I visited my parents the other day, having found myself in the neighborhood following an early morning appointment in Reseda. Instead of making my way back to my little corner of La La Land as I normally do, I thought, why not?
Well, the typical answer to that question, at least on my end, has been, “We work different schedules”, “Traffic is terrible”, “They’re/I’m out of town, indisposed, too tired, etc. “, or “I don’t want to be a bother”, with the latter being an obstacle of the heart than an actuality.
Traffic is a pretty big reason, however, due to time as much as safety. A patchwork quilt of minefield terrain and monstrous vehicular congestion, the LA sprawl is similar to the burroughs of New York sans its most marvellous subway system. Land-lock is kind of a thing here. It is both shocking and liberating when you realize that you can cover double your commute in half the time at midday as opposed to sundown. And so most people just put together a playlist and suck it up.
I pictured it in my head, hoping they’d be home, thinking that I’d stop by a store on the way to grab some flowers for my mom. She’d like that, I thought. My dad would like that I brought my mom flowers. There weren’t many stores on the way so I just headed over.
Looking at it on a map, the San Fernando Valley’s residential infrastructure is an extensive grid. My parents live at the most west point of said grid, right before the mountains leading to Bell Canyon and Calabasas. The neighborhoods tend to blend into each other, with each strip mall, apartment complex, and cluster of homes looking the same as the next. Anyone else, even myself for a time, would have difficulty telling the difference between street corners, but any street heading west will get you there eventually. I still knew how to get there after not living there for 13 years.
Pulling up, I saw both of their cars were in the driveway and was relieved that I’d not only get to see my mom, but my dad before he left for work. Walking up the drive, I knocked our secret knock on the door, one reserved for family. My dad answered the door, smiling brightly, wearing comfy clothes reserved for weekends. “I thought that was you through the peephole! How are you, baby girl?” My mom followed in to the front room, meeting both of us in embrace.
And we had a great time — catching up, looking at photos of their recent cruise through the Panama Canal, talking about plans for the near future and hopeful trips planned a little further on. The more time I spend, with anyone, doing anything, the more I appreciate such low-key times. I promised I wouldn’t stay long, but my folks wouldn’t have that. Two hours went by so quickly, and we found ourselves saying third and fourth goodbyes, as my family is known to do.
While driving away, I couldn’t help but think how important it is to go home, wherever that is. Somewhere that you know how to get to without referring to a map. A place where you want to be, where someone is happy to see you and you them. A place with or without physical, geographical space. Somewhere where things make sense, and where the heart is safe.
It’s important to know where home is, to make it possible for others, and to keep it close. Otherwise we’re all just drifting.