leaving home


For a significant portion of my youngest years, I loved to play a game I called "pretend," alone and often with dolls. I had all kinds of favorite dolls, from baby dolls to Barbies. In my parents' late 1970's house in the foothills of Los Angeles, otherwise known as Sherman Oaks, my Barbies had a top notch high rise apartment building to enjoy.

When I visit my dad in Los Angeles, I am greeted by my Barbies' high rise apartment in the guest bathroom. A four tiered round glass and metal shelving unit that, today, holds towels. Prior to 1983, this questionably fashionable shelf was on display in my parents' living room. A room adorned with silver, white and navy blue velvet (yes, velvet) wall paper and deep orange carpet. 

We were greeted by my Barbies' high rise in Los Angeles on Tuesday after a five day road trip.

We left Portland a week ago on Thursday around 8:30PM. We underestimated our departure by months, weeks, days and hours. But, by late Thursday it was time to go. 

After selling, donating, giving, minimally storing and packing up the car with the items that will go with us on our trip (plus some other stuff we have to go through before we take off, like taxes), we walked through each room together reminiscing on the many memories we made. The fire place where Luna, our sweet dog, died. The upstairs junk/storage/art studio/cat hangout where I painted, wrote, cried and laughed. The office where John's business thrived for years. The dining room where we hosted intimate dinner parties. The kitchen, where guests often gathered no matter how small or inconvenient it was. Our upstairs bedroom, where we slept as a family (2 humans, 2 cats and a dog) until the cats and dog could no longer safely navigate the stairs.

We walked around the house exterior to remark on all the moments, parties, pet memories and gardening that took place in the yard over the nearly two decades. And we did so as it began to rain. Heavily.

Our final moment in the house was at the front door with a candle we had lit a number of days prior. The candle represented everything the house meant to us and we were surprised it hadn't gone out already. Before we left, John called to Luna's spirit, "come on Luna, it’s time to go" and he blew out the candle. Luna lived her whole life in the house and we wanted to invite her spirit to follow us where ever we roam. The cats’ spirits have followed me all over the west coast in life, so I wasn’t worried we were leaving them behind.

By the time we loaded up the car, it was pouring rain. Cats and dogs if you will. We drove to Roseburg where we were greeted by a mouthy cat at the entrance to Motel 6 around midnight. I took this cat as a good sign. As John checked us in, this cat climbed all over me. A sweetheart who sounded like a smoker. We didn’t fall asleep until about 2AM and woke around 7AM to book it for San Francisco.

The Portland (Pacific Northwest) rainstorm, which was predicted to be the worst in Portland’s history since 1965, followed us along our way. We had a break in the rain around St. Helens, about the time we had a shift in our plan. All morning something had been gnawing at me about our rushing from Portland to Los Angeles and I finally expressed my feelings to John around Redding. “Why are we in a hurry?” I asked John. He responded with hesitant relief, “I have no idea.” We texted the many people who were expecting us on their couches in the coming days to tell them that we’ve decided to SLOW DOWN. Everyone was supportive of our, otherwise totally inconvenient for them, change of plans.

Following a map on John’s used iPhone 4, we got off Interstate 5 and headed west on a meandering road that promised to lead us to the upper part of Sonoma County. Instantly, after getting off the 5, we both felt almost deliriously happy. The road was tucked in between quiet rolling (and massive) hills where so much nature danced. We saw a variety of birds including hawks and owls. We were stopped in the road at one point by a crossing mother deer and her two fawn. We drove through a couple tiny towns and were stopped by a couple people who kindly asked, “are you lost?” To which we replied, “no” and kept along our way.

Finally, after more than an hour, we came to a fork in the road, neither of the options pointing us clearly in the direction we were heading. Another kind person, a women with silver hair and a concerned parental tone, in an old blue Jeep stopped to ask, “are you lost?” John got out of our car and walked up to her rolled-down window. In my lazy tiredness, I stayed in our car and listened to the conversation which went something like: “you can take that road but you will need 4-wheel drive.” And, “turn left towards Willows and if you get lost again, come back here and go to Chuck’s house. His is the blue one. He’ll help you out.” Apparently she had just dropped off some meat to Chuck.

Thank God for her.

We turned left at the start of the sunset and drove for a number of beautiful, breath-taking, utterly awe-inspiring miles until we found ourselves back at Interstate 5, another hour later. When we got on the 5 (Californians proudly say “the” before a freeway number much to my New Yorker husband’s annoyance), we discovered that our 2.5 hour detour moved us only about 10 miles further down the 5.

It was worth it. I gained a sense of the entire point of our journey: to let go of expectations and arbitrary plans and be present in the moment. 

By the time we landed in the town of Vacaville, we were hungry and exhausted. We checked into another Motel 6 (which I will hope to avoid at all costs on future road trips) and headed out for a meal. The place we landed must have been the town’s pick-up joint because it was painfully loud and full of people tossing hair and glancing toothy smiles. We sat outside where it was a little quieter, even though it was cold. Much to my joy, the natural area right next to the bar had cats hanging out. They looked well-fed and, I know I will come across thousands of cats on our journey so instead of rushing to feed them with my projection of worry, I took the cats as another good sign.