I grew up in Auburn, California, but until I hit my 30s, probably, I wouldn't call it my home town. My mom and step-dad moved me to Auburn when I was seven-ish, and I was bitter about it.
American River, Auburn, Calif.
I realize now that I was bitter about so many things, divorce and the end of my only-child days included. I focused all my bitterness on the town, though, and it stuck for a long, long time. I guess I'm a girl who holds a grudge-- even a misplaced one.
If you ever drive to Auburn, just before you get to Old Town and the giant statue of gold miner Claude Chana, there's a spot where the train trestle crosses the freeway, and it feels like the gateway to the city. One day long after I'd moved to the Bay Area, I was driving to the foothills for a visit, and when I saw the trestle, my whole body sighed, and I thought, "Ah, I'm home." Just like that, no warning, I forgave the town all of its ugly sins (real or imagined) and went all nostalgic.
I've been toodling around Massachusetts, enjoying the changing colors and the quiet lakes, starting to recognize people's faces. More and more often I'm able to find my way without the help of GPS. I have friends. This isn't so bad, I keep repeating to myself.
The homesickness hits unexpectedly, like any grief. Today I received a postcard photograph of the Auburn train trestle, taken from the highway-- from behind the windshield, I think-- just as it looks when I'm on my way home. My mom sent it. I was returning from buying Sweet Potato a new dress, and I stopped to check the mail. I saw that stretch of highway, and I was back there, almost home, anxious to stop at Taco Tree for my two bean burritos and small rootbeer. And then it was so far away.
I sat in the car and cried while Buckaroo munched on his french fries in his car seat and read The Big Hungry Bear. It was a brief burst of tears, mostly because I know the neighbors now, and I don't really want them to see me crying in front of the mailboxes again.
I wonder if there will be a time I'll see a landmark in The Woods and feel like it's signalling home.