Former columnist for the Los Angeles Post Examiner, the Baltimore Post Examiner, and Gatehouse News Service

Friday, April 5, 2013

Boston to Baltimore

I just returned from a trip home to see my family. In years past, these trips were rushed and busy, toting children and gifts for the holidays, or children and "stuff" for vacations. Now that the kids are older I return home alone, leaving my husband to hold down the fort (thank you!!) as I travel down the highway, relaxing with each mile, drawn backwards in memory and time.

When I hit the Delaware Memorial Bridge, about hour six of the drive from Boston, my senses come alive. I can smell the sea, and I will soon be entering Baltimore. I cruise through the Fort McHenry tunnel, and I view the smokestacks of the city that speak of industry and effort. Then, it's a straight shot home, and I speed all the way, feeling the beat of my own heart.

In my mother's home are the things I love. Furniture that has been there forever (I talked on the phone as a teen sitting on that chair, I looked into this same mirror at nineteen, trying to puzzle out who was looking back.) Although my parents' home went through an extensive remodel back in the 1990's, I can look out the great room window - which used to be the family room window - and see the dogwood tree that was skinny and trying when we planted it. Now it covers the whole front lawn with glorious pink blossoms in the spring, as if to say "we are all well here." In the backyard sits the huge boulder I called my dog from as a girl, and the fir tree I used to climb with my favorite book. I see all my father's gardening efforts, and marvel at all the plants, grasses and flowers that spring alive at his touch. The wrought iron dining set is waiting in the garden, urging you to bring your coffee out and sit awhile.

At night I tuck in under warm blankets and relax, looking around the room. My mother always decorates my room with extra care when I am expected - a copy of "Garden and Gun" sits on the bedside table, or a book from childhood, or simply a candle, a vase, or a delicate figurine that glows in soft light. Something pleasing and relaxing she offers me each time, and I am grateful. I always wander to her bookshelves, and choose an old book usually on theology - I read the old words, and revel in what impressed her as I take note of passages she underlined, so long ago. She made notes, sometimes, and I get a glimpse into her thoughts, and what was going on in her life as she read these very pages.

I laugh with my sister, and tell the jokes we have been telling for so long, that we still find funny. I ask her if I look old, and she asks me the same. The answer is always - and will always be - an emphatic "No!" We talk about the changes in the world, and can now appreciate our upbringing all the more.

This house looks like the others on the street. It has the same lines, shares the same road, the landscaping is similar. But this is the mystery of home - when I walk through the door, I am in a world that belongs to me especially, that I can always return to, for respite and renewal. The peope inside make up the texture and fiber of my heart, and we need each other. It is love, pure and simple. I'm so very, very lucky to have it, that house on our street, sheltering and sound.

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