yourself—you want every inch.
But how can you keep up? When the earth is spinning and whirling and you can only grasp so many memories and people and family between your fingers—some must fall through the crevices and cracks and lapses of time you chose to spend in other places.
and so you go on. you grow up and move out and leave and come back and you laugh and you cry and watch life and death and joy and grief and every pulse of breath that god has given to you so that you can always remember what it is like to sit within a plastic car, inching across the sidewalk, forgetting which way is home.