Writing my memoir was like driving down Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Upon my return from being away from the city for a few years, the order of exits was fuzzy in my memory, creating a challenge to my navigation. I had once depended on knowing each exit like a marker signaling when to turn or to keep going. My focus sharpened as I neared the exit sign; I shouted out its name. But then my attention was lost to the next approaching exit where I’d begin the process again. In my inability to remember and to see my exits clearly, I wondered what the best path was to get me to where I wanted to be.
Such was my memoir writing process. Recording the order of my timeline of experiences after being away from them for many years was unclear but then became sharper as I neared them when recalling the details. I examined the paths I took that lead me to where I wanted to be. Identifying each end point and how I got there was an experience of discovered connections.
Perhaps these are thoughts more of navigation in finding a place to be and not the destination. Maybe they are the same.
When I was a young girl, I was a walker. I greeted my favorite tree, a birch, when walking out the front door, through the yard, around to the side of the house, coming upon my backyard and then around to the front of the house. When nearing the final stretch to the top of the driveway upon my return, I was back to my starting spot. I established my roots with every step. It was only after I traveled a route when I could see my destination, home.
On my first day of kindergarten, I obliged my mother who asked me to pose in front of the picture window to have my picture taken. My birch buddy was near, plotted in the center of circling greens where it stood tall and arabesque in front of me, as if to say, look here and smile. I was dressed in a navy dress, patterned in tiny white polka dots, with an appliqué of paintbrushes and an artist’s palette in primary colors at the hem with a white Peter Pan collar mimicking my roundness. The tree’s branches did not shade my eyes, squinty from the sun’s high-noon rays while I stood with my heels brushed up against the yellow marigolds in full bloom. It didn’t matter. My birch buddy’s arms welcomed a toasty blanket of sun overhead, inviting a connection, a smile on my face, and present moments. In finding my place to be and discovering my connections to home, I was ready for a new experience—school.
Feeling at home allows us to be in a good place. When we feel secure and protected, the familiar, and comfortable, we are ready to greet our experiences with optimism and confidence. Walking the perimeter of my house, establishing my roots, and posing for a photo were discoveries of connections to home.
We will be faced with many paths to take in our lifetime, perhaps unidentifiable from afar, however, as we near them, we are able to see a clear path to take.
I now travel Lake Shore Drive with ease and comfort because the exits remind me that my life not only is about navigating and discovering connections but also getting to a destination, where I want to be, home.