Driving away from the old farmhouse I grew up in, I was pensive and melancholy. I knew the place was rundown, but to walk into the now-abandoned shack that held so many memories was such a letdown. I wanted to find a way to shake my sense of unease.
Another place that holds wonderful memories growing up was Lake Michigan, and Silver Lake to be specific. On my way, I drove through my hometown of Hart that was just a mile or so from our farm.
Making my way past Hart Lake, I turned left towards the cemetery where my mother was buried. I stopped to see her little headstone with the wrong birth year on it. I have always wondered what the story is behind the incorrect headstone that marks her grave.
It never seemed to bother any of us, because that grave wasn’t her home it was just a marker with her name on it.
Back in the car, I drove the short distance out to Silver Lake.
Nothing looked familiar. It felt like a nice family place now, but when I was a teenager it was more of a hangout for kids my age.
Remembering the lighthouse we all used to meet at, I drove to the end of the road and got out to look around. I was surprised to see hardly any beach. I didn’t recall the water level ever being that high.
There was a part of me that wanted to see familiar faces. To run into someone I knew and laugh and say, “Remember when…” But that didn’t happen, of course, so after soaking my feet in the lake, I got in the car and headed back towards town.
Luckily, a couple of high school buddies were around and had invited me to go “hang-out” with them. Pulling up to the house it was great to immediately see friendly faces.
Jerry and Ed came out to greet me and we hugged and joked around like it hadn’t been 40 years since we last saw each other. How does that happen? How do a couple of friends that I knew for only a few years remain lifelong friends?
We sat and talked and reminisced for a few hours and it lifted my spirits. I finally found the “familiar” I was seeking. I hated to go, but I had promised other high school friends I would meet them for dinner.
Saying goodbye I left and drove out to Pentwater – another old stomping grounds from my teenage years – to meet up with friends.
We ended up grabbing dinner to go and sitting on a picnic table overlooking Lake Michigan. It reminded me of so many fun times in the past only this time we chatted about work and grandkids instead of rock bands and hairstyles.
We did manage to get in a few, “Whatever happened to so-and-so’s” and which teachers were still teaching at the high school we graduated from.
As the sun set over the lake we said goodbye and I turned the car towards my sister’s home.
Driving in the dark down narrow, tree-lined roads I had to rely on GPS to guide me back. I had no idea where I was or which direction I was going. It seemed a fitting metaphor for my trek down memory lane that day.
I was glad to pull into the driveway and see my sister waiting up for me. The memories and feelings I had been searching for all day where right there in her smile.
I realized “home” isn’t a place.
It is a feeling. I felt at home visiting with my friends and on my sister’s 40 acres and I was looking forward to visiting my Aunt Ruth the next day. Even though she no longer lives at the same house I remember as a young girl who just lost her mother, it didn’t matter.
I will hold the memories of growing up in that tiny farmhouse in Michigan and my teenage years hanging out on the beaches of Lake Michigan close and know that it was the people around me, not the places that are home.
I know now we can always go home.