Am I the only one who looks for pieces of home almost everywhere I go? The favorite worn children’s book in a new doctors office, the same song you sing in the shower blaring from the speakers of a car on the highway as you drive the U-Haul across the state to your new home. The comforting smell of rain on pavement on your first day at a new school. And once the familiar is found, you internally sigh because you know –you can just feel it deep down– everything will be alright.
As an introvert, I nearly always felt out of place in the unfamiliar. My mom has the uncanny ability to find someone she knows wherever we go– a friend of a friend in Wyoming, a second cousin seen in a restaurant of California. We really can’t go anywhere without her finding someone who knows her some way. Not me, though. I have lived in Washington state for almost five years now, and I have only found two connections to my childhood home. And yet, I still look for them. Little reminders that I belong there because a piece of home is waiting for me.
I have looked to find the pieces on vacations, as my family took several every summer. We mostly stayed around our home state of Utah, but occasionally traveled across state lines. There was one vacation that I expected to be unfamiliar in, and even mentally prepared for it, yet it was that one place that I found a small piece of home.
We traveled to the East Coast in the summer of 2004 to pick up my brother from his mission. The plan was to go to sightseeing in Washington D.C. first, and make our way up to Pennsylvania where he was. It was steamy that summer, with temperatures in the high 80’s, with about an 80% humidity. And there was so many people! Crowds in elevators, clogging the highways, blocking the view of the Constitution and sweating side by side in the museums. Everywhere we went, there were pictures being taken and tantrums being thrown. Finally, on the Lincoln Memorial steps, I was able to take a breath. While there were still crowds of people, the nearest gathering was at least ten feet away from us. I started to feel a bit more comfortable with my surroundings, and started to unconsciously people watch, looking for bits of home but not expecting any.
That’s when I saw him. Curly black hair and freckles standing not ten feet from us. “Hey Ryan!” I shouted to my brother, “Isn’t that Derek from school?” Ryan’s eyes widened as he realized with me that home wasn’t too far off. As he rushed to say hi, I breathed a sigh of relief, feeling at last in this busy city like I had a place, I belonged. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for spotting such an odd coincidence, and that pride helped me through the jostling of lines and sore feet plodding back to the car to drive the couple of hours back to our hotel.
When we arrived, the excitement of the day just barely starting to wear off, we decided to go for a swim. Lindsey, Ryan, and I ran ahead of our little brothers and parents, racing past the exercise room to the pool. I happened to glance up at the treadmill as we passed, noticing a dark haired freckle faced boy that looked familiar bouncing up and down as he ran. This time, I just stopped and pointed as Ryan passed me. He banged on the glass, and Derek grinned hugely for the second time that day.
Such a small memory, such a strange way to feel like I belonged. But really, what are the odds? It’s so surreal to me still that it seems like a dream, and yet it really happened. Home definitely has a funny way of popping up when you least expect it.