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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

why you should go home again

Del's famous lemonade

I have been lucky enough to travel around the world as a celebrity interviewer for I lived on a yacht in Cannes, held a koala in Melbourne, Australia and chilled out with psychic Sylvia Browne at a spa but honestly, the best trip I ever took was going back to my little hometown to find my happy again.

Typically New England

There are some vacations you remember in your life. You take photos, you put them in a scrapbook and every so often something will remind you of that time a koala scrambled into your canoe. Then there are vacations that can change your life. This story is about the vacation that changes your life, the one where I kept saying to the universe "This is too much, it's TOO good" and it's the one where I tried to get a tattoo.

I am from a small town in Massachusetts, a town that I miss terribly now that we live on the west coast. It really is funny (not funny ha-ha but funny in a tragic sense) that you don't know how great something is until it's no longer there. I don't think I ever loved my little hometown as much as when I left. It's the little things like the way the pink granite pillars of my former grammar school sparkle in the morning sunlight and the way the Dunkin' Donuts girls know what I mean when I ask for a coffee, regular (2 cream + 2 sugar).

To get to know the Boston area like a local, click here for the boston slang dictionary to find out what we mean we we say 'bubbler' and 'packie'

L. (husband) knows how homesick I am so he said "Go, have fun. See our family, your friends and find us a cottage at The Cape" and that is just what I did. In two weeks I drove a little over 2000 miles throughout New England. I wanted to remember who I was, in the places that formed who I am today. What would I find out about myself? Could these places help me remember what made me happy?

Sunrise over Massachusetts

Being the Type A girl that I am, I called/emailed/texted with family and friends and had an intense schedule for the time I was home. I took the redeye flight and the morning I landed at Logan, I looked out the window, saw the Prudential and knew I was home. I. Was. Home. I almost cried seeing the Dunkin' Donuts in the airport.  Driving along the MassPike I listened to my Home playlist and James Taylor sang me home. I landed in a big pile of hugs at my sister-in-law's house. I closed my eyes as I hugged the girls to me and cried. It was too good.

The Cape Cod house we almost bought

The Cape Cod house that dreams are made of

And we did what you do when you are in New England. My first week was just for family and we spent the week going to the beach, exploring Cape Cod, meeting with a realtor to find a small cottage where we could come home to each summer. It was wildly fun standing in a grey shingled cottage with my sister-in-law Sue and her girls Mia and Tita wondering what the space would look like without the brown paneling and frat house brown tweed couches. Mia, especially, had the eye for real estate as we drove along the coastline. She would spot a grey shingled house and say "Oh, Auntie Taylor. That one is perfect for you and Uncle L. You could do a lot with that space." We ate at lobstah shacks and shopped in the quintessentially sweet little coastal towns of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. We talked of mermaids and laughed during the long car rides. I marveled at the wonderful job my sister-in-law and her husband have done raising these two little girls who are smart, generous, kind and self-confident. In a little shop we bought a ridiculously heavy mermaid statue that was so heavy that  the shop thoughtfully shipped her to Seattle. Someday she will be right at home in our cottage by the sea.

Tita's coffee menu

My niece Tita was quite the barista, ready to prepare any latte or espresso drink for Sue and I. In fact she created a menu that we used every day.

If you want to learn about yourself, play Life or Monopoly with little ones

There was the Newport polo match and the game of Life where Auntie Taylor drew the doctor card and lived in a mobile home with my wife and adopted daughter from Vietnam. (I thought maybe it was a good life lesson for the girls when I landed on the marriage spot and chose a pink (instead of blue) spouse peg to add to my little car. Anyone can love anyone, right?) It was heaven just sitting at the kitchen table drinking lemonade and giggling until we couldn't breathe.

Ryder was such a trooper as we got the hair out of his eyes with a hair tie

After a week I left for the BlogHer convention in NYC and when I came back I drove to my other sister-in-law's house in Massachusetts. This was the week I scheduled to see friends and every day I drove to my hometown, 45 minutes away. The first morning back home I went to 7am Mass in the church I grew up in with the nun who was my fifth grade teacher.

As I sat in the pew I looked up at the stenciling on the walls and I realized it was aqua. I wondered:  Do I love this color blue now because it reminds me of the safe mornings I spent attending French Mass in church with my grandparents every morning before school? And as I sat across from my fifth grade teacher at breakfast after Mass I wondered if she knew how much she meant to me? I started to tear up as I told her that she will always hold a special place in my heart because she was so kind to me when my parents were getting a divorce. She was in her early twenties, then, a new nun starting out. I adored her. I still do.

