07 January 2011
A Driveby Homecoming
The day after Christmas, we planned to fly to Minnesota for our first visit since the move to New Hampshire. The first visit would be important; trying to get used to the fact that this is no longer our home in the present tense........only in a nostalgic way. Would it be comforting to be surrounded by the people and places we miss? Or would it be torture? And what about the house that is no longer our house? I've lived in a lot of houses and I've pined for none of them.......except 4041. Liam regularly asks if we can buy our house back when we return to Minneapolis. Will it be hard to see it? Or just a house we used to live in?
We had a long list of people to see and a longer list of places to visit and food to eat. I dream about Asian food and coffee shops. I needed a delta bowl from Rice Paper, a banh mi from Blackbird, a turkey sandwich from Bewiched, the chicken wild rice hash at Zumbro, a malt from Convention Grill, a margherita pizza from Punch and the tomato soup from Turtle Bread.
But wait............on the Sunday of our departure, New England woke up to a beautiful snowfall. A snowfall that brought everything to a halt..........including our flight. A snowfall that barely warranted a 2 hour late start in Minnesota was grounding all flights out of Boston. FOR THREE DAYS!!!!! Seriously! Our Sunday flight was delayed until WEDNESDAY! I've been flying for 42 years - most of them out of the Minneapolis/ St. Paul airport, a place known for it's snowfall - and not once have I been delayed for more than a handful of hours.
What was to be a 5 day reunion turned into a 2 day driveby. We felt like homecoming royalty waving at everybody from our float. "Sorry, can't stop! But I'll wave at you! If you have a present, just toss it up here! I'll catch it!" We exchanged gifts in doorways with jackets on while we hugged hello and goodbye simultaneously. And most people were missed altogether; so close but so far away!!! We actually spied one of our friends driving down Xerxes Ave. and started shouting and waving, "Dave! Dave! It's us!" knowing we may have to count that as our visit with Dave. And he didn't even see us.
When we finally arrive in Minneapolis, we drive from the airport directly to our old neighborhood - to get our feet wet and rip the bandaid off this still-fresh wound. Liam sees Lake Harriet and he literally lights up like a firecracker. He strains against his seatbelt and holds the seat in front of him, his eyes laughing and darting from one familiar sight to another.
"There's my sledding hill! .............There's the bandshell! ..............I'm so happy! .............Those trolley people were always so kind to me.......always! .................There's Ezra and Ambrose's house! I just love that house! .................I'm so glad we're here! I'm speechless!"
What 8 year old says "I'm speechless"? And he clearly wasn't speechless. But he simply couldn't produce enough words to accurately express how he was feeling. Eventually, he puts his face in his hands. And cradles it for a moment.
Then raises it, his eyes now glassy with tears. But still smiling.
We pass our old house........very slowly. It looks the same with the exception of some garage construction and a small neon sign in the sunporch that says "Peace." It's a completely innocuous sign - barely noticeable.
"LOOK AT THAT STUPID SIGN! I would never put that sign there! Why would they put that there? IT'S SO STUPID!"
He's indignant. He's ranting. It seems he can't say enough about how offensive that tiny, altruistic sign is. Mike tries to cut him off by pointing out that it's a positive message they're sending to the neighborhood - but I shush him. Let's give him this rant. He really needed that peace sign. Something at which to direct the flood of emotions that collided with his happiness at that moment - as he glimpsed his home that was not his home. If we say nothing, it will eventually burn itself out.
And it does. We pass Carson's house and the smile returns.
The depth of his attachment to this place throws me. I was exactly his age when I moved from California to Minnesota - an equally big move - and I never looked back. All I can figure is that the place we left really is that good. A fairy tale childhood in a fairy tale neighborhood with a toy store, 2 lakes, a mail carrier who buys you presents and plenty of buddies who run from yard to yard.
The grandparents worry about Liam and his adjustment. It makes them sad when he's sad. And when he's so happy to be home - in this place that is no longer home - they worry that he'll be unhappy about his new home. But when we get back - to our new home - Liam drops his backpack and says
"Ah.......the magnificent smell of home."
........which is actually the smell of paint.
But, either way, I think we'll be ok.