I grew up mostly in Northern and Southern California, south of San Francisco and then south of Los Angeles. So the entire state feels like home to me. But my hometown is Irvine in Southern California. That's where I went to high school, commuted to college, got my first job, bought my first car, my first house, and gave birth to my first child. Irvine holds a part of my heart, even though the thousands of acres of orange groves and miles of open craggy coastline are nearly built-out with red-tiled roof houses, corporate office parks with glass-walled mini-skyscrapers, outdoor shopping malls with elaborate landscaping and fountains, designer boutiques and movie star owned
Just for the record, Los Angeles is a good hour away from Angels stadium, forty-four minutes under the most perfect traffic conditions, plus Angelians have the Dodgers. Just saying. The Angels are not a Los Angeles team just because 'Angel' is in both names. That would be like calling the San Diego Padres the Los Padres National Forest Padres of San Diego. Ugh.
Okay, back to the subject. Home is where you hang your heart. And as I said, that's California, but it's also New York. Upstate New York. Way up -- where Lake Ontario meets the Irondequoit Bay which rests against a bluff with a little town called Webster where Mr. Lane grew up. That's home, too. We've lived in New York and California, so we both feel a kinship to each place, the water, the soil, the air, the people, the burgers, the burritos…we both feel 'at home' in either place. The only dividing factor at this point is that my husband is a Yankees fan, a rival team to the Angels. You'd think he'd give that up for the love of a good woman.
Baseball aside, it's getting more difficult to leave what I consider to be our hometowns and go back to our regular life in the place we actually live. Both of us are beginning to long for home more and more. For that sense of same. Being grounded. Don't get me wrong, we've had a great life and I wouldn't change a thing, we've seen the world, traveled through dozens of countries, living near some of the most beautiful cities in the world. But now, as we face our future as empty-nesters, the idea of settling down finally sounds good to us…and it's about time.
The last time we left California was recently, right after celebrating the holiday season with our grown children and our new granddaughter. We woke up on our last day in town and Mr. Lane was not feeling well. We got as far as the lobby before he looked at me, green-faced and said he didn't think he could get in the car and drive all the way to Utah that day. I placed the back of my hand on his forehead and sure enough, he was burning up. "Honey, you're sick." He looked at me like, duh. I guess I hadn't noticed in between packing and trying to get out of the hotel on time.
I grabbed him by the arm and headed back up to our hotel room and put him straight to bed. We stayed another night, and he was sick for exactly 24 hours. I have to say, I wasn't at all sad about having to stay another day. However, since he was so sick, I remained with him at the hotel instead of visiting more with our family. I ordered up an extra down blanket and pillows and got him comfy. While he slept it off, I worked on my new novel, but whenever he awoke for a bit, we'd talk about our kids and how great they were all doing. "Thriving" was a word that kept coming up.
So, if everyone was doing so well, then why did it feel the pull to move home was stronger than ever?
Well, let's face it, our granddaughter is the cutest person ever born. I'm sure our children were cute too, but we don't remember anymore if they were or not (sorry kids, that's just the truth). And this little bundle of silly love is so fun and so in love with her Nana and Poppa that we can't get enough. So, she's definitely a large part of the pull. As we talked some more, the sun streamed into the room from the corner window where if we stood just right, we could see a hint of ocean in the distance. Winter in California means clear blue skies and several zillion less people on the freeway trying to get to Disneyland or Universal Studios, so the view was beautiful and even peaceful glancing toward the highways. "But, the taxes," we kept reminding each other. "The price of real estate," we cringed. Then we'd glance back out the window at the snowcapped mountains to the east and roll our eyes…"It's just so darn gorgeous here."
You see, we're at a juncture in our lives where we are considering all opportunities, we both have a resurgence of energy to work hard in our careers until retirement, which is still a decade off. So, looking out over Orange County, it was hard to not think maybe we should be working there instead.
When we finally left Irvine and headed toward the eastern edge of California, we were both quiet along the way, and as we crossed over the border into Nevada and then across the tip of Arizona into Utah, I began to cry. Mr. Lane reached across and held my hand and said, "I know, I feel the same way."
"It's so hard being away from all of them," I said.
We kept driving and with my bookstore visits for my project, Books Across America, we both began to get sidetracked from our sorrow at having to leave. We were slowly making our way back to Ohio, taking the northern route through Colorado this time versus the southern route through Texas from the way out. Crossing 18 states and a total of 5500 miles roundtrip. The further we traveled the more I thought about going home to where we currently lived in Ohio. I thought about the friends we've made there, our cozy home, the snowy winter days, the gorgeous green trees in the summer and I knew it would be okay. I smiled at Mr. Lane and he grabbed my hand again, holding it for a long time. "Home is where we hang our hearts," he said.
"I know. I was thinking the same thing," I said.
We stopped at the next bookstore and I did my thing while Mr. Lane went searching for treats and coffee for the remaining 100 miles until our next hotel stay. I kept thinking as I took photos of the storefront, it's true, home is where you hang your heart. Every town we passed through people had chosen to make that place their home. It's more about making a life, blooming where you are planted. But still, I missed the kids. I just did.
Where we live in Cleveland is currently on the rise enjoying a renaissance of sorts with new buildings downtown and once dormant neighborhoods coming back to life with a new generation and redevelopment. But, was it home? I kept asking myself that question for most of the trip. We've lived in Cleveland for four years. We have LeBron James, for Pete's sake. And I'm a member of the best book club ever. When we finally made our way south from Lake Erie and then east from the city and drove into our neighborhood, I spotted our house and the pretty pond across our lane and I glanced over at Mr. Lane who was smiling again at me and I knew I was home. For now.
Six weeks on the road visiting our family out west had made us take a closer look at who we are now, what we want going forward. We know we can't go 'home' to California just yet, that the direction of our careers will continue to lead us for the time being, but we do know that eventually we want to go home, back to our roots, near our family, where our biggest memories dwell. But until then, our home is where we hang our hearts.
My Life On The Lane is full of adventure, long winding road trips, plenty of bookstore visits, a third novel underway with my heart still hanging in the midwest for now.
Watch for upcoming blog posts about the independent bookstores I visited on the second leg of our Books Across America road trip. Some wonderful experiences with booksellers heading east.