I found myself being very reflective about life during our recent road trip to Northern California. Maybe it was the long stretches of boring Interstate 5 that lead me to think about life. But, I think the reason had more to do with the places we visited and being with my sweet husband and children.
First of all, my college roommate and best buddy Michelle took us to our college, Saint Mary’s, for a music on the lawn event. Being back on campus was very cool and instantly took me back to that time in my life. I’d had a serious boyfriend for most of my college years, so memories of him (who I haven’t spoken to since we broke up in 2003) came flooding back. Particularly when I went into the beautiful chapel, where I’d spent a lot of time in tears during my senior year because of our relationship. Teo shook me out of my spell as he ran around the church and exclaimed, “It’s so pretty, Mommy!” After that, I was in the moment and caught up with a lot of old friends that I hadn’t seen in years. As we were driving back to Michelle’s place that night, I said little prayers of gratitude that God had brought me to San Diego to meet Dennis. He’s an exceptionally wonderful husband and I am thankful that my college boyfriend sparked my move to San Diego. The entire direction of my life was shaped by my years at Saint Mary’s College. Having Dennis and Teo at SMC with me made me feel like life had come full circle… if that makes sense.
The next leg of our trip was driving up Highway 101 to Humboldt County. I’ve driven this stretch of highway countless times in my life, particularly while in college when I went home to Eureka frequently. The mountains and hillsides full of trees make me feel instantly at home. I love the Richardson’s Grove area where the redwoods are inches off of the highway! It’s all so precious and makes me feel connected to my childhood.
Once we arrived in Eureka, the memories become even thicker. We tried to spot the house I grew up in from the highway, but the trees have grown in and we couldn’t find it. But simply driving down Broadway (where Highway 101 cuts through Eureka) there were dozens of places with childhood memories – Pierson’s Building Center (oh, the Saturdays we spent in the nursery there as a family!), Harbor Lanes bowling alley, Adel’s…
Later in the trip we visited my grandparents and their den has literally not changed in over twenty years. It was so comforting to see the same furniture, pictures, and toys that were there when I was a child. Sienna and Teo played with these little bears that I remember playing with when I was their age. Awesome! We even took a quick trip by my childhood home, where I lived from the age of 2 until I left for college. It’s been repainted and has different landscaping around the front yard. We didn’t linger there long because I want to remember it the way it was when we lived there.
Hanging out with my sister, Sarah, brother-in-law, Casey and nephews was a great highlight of the trip! Lane is almost 5 and Cody is 3, so they played beautifully with our kids. Sienna had spent the week before in Humboldt with Gaga, so she’d already become totally comfortable at Sarah and Casey’s house. The first night we were in Humboldt, we left their house and Sienna ran back to give Aunt Sarah one more hug. My heart melted to see my daughter and my sister sharing a bond, and one that was formed while I wasn’t even around. It was poignant and sweet.
Casey started to tell Dennis that we should move up to Humboldt. During Leah’s baby shower, Casey and Dennis took the three boys on an adventure that included a drive in a dump truck! So, then the thought was that Dennis could move up north, work for Casey’s company and drive a dump truck. I think Casey was only partially joking. We played along and talked about what life would be like in Humboldt. There was a tiny bit of me that started to seriously wonder if we’d like to live up there. The main draw is family – having the cousins grow up together! – and the natural beauty of the area, which definitely had me under it’s spell. Particularly at the ranch, where this conversation occurred. It was fun to indulge this dream, and it continued to be on my mind for the next couple days.
However, an interesting thing happened. By the time we hit Marysville, the last leg of our trip, I was feeling deep gratitude for my husband, children, and our little life in San Diego. Spending time away from home, away from the day to day, allowed me to focus on them. Being in our hometowns surrounded us with the feeling of home and thankfulness for the countless blessings God has showered on us. There are so many “conspiracies of accidents” (as Ronald Rolheiser calls them) that shaped our lives. Being at my college and in my hometown made me consider the many other paths my life may have taken.
Somehow being away from home and visiting our childhood homes made me focus on what’s most important: my relationships with Dennis, Sienna, Teo, and our extended families. Home, for us, is stretched out along this great big state. When we approached Eureka, I thought, “I’m almost home” as I’m sure Dennis did when we pulled into Marysville. Then, as a family we kept saying, “We’re almost home!” as we approached San Diego.
I suppose it would be cliché to end with the platitude: Home is where the heart is. But, it’s very true. The places we love become home principally because the people that we love are there.