Over the past eight years I've been slowly but steadily saying goodbye to all the pieces of my childhood. I left for college in 1997 and started getting a taste for living on my own. It was an exhilarating time, and will continue to be one I look back on fondly, but at the same time it managed to be a confusing, lonely time. I felt a little lost, a little adrift. I didn't quite feel like I belonged anywhere. I felt homeless. In 2001, I graduated and got my first job, my first apartment. I started providing for myself. I valued my freedom at the same time that I rankled against my responsibilities. By the time I got married in 2003, I felt like more or less grown up. But I guess there's always a bit of the child left; when I found out that my mom and stepdad were going to be selling the house I grew up in and moving to a different state, it hit me harder than I would have expected.
I've never felt completely at home in my new surroundings. I still haven't figured out yet where I see myself ending up in ten years, whether I'll still be in the city or if I'll make it back to my small town roots. There was comfort, though, in knowing that, even if I didn't live there anymore, even if it wasn't my home anymore, I could still visit the place where I spent so much time as a child.
So many things about my town and neighborhood are different already. My friends have all moved away. Even some of their parents have. My mom's house isn't the same, either; the yard's changed several times, as has the paint. There aren't even the same number of rooms. It's not the same place where I used to live. Despite all that, whenever I went back I felt a sense of belonging, a feeling of comfort.
It's strange to realize that if the house sells soon enough I might never have a reason to go back to my old neighborhood. I find my mind flooding with images from the past. Like the swimming hole at the end of the street with the chalk shelf that extended out into the water, or the huge bay laurel my friends and I used to climb in the park across the river. The time my stepdad set up a treasure hunt all over the neighborhood for my birthday, which I might have missed because I didn't feel like going outside that morning. Finding a tiny kitten with a broken tail under the bench in our back yard--our cat Leon, who is old and arthritic now but still full of personality. Oakworms falling out of the tree in the front yard, stick-fighting in the driveway, frantically riding our bikes away from overly territorial neighborhood dogs. The sound of little league games, the bite in the morning air in the wintertime, the way the tap water always tasted like rust in the summer.
I'm happy for my mom, that she's going to be able to make the changes in her life that she needs. I'm sure that in time, the whole thing won't bother me at all. I'll be used to having family on both coasts. This is just another part of growing up. People get older, things change. I wish I could end this piece with something profound, some little piece of wisdom, but for now I just don't have the perspective that time will eventually bring.
Things I Highly Recommend
- Getting married in Big Sur, CA. Not only one of the most naturally beautiful places I've ever seen, but also very special to me because that's where my wife grew up as well as where I lived for a while in my childhood.
- Breakfast at Deetjen's Big Sur Inn. Some of the best Eggs Benedict I've ever had.
- Lunch at the Big Sur River Inn. Sure, the burger is kind of expensive, but it's mighty tasty (and still the cheapest in Big Sur). Plenty of good stuff apart from the burger, too; it's my favorite restaurant for lunch. And, for dessert, the apple pie is my second favorite in this world (I have to give my mom's the number one spot).
- Dinner at Ventana. They have a filet mignon that just melts in your mouth, and if you go right around sunset you have a spectacular view of the sun going down over the ocean.
- The bathrooms in the Salt Lake City Airport. Cleanest airport bathrooms ever.
- Renting a convertible in Hawaii. Yeah, it immediately marks you as a tourist, but it's so nice to feel the wind in your hair.
- The Hotel Hana Maui. Hands down the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in. The road to Hana is very twisty and a bit stressful (since all of the other people on the road are also tourists), but as soon as you get there it all just melts away. The staff was amazingly friendly and helpful. It's also very close to Hamoa Beach, which is one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen. And if you're into horseback riding, the hotel runs tours on a couple of trails that offer some amazing views.
- Tony and Tina's Wedding. A very interesting off-Broadway production that makes you feel like you really are a wedding guest. It takes interactive theater to a level I've never experienced before.
- Breakfast at the Sea House Restaurant. About six or seven miles outside of Lahaina, it overlooks a beautiful bay and has a great view of Molokai (or maybe it was Lanai, I can't remember) and the food is excellent.
- The Koloa Fish Market. In Koloa, on Kaua'i, there is this tiny, hole-in-the-wall fish market that sells lunch plates that are to die for. There are no seats, indeed there's barely enough room to turn around, but the fish is so fresh and the prices are extremely reasonable.
- Air Kaua'i Helicopter Tours. Not for those who are afraid of heights, but for everyone else, it's amazing. Even the locals on Kaua'i say the helicopter tours are great, and with good reason. Such a beautiful place, and seeing it from a bird's-eye view is even better. And the Air Kaua'i helicopters have huge windows, which makes for a great viewing experience.
- Brick Oven Pizza, in Kalaheo. Also on Kaua'i. They have good pizza. Really good pizza.
- Marrying the one you love. My wedding was the best day of my life. We've been together for almost seven years, since high school. In that time we've had a lot of experiences. We've grown, and grown up, together. I can think of nothing better than knowing that this is the person that I'm going to grow old with, share my life with. I can't wait to see what the future will bring.