As I put my last items of necessity into my luggage, I zipped it up and secured it closed.
“What on earth am I doing?” I said to myself under my breath. It’s just a vacation. Just a vacation. I kept telling myself that. We didn’t have any plans to start our travels, but my second cousin’s wife, Carrie, came to visit my mom in California. She lives in another state, and during our brief meeting I asked her all about raising her child in such a different place. “Come and visit us anytime, and we will show you what it means to live in the country. We would love to have you.” I don’t think she knew we would take her up on her offer so quickly. My husband jumped on the idea. “Let’s go visit, Janna.”
I felt afraid, afraid to be exposed to something I might be attracted to because I didn’t want to want it. I was secretly hoping that this trip would point us back to the beginning point of our journey. We would conclude that there was no place like home. I would tap my shiny red shoes together at the heels, and open my eyes to find myself living in my “dream” neighborhood, sipping ice tea, as I waded my feet in the heated pool before me.
Pool water hit me in the face, waking me from my daydream. But it wasn’t pool water at all. It was goat’s milk from my daughter’s sippy cup. Yes, goat’s milk. And yes, it tastes disgusting, gamy, goaty. My poor allergy stricken daughter. She doesn’t like the taste either, and so it seemed to splash me quite frequently from her rejection of it. “Honey, stop throwing your gross milk at me,” I said with a serious face. I could call it “gross” because she was only two years old and for all she knew, the word “gross” meant “fantastic”.
We finished packing ourselves and the kids and dropped them off at grandma’s house. They would be watching t.v. for the next 3 days. I hate t.v. and I seldom allow my kids to watch it, but I have come to realize that grandmas love t.v. and can’t be with their grandchildren without it. My mother and I have fight about this every time my children are dropped off at her house.
As we drove away from my parent’s house, I looked back at it. There sat the house I grew up in since the age of 3. It was the same, never changing. The infamous tree shaped like a gigantic mushroom sat right smack dab in the middle of their front yard. My mother could never find the strength to cut it down, even with my urging. Instead she had my dad continue to shape it like a very big, unattractive button mushroom. I wondered if that tree was there when my grandparents lived here, in this house, before my parents bought it from them almost forty years ago. The house was in the worst location, the busiest, most hectic corner of the neighborhood. I glanced down at the corner as we drove past it. This was the very corner on which my grandparents stood waving goodbye to my mom, dad, and my 2 year old brother when they drove away in a U-Haul truck, traveling to another state to make it their home. It was their chance to get out of California, and they took it. Their journey to open land and beauty only lasted a meager 2 years and here would come that U-Haul truck once again, and there would be my grandparents standing on the corner waving to them, welcoming them back home. I heard about it often as I grew up. “I once lived on beautiful land and milked my own goat.” Ahh, delicious goat’s milk. It wasn’t a cow because my brother was allergic to milk. As you can see, it’s a genetic thing. My mom would continue, “I was so lonely. Oh, so lonely and cold. Our heater didn’t work. But it was beautiful.”
And so I found myself driving to the airport to visit the same state in which my parents lived once long ago. My dad nervously reminded me before we left, “We did this, Janna. You are going to love what you see, but if you move there, you will be back. Just like us. Everyone comes back.”
I wondered if that was true. Does everyone always end up coming back? According to my dad, the answer was a definite yes.
We were going to visit and stay with distant family members that I barely knew. If I had ever seen them, it was when I was small, and I didn’t remember. Once thing I did know was that I was named after one of them, and I heard about it all of my life. “We named you after Janna because we loved her so much. She would ride up on a horse bareback. Did you hear me? Bareback. Amazing! She would wrap her hand around the hair of the horse’s mane and hold on for dear life. She was adventurous. She could keep up with any one of her 5 brothers.”
How dangerous. How scary. Why? What was wrong with a saddle? And she would milk a cow? And touch the teats? Eew.
I was off to visit a way of life I had never known.
Oh, I hope no one makes me milk a cow and touch the teats, I thought to myself as we neared LAX.