Today we move. Move forward, move back. When I was a child, the phrase “moving day” had a ring of triumph, of excitement tinged with the fear of the unknown. Today, the phrases that run through my head come from the books I have read to my own children in this house.
“In the great green room…goodnight house…goodnight mouse.” Ok, so I won’t miss the mouse or his thousands of friends and family.
“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines…” Our lives have never been lived in straight lines, two or otherwise, but Madeline is stuck in my head. What would Madeline do, if forced to leave that house? The girl who “was not afraid of mice [who] loved winter, snow, and ice” would probably see the opportunities for new adventure. When I raised the possibility of adventure to Caitlin (whom, by the way, I wanted to name Madeline) she said, “I’m like Lucy Ann (a character in Enid Blyton’s Adventure series). I don’t really like adventures while I’m in them.”
That’s the thing with adventures, even fictional ones. When the characters, even those who dream of daring exploits, find themselves in the midst of said exploit, all they really want is to return home. “And the ceiling was hung with vines, and the walls became the world all around, and an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for Max.” Yet, though Max was made king of all the wild things, what he wanted in the end was to be “where somebody loved him best.” And in the end, his boat returned him to his room where “supper was waiting for him. And it was still hot.”
‘I want to go home’ has been a mantra of mine for decades – when stressed, embarrassed, worried, or frightened, I hear my mouth say “I want to go home.” On occasion, I have said this while standing in my own shower or lying in my own bed. Home. This house has been home for twelve years, and yet, it hasn’t. This town, this region has never been ours. We have no close neighbors, all of the interactive portions of our lives: work, school, shopping, friends, family happen elsewhere. In a sense, by moving to Davis, I do feel as though I am returning home.
I was raised in Merced. But, I grew up in Davis. Twenty-two years ago this month, I spread my comforter across my dorm bed, and unpacked my belongings for the first time under a roof that did not belong to my parents. I paid my first phone bill in Davis; got in my first car accident; wrote my first checks; bounced my first checks; had my first kiss; failed my first exam; fell in love for the first time; had my heart broken for the first time; took my first drinks; had my first sexual experiences; bought my first groceries; filed my first taxes; marched in my first rallies. And, in Davis, for the first time, I found myself.
That was two decades ago. Davis has changed; I have changed. We have both expanded. We both have a few more sags and wrinkles. We have evolved. I haven’t yet decided if I feel as though I am a warrior returning home after an adventure, or if I am an adult child crawling back home after failure. Can I choose both?
As my thoughts turn away from this house, and toward our new home, the lines that run through my head come from a deeper past, a past that is pre-children, nearly pre-adulthood. “Homeward bound/ I wish I was/ Homeward Bound.”
Note: Quotes in this essay are from Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans, Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, and song lyrics performed by Simon and Garfunkel. All of my books and CD’s are packed, and so I quote from memory, accepting all responsibility for any errors.