Driving along Illinois freeways lined with crumbling grey piles of unwanted snow, I remembered all over again why I don’t live there anymore.
When my plane touched town on California concrete Wednesday night, I felt profound relief. It’s not that Illinois (or Ill-annoys, as my friend Jesse calls it) is a bad place. It’s not. Some of my best memories were made there, and I had a great time on this trip re-visiting my old haunts in Chicago with my friend C. (I was happy to see that Alien and Predator still live at The Alley, and that Medusa’s Circle still has the best collection of lightning bolt necklaces.)
Illinois used to be home. But I don’t belong there anymore.
Being back for my grandfather’s memorial service brought up more memories than usual. Maybe it was seeing all those estranged relatives — cousins I haven’t seen for nearly a decade, who now have children I’ve never met before, and great-aunts with blue hair and unwelcome advice.
Maybe it was because my mom, dad, and I spent countless hours digging through boxes and boxes of old photographs — some of my immediate family and lots of my grandpa. Photos I’ve never seen before, like the blurry black and white of my grandpa holding my dad when he was just a baby.
Maybe it was hanging out with my friend A from high school and her two children, the eldest of whom is nearly a woman herself now.
Maybe it was just driving down all those familiar roads, past places that used to define the boundaries of my world, and seeing now how small they are, and how colorless.
Maybe it was everything combined.
All I know is that there is a girl I used to be, and she exists now only in pictures and memories and whispers in the back of my mind. And although it’s always hard to leave my family and friends behind, to know that it might be a very long time before I see them again, the girl I am now belongs in San Francisco.
You can’t deny your heart its home.
-Lo, who was also reminded there is nothing to miss about the snow, the cold, and the flat grey sky.