My parents still live in the house I grew up in, the house I was brought to from the hospital as a newborn and since then have come home to many, many times.
How do we come home?
It has changed as I’ve grown older. Usually coming home means it is a holiday – Christmas or summer vacation. Once it meant I was out of places to go. I came home for an extended period in the summer as a way to try to save money so I could figure out what to do next that wasn’t waitressing. I’m lucky to have this option, I know, but that was a hard return.
Every Christmas of my life has been in this house, except for the year I was in India. Holidays blur when the landmarks don’t change. Time bends in strange ways and whole chapters momentarily drop away: what was fifteen years ago suddenly feels like it was yesterday, as if I’ve forgotten all that came between. Am I still the same person? After all this time, how can I still be asking the same questions and feel like I’m climbing the same hill?
Measuring time becomes about getting older. It’s about change and things that are past and gone. Sometimes – often – it is about questioning whether I’m a failure. I’m not where I thought I would be at this age, or rather, at the pre-conceived notion I had about what being this age meant. My life hasn’t gone on the course I foresaw; the course that was given to me as an example by my parents and large extended family. Home for the holidays means family gatherings, which mean the inevitable (and much dreaded) well-intentioned questions from uncles and aunts about what I’m doing. I come from a family of science and tech people. I have no idea what they do but they’re always very curious about me. I find myself talking quickly, trying to explain what a workshop means, what self-producing means and yes I have thought of sending my play to the theatre in town but they rejected it, and no, I don’t know why… and then someone asks about Broadway or Hollywood and it all becomes very small. I start to degrade what I do before anyone else can (not that they necessarily would) and then I sit in the backseat of my parents car – just like I’m still a child – and we drive home. They must see me as a fool and even worst, a waste, still chasing a dream I had as a kid.
But then I think about my aunt who writes books for young adults. She got pregnant when she was seventeen and the book of her life she’d laid out suddenly closed. She had three kids and slowly, she began to write again. And now, with her 70th birthday approaching, she sits down every day at her kitchen table to write and goes on book tours to promote her latest work (she’s got about 10 books published) and has won awards and has a facebook fan page. When I think of someone like her, I can see how the idea I had as a teenager about what a successful life was supposed to be was so wrong. And I wonder if it is still wrong.
My parent’s house is on a dead end dirt road in the country. To the north, the sky glows pink on cloudy nights with the lights of the city, 45 minutes away. In the summer when there’s a ball game in the nearby village, the lights from the baseball diamond shoot up into the sky. But on most nights the sky is dark and endless. When I get home, whether I’m eight years old and coming home from a music lesson, or in high school and my dad’s picked me up after a late rehearsal, or I’m in my thirties and I’m coming from a family gathering at my aunt’s house, the first thing I do when I step out of the car is look up. The sky is filled with stars. I know I’m seeing light that was sent out many years ago but I have no way to comprehend the distance between me and what I’m seeing. There are no landmarks to measure that time and space, there is only the gravel under my feet, the air that feels clear and sharp after the forced heat of the car, and a thousand stars overhead. To my uneducated eye, the sky seems the same as it has since I was a child. And that’s a good thing.