Monday, April 12, 2004

You Can't Go Home Again...?

There's something about going home to the folks house for a visit.

I think it's the snuggly cozy feeling of being away from home but in a secure, unchanging place. The fancy glass jar in the bathroom that has held the cotton balls ever since I was a kid. The family stories that are retold at every gathering. The old, odd decorative plate on the wall depicting one of the California missions--with a huge chip out of one edge but painted in such lovely, softly glowing colors! The fact that I know where everything is. And how things at Mom's house are done...how our family washes dishes, takes walks, does laundry--even argues. There is a comforting, set pattern.

Mom is talking in a very decided manner of selling the place this year for a home on a smaller lot closer to town. Since the current place is nearly an acre and is 25 miles over mountain roads from the nearest grocery store, this makes lots of sense. Driving 50 miles over mountain roads in snow because you need a gallon of milk...well, it sucks. It will also mean that we won't have such a large, gnawing worry at the back of our minds every winter when we think of our elderly mother navigating the icy back steps or waiting breathlessly to hear if this years' wildfire has overtaken the house. To be sure, the worry will still be there; but it will be a more manageable thing, not something the size of a 50 foot Norwegian wharf rat.

As to the old homestead...well, it's certainly old, but not the ancestral home. We moved there during my sophomore year in high school and I moved away two weeks after I graduated. But the place DOES have fond memories and genuine historical value, and I'll certainly miss being able to walk through the old barns and point out the hand-hewn beams and square nail construction to my daughter. Couple that with being able to walk out the back door and take a hike in the Sierras, mostly up to the old can dumps that line the fire roads. The can dumps are where people way back when would simply tote their non-burnable items--glass jars, cans, metal, etc. and dump them. The can dumps therefore are now a treasure trove of old bottles slowly turning purple in the sun, vintage beer cans and bottle caps and many other wonderful things--if you come armed with a shovel and stick and are willing to brave the rattlesnakes that have moved in.

Unfortunately it also means that Mom will be unloading a bunch of stuff in a yard sale in order to avoid having to move it. I'm not sure she realizes that I love that beat up old coffee table and matching end tables. Or how I used to gaze at that chipped old plate on the wall done in those luscious colors. Or as a child, the Christmas ornaments that became my favorites for whatever murky reason, and I now prowl Ebay trying to find for my own tree, to pass along to my own daughter. The dining room table I used to crawl under in the evenings at Christmastime and after taking off my glasses would sit, surrounded by all of my stuffed animals, to gaze at the beautiful out-of-focus, softly glowing Christmas tree lights. So many times the things that kids grow up and hold dear in their hearts are the weirdest damned things! My parents would think nothing of throwing out old junk only to hear one of us wail later, "What?! But I LOVED that!"

Even the dorky, old, cheapo glass cotton ball jar.

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