The rest of the week was like a movie montage, you know the part of the movie with the great catchy music and scenes where the lead finds herself or falls in love or tries on clothes? That's what this trip was like.  On a dewy, sunny morning I visited my grandparent's grave and asked them to watch over our babies in heaven. I asked them for a sign, any sign that our babies were OK, a squirrel, grass blowing in the wind, anything. . .but nothing happened. I got back in the SUV disappointed. I don't know what I expected would happen. I turned on the ignition of the new car and that is when the radio died. The radio I had been listening to all week was stopped in the middle of a song. As I sat there I thought "Good one! I don't know how you just did that, Meme and Pepe but that was AWESOME! However, I kinda need music. . ." and then the radio started. Be careful what you ask for. I kinda scared myself in that cemetery.

Hampton Beach, NH

I saw high school friends I hadn't seen in years. There was the breakfast with my girlfriends, Louise and Kathy where we laughed so hard that we hiccuped. I was 16 again as we talked about our lives and the boys we love. And the dinner in Northampton with Brian (who I hadn't seen since graduation) that lasted 5 hours (and we didn't even order dinner until 4 hours in. Thanks, Fitzwilly's!) The next morning Brian surprised our friend Bill by joining us for breakfast at Sylvester's (these former best friends hadn't seen each other in years), followed by a nostalgic drive including a stop at a favorite vintage bookshop housed in a former barn in the countryside and a visit to the tattoo shop in Northampton for my first tattoo (no matter how hard we pleaded, unfortunately the tattoo artist was completely booked for the afternoon). There was the spontaneous 3-hour drive to Hampton Beach with Billy, just so we could take a picture.

The books I found in the vintage bookshop

Sitting across from each of my friends that week-- Denise, Billy, Brian, Louise, Kathy and Bill I learned something about who I was and who I am now. I  remembered who I was at 13 and 17. When I looked at Louise or Billy I didn't see them as they are now. To me, they are always going to be 17 and the funny, bright friends who made me laugh. I remembered the hard parts too, the break-ups and the dramatic fights over things that seemed so important back then. I realized that high school is really a training ground for the rest of your life.

Yes, I noticed that the Fuzzy Navel carton had Mojitos in it. We fixed this.

On my last night back home, I set aside that time to be with family. After dinner on the deck high above the lake, my three nieces danced around to "Marry You" by Bruno Mars. As the sky turned from pink to indigo, the girls took their baths and came out to say goodnight in their jammies with wet hair smelling like strawberries. I hugged each of them to me and closed my eyes. I was so in love with these little girls, these sweet, funny, kind girls. I hoped they would remember this night. Later, when they were in bed I made cocktails. When I was back in my hometown I had called Billy to ask if I could buy liquor in supermarkets as we can in Seattle. He said "No, of course not. The packie, remember?" Wow. I had forgotten about the packie AKA the Package Store which is the only place in Massachusetts where you can buy liquor. On my way home that night I had stopped at a package store and bought Patron Silver and Bartles & Jaymes Peach wine coolers (our #1 choice of alcohol in college).  And so on this night, I poured a B&J wine cooler into a plastic tumbler along with some ice and a shot of Patron. As we sipped under the stars on the deck with the dogs curled at our feet, I realized that this is why I was home. The best vacation wasn't sitting with George Clooney in the South of France (although that WAS really good). The vacation that you will always remember is the one where you feel loved. And at that moment with the girls sound asleep, talking about life with my sister-in-law I knew that this is where I belonged.

Here, at home, I was just TJ. I was just a girl who was still learning how to be me.

I learned that going back to your roots can help you move forward with your life. Socrates said "The unexamined life is not worth living." To be able to sit across from someone who was so important in your life at the time and see how they remember it is a real gift. There were times during this week I thanked my friends for being such an important part of my life and there were also times I apologized for being such a bitch. It was such a relief to let all that go. When was the last time you looked at a period of your life and examined where you came from? AND you got a perspective from someone else?

The next day as I took my seat on the plane, I read the text messages coming in on my phone from my friends "I love you! Come back!" "I love you guys too!!!!!!!" I typed back. I was so excited to go home and see L. and our puppy but I knew that I would be back to Boston in October just in time for the Macoun apples. There is so much more happy to be found and I know just where to look.

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