Dear Beautiful Girl-
My grandmother’s hands are holding your hands are holding my mother’s hands are holding my own.
California is a wrecking place for me, but long before the ghosts that haunt these highways and doorways and skies took up residence, it was a building place, and this landscape will always be part of me – and because it is of me, of you also. Though I have tried to shake off California and leave it behind me, though I have painted Portland on my skin and woven it into my hair and my soul and made it ours, my childhood still lives in the smell of eucalyptus and the sweat of long summers and the swish pound constant always of the birthing breaking sea.
I hate and adore this place. I need it. I am California, or perhaps we are each other.
You, beautiful girl, you need the chance to make your own footprints on the places your mother skipped and ran and grew. The deep welling in my stomach that accompanies our return to California shouldn’t starve you of the wonder of found seashells and the joy of my girlhood here and my grandfather’s lessons still echoing in the branches, fading but waiting if I show you where to listen. I want to tell you only the best stories, but you deserve the whole truth, and the mistakes and the running and the regret and the sweet healing passage of time will be yours to discover as you grow here, as I grew here, in summers and Christmases and long books and sand in your shoes.
Home, my love, isn’t a place. Home is a collaboration, an intimate collection of beating hearts and adventures and skin and brick and meals eaten and hands held. Home will flex and change and narrow and grow – bits of it will chip away, arms that held you will become holy memories that you carry, walls that contained you will burn or fall or belong to someone else. Words will become echoes, seedlings will root and grow and tower and fall, and home will still be a thing we are building, you and your loved ones and your Maker, and also my grandmother’s hands which are holding your hands are holding my mother’s hands are holding my own.
Home is a thing that travels, tiny beautiful girl, that you carry with you and tend and protect and nurture, a thing that in turn will tend and nurture and protect and carry you. The ghosts and the laughter and the loss and the wonder – they are the building blocks. The soil and water. The bread and wine.
We will tuck the smallest pieces of home into seashells, whispering them deep in with the ocean sound and the salt smell and I will put one in your pocket, just in case. I will tell you my stories, that you might know where you came from. I will tell you my secrets, and remind you always whose we are.