I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of “home” recently. I am blessed to have been raised in the same house since I was 2 years old. We lived within a short drive of both sets of grandparents. I had a big extended family that mostly all lived in Humboldt County too. Living behind the “redwood curtain” – it never occurred to me that I was from a small town. In fact, I was a bit shocked when one of my graduate school professors pointed out that I was from a rural place. When I commented that I was from the suburbs, he responded, “What is Eureka sub-urban to?” Whoa. It was mind-blowing.
Once I left for college, Eureka became my “hometown”. I haven’t lived there for any of my adult life. After meeting my husband in San Diego and falling in love with this city, it was pretty clear that we’d make our home and raise our family here. But, nearly all of my extended family still lives in Humboldt County. When my Nana (my mom’s mom) recently transferred from an assisted living facility to a full nursing home, at the age of 94, I decided to make a quick trip home.
This trip was unexpected and unprecedented. I’ve never taken a trip alone since becoming a mom. Sienna and I have taken a couple quick trips up north for baby or bridal showers. Other than that, Dennis, the kids, and I take long road trips to visit his family in Marysville/Yuba City and my family in Humboldt, every year or two.
For this trip, I flew to the Santa Rosa / Sonoma airport (another first!) on Wednesday and was greeted by my sister and nephews. My sister, Sarah, is the best! She and her boys: Lane, 4 and Cody, 2, came down the day before and stayed overnight in a hotel so they could pick me up and drive us home to Humboldt – a 4 hour drive! Sarsies and I got to catch up and enjoy the amazing views along Highway 101. It was wonderful!
During my short stay in Humboldt (less than 40 hours total!), I got to enjoy meals and catch up with my Grandma and Bumpa, my dad and stepmom Monica, my sister and brother-in-law, Casey, my nephews, two aunts, my mom, my Nana, my Uncle Paul, and various folks I knew that we ran into around town. It rained the entire time I was in Humboldt! Which seemed fitting as the area is traditionally known as being very wet and rainy. However, I’m told that the weather has actually improved a lot and they hadn’t had rain (thanks to our California drought!) in months. It felt cozy and familiar to have overcast skies and rain during my visit.
Visiting my dad’s office in Old Town felt wonderfully familiar too. It was the first time I’d visited this particular office space, but it was delightful to see the pictures, maps, and decorations that have adorned my dad’s law office for years. We got to talk and enjoy our coffee while sitting across his big, familiar desk from one another. It’s something I’ve done so many times throughout my life and now, more than ever, I’m able to enjoy and appreciate the richness of our relationship.
Since the house I grew up in was sold a little over 10 years ago and my grandparents’ house has changed little since I was young, being in my grandparents’ house provided the most intense feeling of “home” for me. Running into people I knew from years ago, while getting coffee in the morning with my dad, and later at my Nana’s nursing home, provided a deep feeling of belonging. I haven’t been here much over the past decade, but I still know folks and they know me.
My mom and I ate “brunch” out at Adel’s, a local coffee shop on Thursday. It was so cozy being in another place that hasn’t changed much in the last twenty years, seeing the rain pouring down on Broadway (Eureka’s main thoroughfare), drinking coffee and talking with my mom. When we got up to leave, Mom pointed out – “I think that’s Grandma and Bumpa over there.” Sure enough, my grandparents were there! We went over to chat and marveled as we left – “Yep, only in Eureka.”
Visiting with Nana on Thursday afternoon was very special. My mom, Uncle Paul, Nana, and I just sat and talked for a couple of hours. Nana is 94 years old and still quite “with it”. We giggled a lot. She knew who I was and after calling me Kelsey several times, proceeded to call me “Cheryl” once or twice, which she’s done for years. Cheryl is my cousin and the oldest daughter of my Uncle Wayne. I think Nana confuses the names because were both the oldest daughters. Even that felt poignant and comforting.
Driving around the streets of Eureka, it was very familiar and yet, strange. I haven’t been in this place regularly for over 15 years, yet I know how to get around. I pointed out houses where my childhood friends used to live and drove by my high school. Most of the restaurants I remember are no longer in business. Strolling around Old Town, we enjoyed the places that remain and reminisced about the shops and restaurants that are no longer there. I suppose it’s the feeling a lot of people have about their hometown. It’s a part of you yet it keeps changing, just like you do.
On Friday, my mom and I drove all the way back to San Diego together. As we started to see signs along Interstate 15 for Escondido and northern San Diego neighborhoods, I suddenly thought – “I’m almost home.” My house, family, and “home” are now in San Diego. But, my sense of “home” was instilled and nurtured while growing up in this loving family, in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Maybe you can’t “go home again”. But, “home” are the places where you are loved. This trip reminded me that I will always have a home in Humboldt County.