It took me thirty-two years, but I am back. Home, and yet, not home.
There is something surreal about moving back to one’s hometown. The mind locks in moments, experiences, feelings, images, & scents that are somewhere in the brain, yet not accessible at all times. It takes a certain key to unlock them.
I am finding those keys, and sometimes it takes my breath away.
Driving along that stretch of West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, California—a curvy three-mile street with multi-million dollar homes on one side, and the Pacific Ocean on the other—a key opens a lock: I parked in that space during a storm and cried so loud; that’s the spot where our buddy, “Chuck” would meet us with a trunk-full of beers and Bacardi…how long has he been gone?
Other times, I’m following my car’s navigation to pick up a friend, and I am somewhere familiar, yet can’t place it; it’s like the lyrics of a 1980s one-hit-wonder that my mind knows without effort. This is familiar. This is unfamiliar. I have been here. I am here.
Most authors, I suppose, are reflective, melancholic, drawn to nostalgia. Add onto that my background as a therapist, and I’m deep in the recesses of my mind 90% of the time. I revisit my narratives of childhood and adolescence with new eyes, maturity, and grace—grace for others, but a whole lot for myself.
There is a yearning that happens as I stumble upon a place, a feeling, a scent, a memory that is so pungent and close. I want to be there. I want to see her. I want to tell him, “No, don’t!” I want to curl up in my father’s chair, and smell his pipe tobacco smoke. I want my body to feel what it is to be thirteen in the middle of a field dotted with daisies, and experience the true in-the-moment bliss of making a daisy chain, just because. It pains me to not have the ability to step into another dimension of time, and travel back.
It’s all a little out of reach, like the waking moments coming out of a dream.
The irony is that my present day life is beautiful. It is peaceful. I have almost zero drama. I’m married to a man I love, but more importantly whom I like. I don’t want yesterday. I just want to revisit it; linger a little longer; tell my friend “Annie” how beautiful her smile is, and to never forget that. It’s the little things that wrench my heart, and cause my nose to sting.
I’m going to revisit some places. Some spaces. Some people. That is the undercurrent of my new novel Pink & White. Both of my characters find who they are in the context of who they were. Elizabeth, while fictional, is very much an expression of my memories and experiences. My narrative is mine, but it is most likely skewed; of course it is. Memory is at least 50% fiction.
Today I remember “Annie”.
We sit in the field at Branciforte Junior High School, bare-shouldered, with wrap-around pants. My shoulders are freckling, and turning pink; hers are deep caramel. We gather daisies, split open the stems with our thumbnail, and thread another one through. So on, and so on, and so on. Somewhere a Led Zeppelin track plays, drifting in the spring breeze. Ramble On. I place my daisy chain around her head. She giggles, that bright smile spreading across her entire face. She places mine around my neck, like a Hawaiian lei. The bell rings; time for 5th period. We let out a deep exhale as we return to what feels like Lord of the Flies, but with the hope that we will be here again, tomorrow.