The Road Home

Yesterday I went back home.  To the town where I grew up.

The trip is not long.  It’s a mere 40 minutes by car, but it’s a lifetime in my head.

My parents moved away from my hometown after I graduated from college, so even though it’s not far, I rarely have an occasion to go back up there.

So, yesterday, when one of my high school friends invited me to stop by while he was in town visiting his parents for the week, I put my kids in the car and drove up.

The last time I went there was two years ago — for my high school reunion — with my dear friend Jen.  It was one of the last times I saw her before she died so unexpectedly.  That night, I had gone up to the reunion and straight back home, in the dark.  I had seen people from years ago but I had barely driven around the town.  It had been ages since I really took a ride through the area to take it all in.

So I wasn’t surprised to wonder if I’d remember all the roads to get there.  And I wasn’t surprised when they all came back to me.

Nostalgia can be a disarming feeling.  Head-spinning, even.  The notion of how much things change and yet still stay the same is so strange.  These places, so familiar to me.  These places, such a lifetime ago in my mind.

My car — my distinctly-mom vehicle — so different than anything I ever drove as a teenager back then.  And yet its tires, which had never touched the pavement in this town, knew the exact bends in the road, every one of them.  Dead Man’s Curve and all.  The roads that are notoriously narrow and rural and even treacherous.  The ones that my teenage mind considered no big deal when my parents worried were the same ones on which my now 40 year-old maternal mind felt cautious.

A place so rural.  So far away — at least on sight, though not at all in mileage — from the city lifestyle that my sisters and I both embraced for so many years post-hometown.  How can a place seem both so foreign and so ingrained to you?

I never appreciated its beauty at the time.  Though I loved my family, my friends and my life growing up — I wanted out.  I wanted to move away.  I wanted to see more.  And I did.  But I should have been grateful to have grown up in a place so lovely.  Because it was, it is — even if it took me years to realize it.

I drove the bendy roads yesterday from the visit to my friend’s house, over to the house where I grew up.  The house my parents built in 1984.  The house they sold amidst their divorce about a decade later.  The house I packed up with my mom and walked through for the last time — our possessions and family keepsakes all moved out — just before it changed hands.  I had been the last one to close the front door behind me and close that chapter of our lives.  And I remember how much it stung, how much it defined me, that moment.  For a long time.  Even though I was in my mid-20s and on my own, out of town — just as I had wanted all those years ago.

And on the way to my old home, I knew I would have to pass the house down the road where Jen grew up — where her parents still live.  The knot in my stomach had been building all day — not just over the nostalgia I felt for my own childhood, but for the role that Jen played in it.  These roads that we drove countless times together — to the movies, to the mall, to dance class and then — years later — in a limo headed to her wedding.  I think of Jen many, many times every day and how much I miss her.  But this was very different — to be back here, without her.

I drove past her house, past my school bus stop, and soon found myself sitting in the cul-de-sac outside my old house, craning my head to get a good look at it — up the long driveway and set back in the woods.  Yes, it had some updates, but it largely looked the same, even if I now viewed it differently.  Growing up, I thought it was too big, too showy.  But now it just looked pretty to me.  I could see the bay window over the front door that was my bedroom.  Where I had put my dance trophies in the window seat and where I was able to peer outside and see the headlights of my friends coming to pick me up.

And I was grateful, in a way that I had never felt before, that my parents had built it.

I drove over to the nearby dam as the sun was starting to set.  And I had to laugh at what came on the radio — somehow, select songs from the soundtrack of my life were playing, like a montage in the closing sequence of a movie that you don’t want to end just yet.

I parked at the dam and it was pretty much a perfect summer night with a perfect view.  My kids were getting sleepy in the back seat and I knew it was time to get going.  But I got out for just a minute to take some pictures — both with my camera and with my mind.




This place.  Just 40 minutes from where I live now.  I can go there anytime, I guess — but I rarely do.  And maybe that’s what makes it so powerful.

I had spent years just wanting to leave.  And yesterday, watching the sun go down over the dam, all I really wanted was to stay.  For just a little bit longer.


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  1. Reb says:

    Am I finally doing this right Kim? I did receive an engraved invitation from 2012 this morning to join the 21st century so I thought I’d join the party. I’m in tears in a museum with luca and Tom right now after reading this. I have never met anyone with jens energy, smile and charisma. I miss her dearly and continue to feel so sorry for your loss and that of her family.

  2. Teri says:

    Sad and nostalgic post today Kim. But as you looked back on your past, you had
    your beautiful children with you as a way to look to the future. <3


  3. Karin says:

    This was just beautiful, Kim. Even after living there for over 40 years, I appreciate it’s beauty more every year.

  4. Alexandra says:

    Oh, how beautiful.

    I feel what you’re saying. I did this right after my first child was born. I had to go back home, to mark something…I don’t know.

    And I am so sad at your young friend, gone.

    Death always overwhelms me. Because I know it comes for all of us. And I think: it’ll be some someone will mention someday, when they talk of death.

  5. Alexandra says:

    I meant, “It’ll be me that someone mentions someday, when they talk of death.”

  6. Erica says:

    Omg Kim this post is so gorgeous, sad, moving, and nostalgic! You genuinely write from the heart!! I have a lump in my throat and my eyes are watery! You know, to this day I don’t know if nostalgia is good or bad…but I do know that it is an ethereal, other-worldly feeling that cannot be explained. LOVE the photos…..your home town looks stunning and sounds very Americana and salt-of-the-earth from your description!!!! As for Jen, I think of her quite often (even though I never knew her) because of how you’ve spoken of her. It is one of those things that makes me particularly sad and pulls my heartstrings. But my faith and my heart tell me that she is in Heaven. And her beautiful legacy will live on through her children and God willing her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren, and all her future descendants & their generations after that!! xoxo

  7. Jen T. says:

    Funny how the things we hate as kids are the things we most want as adults. Love that house…and your family…and you!

  8. Jen T. says:

    Still thinking about this post today…it brings me a lot of comfort to know that you were the same age as my kids are now when your parents built. I’ve struggled this summer with them not having the home they grew up in as they are getting ready to start school this week where they know no one. Maybe b/c I left the one I grew up in and considered my childhood house at 14, and never had a real home to go back to after that b/c of my parents’ divorce. It’s good to know that they still have time to make lots of memories and lifelong friends in our new house 🙂

    Good luck this week with sending C off to Kindergarten…it was harder for me to send Ryan off, being my last, but I did tear up a little when Em got on the bus. xo

    • fordeville says:

      I have no doubt they’ll love the new house, the new school and the new memories — even if they won’t give you the satisfaction of telling you 😉

  9. Devan says:

    Hi, I am still making my way through your past posts and had to stop to comment on this one. This is so beautifully written! I love your funny stuff and often laugh out loud, but when you write from this place in your heart, about your friend Jen, dang you hit a new level! I love this one and have it book marked for future reading. Thanks. 🙂

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