Road Trip IV, Days 29-31: Hangin’ Out in Durham, NC
I’m home. And I’m one of the very few 52 year-old Americans who can say that.
Both my parents still live on the funky little farm where I was born in 1961. My mom is in town right now tutoring her adult literacy student. My dad, semi-retired from Duke but still actively pursuing research in animal behavior, is at his lab checking on his lemurs. (He rides his part-electric tricycle the six miles each way.)
The dogs in the yard are just as noisy as the ones we had when I was growing up: Norwegian Elkhounds (plus a poodle). The horses are a little less motley and scruffy than the ones I grew up riding, as my mom developed a taste for dressage, but the barnyard critters are just as colorful: chickens, a goat, and Stevie, the World’s Cutest
Ass Donkey. (Their llama died a couple years ago, as did Bess, the Wandering Sheep.)
The house is even more crammed with my grandmother’s artwork (she was a sculptor), my mom’s weavings, and items picked up from a lifetime of travel to places like Madagascar, Israel and Guatemala, plus art and furniture made by various local artisan friends. Oh, and then there’s my dad’s proclivity for new gadgets, clashing horribly with the aforementioned art and requiring fancy wandering patterns to walk anywhere in the house. And the wall of family photos, stuck up higgledy-piggledy with pushpins, edges curling, hopelessly overlapping each other because new ones keep getting added without the old ones ever being organized.
None of the doors close properly. (Drives my carpenter husband nuts.) The ancient radiators still clank at night. The fridge is full of yogurt and peanut butter, local beer and imported cheese.
Carolina Friends School, which I attended K-12 (and walked to, since my parents donated some of their adjacent land for it) is still going strong. I can hear the kids right now, across the pond, out for recess. Their stray soccer balls still float by our dam.
Like I said: home.
How rare is it, at my age, to have parents still married to each other, still living in the same house where they’ve lived for the past 54 years?
I try to make myself focus on what’s different. There’s a sporty new Subaru BRZ in the driveway, which my dad bought for my mom but she’s too embarrassed to drive. There’s a new road into the woods where Carolina Friends School is expanding; one day they will inherit the entire property from my folks. And if course there’s that poodle.
But that’s really it. Home is breathtakingly, chaotically, wonderfully the same: full of dog hair, musical instruments, books, and muddy boots.
So, Thomas Wolfe, fellow North Carolinian, I’m afraid I must beg to differ. It may not happen often, but…it happens. I’m home.
What do you guys think? Is my case not as rare as it feels? I would love to hear if you or anyone you know can relate to this question: Can you really not go home again?