Tuesday, April 22, 2003


In a little more than two weeks, I’ll get on the red-eye to Baltimore/Washington International (change planes in Chicago). And then for a glorious six days, I’ll be home. My whole family is gathering to see Grandma for Mother’s Day. We’ll be taking pictures of our five living generations, all in the female line: Grandma, Ma, my sister Lisa, my niece Christy, and her baby Jessica.

I want to spend time with my mother and sisters. I want to see my home landscape, to revel in the colors and shapes of the hills and fields, the smell of the dirt, the voices of the people. I haven’t been back East in nearly a year, since Michele and I went out for Rachel’s wedding, and we spent a lot of that trip in deepest West Virginia, which may be lovely but isn’t where I came from. A week at home will water those thirsty roots and (I hope) provide the inspiration to finish the novel — and yeah, maybe time enough to work on it, at least in my mind. And the rarest of gifts, time alone, away from work and away from everyone else.

I’ll have a rental car, so I will have the solitude and freedom I crave, as well as the chance to see family. And I’ll get to drive all over Eastern Pennsylvania, with excursions as far north as Ithaca (to stay over with Lisa) and as far south as Lothien, Maryland, where I will leave flowers at Diane’s grave. I’ve got a couple of disposable cameras, so I can take lots of pictures. I’ll take lots of cool music to listen to while I drive — and if I can find it, the copy of Roadside Geology of Pennsylvania I always used to keep in the car.

And after a week, I will gladly get on the plane and fly west again. I love Pennsylvania with an unreasonable, even ridiculous passion. My roots are there. I can no more help loving it than I can change the color of my eyes — it’s that deeply embedded, and tearing it out of my flesh would be like tearing out my eyes. But I love Northern California too, landscape, people, culture. Recently, considering the possibility of leaving, I’ve come to grips with the depth and ferocity of my commitment to a place I had never seen six years ago.

I am not sure I ever could leave here. It’s not the warm weather or endless sunshine. I love the cloudy days too. It isn’t even just the trees and hills, vividly beautiful as they are. It’s that somehow I am home here. My Califamily keeps me here, and my friends, my church, my sense that as a geek I’ve finally found a place where who I am is normal — a word I have never been able to apply to myself anywhere else in my life.

Although I was born there, I’ve always loved Pennsylvania as an outsider, with the heartbroken yearning reserved for the unreachable. I love California with the joyous certainty of a bride. It’s mine, and I belong here.

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