Missing Home

By Edith Maxwell

“Can you ever really go home again?” A pretty classic question, right?

I’ve just been in California for a few days. I was on a panel at the Edith Maxwell on panelCalifornia Crime Writers Conference in Pasadena, had an author event at the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in Redondo Beach, and also saw a few old friends before and afterwards, two of them being two of my best friends from high school, Cindy Snyder and Bob Borries.

This visit was especially sweet because I grew up here. I was born in Pasadena. I was raised in Temple City, a couple of towns south of Pasadena. I went to college at UC Irvine in Orange County. I’ve now lived in Massachusetts longer than I lived in California, but I still feel like a Westerner.

So after the conference Saturday evening, I went out for a walk in the velvety air. The San Gabriel mountains – my mountains – loomed San Gabriel mountainscomfortingly large and blue in the dusk. I could almost reach out and touch them.

I walked by the Star News building where I’d been a student journalist in high school. I watched how people obediently waited for their green Walk signal even at a deserted intersection. I passed a sign for PCC, the community college I rode my bicycle to (7 miles uphill) for two semesters. And I saw the markings on Colorado Boulevard and Lake Avenue for the Rose Parade.  I didn’t try to take pictures, except of the mountains, because I knew I’d remember it all with my brain’s camera.

It brought back so many Pasadena memories, walking these streets on the next-to-longest day of the year, with the Supermoon rising yellow and full. Hiking in the dry San Gabriels, fragrant with wild sage, all the way to the top of Mount Wilson once. Sitting on the sidewalk with my two best friends for hours before dawn to see our friend Vicki Tsujimoto on the Rose Parade royalty float, when she was the first Japanese-American Rose Princess. Getting a sandwich named the Ronald Reagan or the Dick Nixon at Stottlemeyers. Earning my driver’s license on my 16th birthday and then being rear-ended in my father’s 1968 VW an hour later.

I wouldn’t live in Pasadena again for a bunch of reasons, smog and my wonderful life in Massachusetts being primary. But I love it out here. I feel like I can breathe better once I cross the Rockies.

Do you have a place you miss but that you wouldn’t consider living in again? Can you really ever go home?

13 Thoughts

  1. As an Air Force wife many places became home for me. I’d say the one place I wouldn’t want to live again is Dayton, Ohio. Our neighbors and friends from Wright-Patterson AFB made it a wonderful assignment. And we made the best of being there — I still have a favorite antique end table I bought while stationed there. And last week I spent time with two ladies I met in Dayton and even though it’s been years since we saw each other, it’s like we hadn’t been apart.

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  2. I don’t know. I grew up in rural South Dakota and I love it there. I think I could live there again. But I’m not sure. But there are so many smells that are so great, like the lilacs blooming in May. Or the Russian Olive trees in June. Or the smell of the grasses in the evenings when the dew is forming. And then there are the sounds. All the different birds. The coyotes in the evenings. There are times when it is hard there, like when the wind blows non-stop. But traffic noises are rare and it is a pleasant place to be.

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    1. Elaine, I love your description of South Dakota. I’ve only ever driven through at high speed. Thanks for stopping by!

      Sherry, you always make the best of wherever you live!

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  3. Great question, Edith: I have been asking myself that a lot since my last child left home five years ago. I have cried secretly for most of those five years, wondering where home is after your kids no longer need that good school system. I live in Waterville, Maine, the town where my alma mater is (Colby College). But it’s inland, central Maine and I lived so long on the Maine coast. I long for those ocean views and the smell of the water and the call of the gulls. My husband has made this place home for 50 years, as he taught at Colby. But I still think I belong either back at the Maine coastal town I left behind, or back in my hometown, Littleton, Massachusetts. Littleton is much busier than it was when I was a kid, but it’s still “home” in a sense I know I might consider if life leaves me alone in the future. Always trying to figure that question out.

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    1. Thanks, Kate. I know that feeling of wondering where to live when the children are launched. I have settled in a good place, a walkable town fifteen minutes from the nearest beach, and close to where my sons grew up, so they have a good home base when they come back to visit.

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  4. Ah, Edith… I’ve been lost in orange-scented nostalgia for Pasadena all day after reading your blog this a.m. Did you and your friends sit on those little white bistro chairs at Wil Wright’s on Colorado Blvd. and eat their fabulous Vanilla Bean ice cream after your sandwich at Stottlemeyer’s? Or find funky jewelry and clothes at the Saturday swap meets at the Bowl? I moved to a great little house on El Molino Avenue when I married in 1968 and spent the next couple of years enjoying that glorious town. FYI – my hubby popped the question over Singapore Slings and lobster at Tony’s At The Pier in Redondo Beach. Thanks for the memories…

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      1. I live in the Hudson River Valley in New York just below Albany in a small Dutch Colonial village, Kinderhook. After writing memoir and short stories for several years, I’m in the midst of writing a thinly fictionalized story about a woman’s skeleton found in a cellar here. It’s very mysterious… I love food and cooking. Where can I purchase your tasty book? Will you be coming to Bouchercon when it is held in September in Albany?

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  5. Well, I was born and raised near Torrance, CA which is South of Pasadena. While I’d like to go back and check out the old haunts, I don’t feel compelled to live there again. Sure it was nice to be able to grow hibiscus, jade plants, and bird of paradise in my childhood yard – but I now love rhododendrons, daffodils, and maple trees. And I love having GREEN hills to look at. And despite not liking to shovel or drive in snow – I DO love that quiet that you get during a gentle snowstorm. And I like having less density and getting more house for the money! Have a nice summer…

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  6. Thanks so much for this posting! And I love reading the comments. I’m in the middle of writing a book that explores “home” – what it means to us, the importance of a sense of place, etc. I’d love to hear more about your own ideas of “home.”

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