The road was a familiar one. The highway leading out of town had a slight bend in it as it curved south. Approaching the well-known curve, I eased on the brake and slowed our car down to a near stop before turning right.
I was heading home, or at least it felt like it.
As we cruised down the paved secondary road heading west, a lump formed in my throat. The hair on the back of my neck stood straight out. The trees, the houses, the bushes, the fields, everything that was gliding past our windows seemed like an old family to me. My hands gripped the steering wheel a little harder as we got closer.
After going up a slight rise and crossing over the bridge of an irrigation canal, there it was. Off to the right was our former house, the recognizable white brick structure that we had called home for twenty-one years. Memories immediately started flooding back to me as it came into view.
It had been two years since I last saw it, two years since we had moved away.
This weekend was going to be a homecoming of sorts for me and Diana. It was the annual festival in our hometown. A large crowd was at the city park Saturday morning for the free pancake breakfast. It was a chance to get reacquainted with family and friends whom we hadn’t seen in a while. An afternoon parade followed with lots of treats being thrown out of car windows and off of the back of floats. It had been a great day. But now it was time to leave.
A last minute decision had been made to drive past the old house and see what, if any, changes had been made. It would be just a short drive off of the main road. It wouldn’t take long. The original intent was just to slow down and drive past, but when I saw Kevin playing with his two small daughters in the front yard, I turned into the driveway.
When we handed over the keys to Kevin and his young family two years ago, it was a moment of mixed emotions. We were retiring, leaving the rural life that we had known and moving to the big city. Yes, our snowbird existence had introduced us to the culture of urban life. Mesa had been our winter home for years now and we were used to the convenience city living. But there was always the prospect of returning to the quiet little farming town in Eastern Idaho every summer, returning to our roots and a slower pace of life. With the selling of our country home, that was now gone.
Kevin greeted us warmly and invited us inside for some lemonade and cookies. His wife Karen was glad to see us and to catch us up on the going’s on in our hometown. They told us that they both enjoyed the location and the little girls loved living in the country. Memories overflowed as I looked around the familiar kitchen and dining room. The interior of our former home looked the same except for the furniture. I glanced out the back and noticed a swing set with a small slippery slide in an area where there used to be a large flower garden. It was like going back to the future.
I remembered driving away from this place two years ago. Our summer home would be in Boise now, two-hundred and fifty miles to the west. The big city. Rural life would be a thing of the past for us. We were supposed to be slowing down, taking it easy and downsizing to fit our retirement lifestyle. But as we settled into our new summer home, a one-level condo with a much smaller living space, I had my misgivings.
It’s hard to face life’s transitions, giving up the comfortable and the familiar for the unknown. I would often find myself sitting alone on our back patio and wistfully longing to be back in our old home. I missed the sunsets from our back porch and the smell of the grass after I had just mowed our lawn. And while life continued on in our new place with new friends and activities, the tug of our old home was never very far away.
I asked Kevin if he and I could go outside and look around the yard. We walked through the sliding glass doors and around to the west side of the house. I stood and gazed for a long time at the old familiar yard; the dozen or so elm trees lining the west side of the property which dropped tons of leaves every fall, the flowers and shrubs in front of the house that always seemed to need attention, the sprawling lawn that I mowed with regularity. I looked at everything that I had done for a large part of my life and suddenly … suddenly, the tug to live there any longer fell away. It was like looking at the place for the first time.
Immediately a weight lifted from my shoulders.
I hadn’t noticed it, but for the last two years … I have been free. I’ve been unencumbered by the responsibility of maintaining a yard, a house, a deeply ingrained lifestyle. A new chapter in my life had opened up and I was now permitted to be myself. Do what I want, when I want.
Standing there and looking at my former property, I realized that, while I enjoyed the years I had there, I neither had the energy nor the desire to be there any longer.
It was an epiphany!
Kevin and Karen stood in front of our old house and waved good bye as we backed out of the driveway. Once we got back onto the highway a new revelation came to me.
I couldn’t wait to get back … home.