Monday, November 25, 2013

Return to the homeland.

I recently had the chance to spend two days in Michigan, the side of Michigan where I lived from age 9 to age 20, to reunite with some friends and revisit old stomping grounds.  

I have only been home once in 20 years because my parents have not lived there since I started college, so I stopped going there for weekends and holidays 20 years ago.   Time has softened the edges of some of those memories.  Going back home has that trippy quality --things are not just exactly as you remember them to be.  Your childhood home seems smaller, and new restaurants and stores have moved in, but there is so much the same.  It even smelled like Michigan, a smell I could not describe for you (do tall trees have a different smell than regular trees?) , but could identify as soon as we got out of the car. 

The purpose of the trip was to reunite with two friends, Sandy who lives back in the area now after living in France for many years, and Sarah, who flew in from Colorado.  I have seen Sandy once about 4 years ago when she came to Maine to photograph a wedding. 

Sarah is a friend with whom, thanks to email, blogs, facebook and cell phones, I have been in very close touch throughout the years.  We've been connected through birthing and raising kids, and she is my ultra-marathon-super-tough-mommy mentor responsible for inspiring me to start running.  She was a go-to friend while I was going through the divorce, and just the kind of friend who I can talk to about anything.  But I had not seen her in the flesh since 1993.  

What a sweet reunion.

age 18.  Prom night.
And now, a few months shy of 40.

 The three of us in 1992:

And now:

It was so good and so weird to be back.  It was so remarkable to hang out with two women whom I've known since we were just kids, and to have ended up so aligned, having similar takes on our memories now that we are looking back from adulthood, having the same sense of gratitude that we had the kind of friends we did and that we kept each other safe, being so in agreement on politics and world events.  Twenty years is a good chunk of life.  We have all lived in multiple places, and there has been so much joy and pain and loss, divorces, parents who died, marriages, babies, relationships that have stretched us, friendships that have hung on tight.

There was a lot to talk about. We spent much of the weekend like this:

And of course, we did this crazy nostalgia tour of all of our old haunts.  First, the childhood homes:




As we made the turn into my neighborhood (what an odd sensation to not know exactly where I was going but to be able to sense the turns as I came up to them), I thought I might faint from missing my dad so hard, but really it felt good to stand on the solid ground that was my childhood home.

The house looked different, but felt the same.  It blows my mind that when I moved into this house, I was the same age Skyler is now.

The lawn and yard has my dad's marks all over it.  I was proud to see that the deck out back was still strong and standing.  We knocked on the door, but the family was not home.  I was kind of relieved.  

We drove by our old schools, friends' houses, and boyfriends' houses. Remember so-and-so?  Remember that night?  Remember that kiss? 

Sarah's house was the axis of our social lives, walking distance from our high school, and always full of boisterous crowds of teenagers coming in and out.  The current owners let us in and showed us around.  We sat on the stairs for old time's sake.  I had many heart-to-heart talks on those steps as a high school kid, and some very romantic kisses.  If those walls could talk. 

We walked through our old high school.  Holy smokes, the memories.

Senior lockers, what's up.
We even ate sliders at Hunter House Hamburgers.  Still greasy, still amazing.

I feel so settled in Maine, and so connected to the landscape and the people here.  I have now lived in Maine longer than any other place, and my roots are here.  But there is something about going home, to where you figured out who you were, and to walk through those streets with some of your favorite friends.  

In Michigan I was Emilie, not a mom or a wife or an ex-wife.  I was a mid-western girl who loved U2 and REM and The Smiths, wore tapered jeans with over-sized sweatshirts, drank Labatt's Blue out of solo cups in Sarah's basement.  I filled journals with angsty prose and drove too fast to make my curfew, and always landed safely at my home, my family of 5.

Though I hated middle school and suffered through a lot of mean-girl drama, in high school, I had a safety net of a really incredible crew of friends. Thanks to facebook, I am in touch with most all of these fine people. 
in Sarah's back yard

20 years later, these same friends still know me.  
Kaca, me, Sarah, Sandy.  

Another thing we discussed and all agreed on, we WOULD NEVER let our children go to the Bahamas for Senior year Spring Break.  What were our parents THINKING?

We really did go to the Bahamas.  30 of us, without chaperones.  When I first broached the subject with my mom when I was a junior, she said:  "OVER MY DEAD BODY."  And yet, somehow I went anyway.    When I asked her about it recently, she admitted:  "you were the youngest child and your persistence broke me."    We did have a blast, but Skyler and Reed? OVER MY DEAD BODY.

It felt so good to fill in some gaps from my childhood, to reconnect, to re-vision the town where I grew up.  I want to stay right here in Maine, but I like knowing that Michigan will always be there for me, and that I'm still so connected to all of these dear people from that part of my life.  Sandy, thank you for hosting us. 

And dear Sarah, may it NOT be another 20 years.  xoxo
parting shot at the Detroit airport


jess said...

What a great trip! You've inspired me to pay a visit to my old neighborhood.
btw- Love your purse!

Kim Oldenburgh said...

Who says you can't go home?