Going home is strange.
There comes a time, when you're so involved in your own life, and your own nuclear family, that you fully define yourself within the parameters of your present: your kids, your job, your friends, your community. Many days, it's easy to believe that's all there is.
But then there are your roots. And depending on where you live now, and where you grew up, there may be a wide geographic gulf between the two.
My roots lie far away, deep on the opposite coast, where my parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all lived. I alone veered west.
So there's always a shift, a readjustment, when I return home each summer.
For starters, when I wake up in my old house, I'm instantly aware that I'm a daughter. It catches me off guard that I'm actually someone's kid. How utterly novel! An hour or two later -- that's all it takes -- California starts to recede, and New York, and my past, take center stage.
One morning last week, while back in my hometown, I took a walk. Without quite realizing it, I come upon the secret passageway -- a narrow stretch of dirt, wooded on either side, that connects two different neighborhoods, and one that I crossed many times, warily, in my youth. As I walk through it this time, looking this way and that, I get the same adrenaline rush I did when I was young. What if there's a creepy man in the bushes?! What if I get kidnapped and no one knows I'm missing?! What if I wipe out, crack my head on a rock, and spontaneously die, never to be seen again?! When I emerge through the clearing, three minutes later on the other side, I am sweating, and victorious. I did it! I traversed the secret passageway! I am the most powerful person in the history of the world!
I return home, nibble a plum, and I realize, almost by accident, how lucky I am. New York, it turns out, is a pretty cool place to have roots. I adore California, really adore it, and I don't plan to leave, but my roots are definitely in New York, and like it or not, they run very, very deep.
I sigh, finish my plum, and go upstairs to make my bed.