Sometimes, you have to go home to know that you’re not really home.
If that sounds like a philosophical gem straight from the pages of “Philosophical Gems Illustrated,” you really need to start reading another publication. That one is terrible. I mean, come on, you can get better writing from an ostrich throwing paint balls at the side of a bus while...
But I digress.
It happens every so often — like the Baltimore Ravens fielding a competent offense or the moon colliding with the sun over an open field of wild fairy dust: I get an itch to go home to our nation’s capital. I want to walk the streets, eat the food and bask in the local news.
A lot of you who have transplanted yourselves here have to share those same feelings sometimes. There’s no doubt that nostalgia plays a part in this, as I just want to see some of the old spots I used to frequent and soak in the general excitement of what the city has to offer.
I’ve had this feeling since sometime near the end of summer, and we finally got the chance to go up last weekend and take our daughter to the Smithsonian National Zoo — arguably my favorite place in the world as a youth.
Riley loves animals. Insanely so, in fact. She laughs hysterically whenever our dogs start running or playing, and they actually received kisses from her before either my wife or I did. She lights up whenever we pull up in the parking lot at Parsons Farms, and starts chanting “goats, goats, goats” before we ever get her out of her seat. Her favorite movie is a Baby Einstein program on farms, and she jumps off the couch whenever a cow or chicken comes on the screen.
No-brainer, I figured. She gets her animals. I get to go home for a couple days. Everyone’s happy.
And it was a good trip. It really was. I got to enjoy the electricity of the city a bit as we walked around looking for a good place to eat dinner. There was a very cool indoor playground that caught Riley’s attention for a good, long while and we got back to our hotel room that night in plenty of time to watch some television and unwind before she went down for the night.
The next morning we got up, had a nice breakfast and drove through some familiar neighborhoods on the way to the zoo. It was fantastic to see that some of the old stores I used to go in were still open, and Rock Creek Park will always be a place that holds a special place in my heart. The zoo itself was incredible, and Riley was particularly interested in the elephants, giant turtles and some rat-like creature called a degu.
Which, by the way, was disgusting.
Regardless, she eventually fell asleep in my wife’s arms, signaling to us that it was a good time to wrap it up and head back to the beach.
Which, as it turns out, is home.
Washington, D.C., no longer holds that title for me, and that was made very evident to me during this last trip. My parents moved away shortly after I graduated high school, and we didn’t have too many relatives in the area anyway since both my parents were originally from somewhere else.
It has become “the place I grew up,” and that’s about it. And I realized that’s fine, too.
That old saying, “Home is where the heart is,” rings true, and my heart is now here. Most of my friends live here. My job is here. My daughter is being raised here, and all of those things make me happy.
As I said earlier (no, not that ridiculous “you have to go home to know that you’re not really home” line), we really did have a great trip last weekend. We all had fun at the zoo, the city actually feels safer than it did during my time there in the ’70s and ’80s, the food was great and the memories kept flooding back to me with every turn we made.
But you know what made me feel at home?
Turning east off Route 113. Passing those homes and farms and businesses that I see on a daily or weekly basis. Getting into the house and going through those insufferable bills that always find a way of making it into my mailbox. Sitting down on my couch and returning a call to a friend.
It was seeing Riley get out of the bath that evening and into her pajamas before we went outside to watch the sun disappear again over that same horizon we’ve seen it hide behind a zillion times before, and watching her run to her favorite tree.
It felt like home coming back in to work Monday morning and seeing tired, overworked eyes from our reporters looking back at me in our editorial meeting, and then getting called into Susan Lyons’ office to discuss one thing or another before settling back in to get some busy work done.
It’s home when you stop by the gas station and run into someone in the parking lot, and it’s home when you hear a car horn go off as you’re driving down the road and wave by reflex, before you even know where that sound was coming from in the first place. It’s home when you... Well, when you know you’re home.
There’s really no reason to complicate it any more than that.