Technically I guess I came home yesterday on Jet Blue. But this past week in Los Angeles has been a homecoming of its own. Revisiting a city that you no longer live in kind of feels like an out of body experience, like being a spirit wafting through a world you’re no longer a part of. The first thing I did after picking up my rental car was drive by our old house. The new owners have painted, and generally spruced it up. They took out the two massive elms that defined and shaded the front yard, but they left my roses and my picket fence alone.
Ironically it wasn’t sitting in front of my old house that stirred my emotions, it was the time I spent on the familiar roads and freeways of Los Angeles and 'the valley', shuttling between family and friends. I found myself associating memories with each and every block I passed, and I spent the week re-tracing the skeleton of 25 years of family life played out on the grid of city streets, the curves of hilly canyon roads, the blocks, parks, buildings and mini-malls of what had been home.
What started as a little game turned into an obsession. There was a person, place, event or emotion embedded in every street corner, every exit on the freeway, from momentous occasions all the way down to the minutia of everyday life. The memories came fast and furious and in jumbled order---a pre-school graduation, a daughter's early boyfriend, the place we got our first dog groomed. The orthodontist, the good friends that moved away, one of the many bar mitzvah drop offs where I watched a thirteen-year-old through the rear view mirror wobbling in her first high heels. The drive to the high school bus stop, an ill-fated taekwando class, an anniversary dinner, a flat tire.
After a few days of this the sheer number of memories became overwhelming, especially when traffic slowed me down and I had time to dwell on them. It was somewhere along the 101 West that it all caught up with me and my little game dissolved into tears.
The next time I take a trip down memory lane, I'm going to have to stick to the passenger seat.