My second night aboard the California Zephyr, headed from California to Chicago. On my way to Milwaukee. I picked up the route guide. Somewhere between Fort Morgan, Colorado and Mc Cook, Nebraska. Wherever either of those are. I scanned the list of cities we’d been through and were headed to. So many places I’d never heard of.
I flipped the guide over to the back, to the connection guide. Denver, Colorado Springs, Vail, Boise, Twin Falls, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas. All these places I knew nothing about. All these little connecting buses that meant nothing to me. I looked out into the deep dark nothingness of the planes, somewhere between Colorado and Nebraska and felt so lost.
I looked back at the route guide and something made me smile. At the top of the route connections, “Emeryville * San Francisco/Oakland.” And the connection listings below, “Emeryville Amtrak Station, Ferry Building, Fisherman’s Wharf, Market St., Caltrain, Jack London Square.” These meant something to me; these all meant something to me. They meant home.
Wait. What? could the Bay really be home?
home? How did this happen?
The thought surprised me, but it didn’t take much more thinking to realize its truth. In a year and a half, I feel like I know the Bay Area better than I know Milwaukee. I grew up in Milwaukee, my entire life . All of it on the South Side: Bay View, St. Francis, Cudahy. I went off to school the next county over, to Waukesha, and rarely ventured off campus. Bubbles, little patches of space I know very well, but so little beyond that. I should say ‘knew’; things change so fast.
I’ve been to Downtown Oakland more times than I’ve been to the Northside in Milwaukee. I’ve been to Berkeley more times than I’ve been to the Eastside. I may even have been to San Francisco more times than I’ve been to Downtown Milwaukee, though that one might be close.
I have my church, my fun extra-curriculars: the returned Peace Corps group, the wind ensemble, the bell choir. My absolutely fabulous job [link]. (I’m pictured in two of those three links. Can you find me?) And as I recently learned, I have really great friends nearby, friends I can rely on for anything, that get the frustrations with the Bay Area, that challenge me, and most importantly, friends that love me for me. In short, I have a community. And no plans to leave anytime soon.
Don’t get me wrong, Milwaukee will always be Home. I’m excited to be arriving there today, to get to see Mommy and Daddy and my aunts and uncles and my grandma and (fingers crossed) snow, to eat cheese that doesn’t feel like rubber and drink milk from cows that are actually happy, to watch the Packers take down the Vikings after church, to sew with Mommy, to decorate the house for Christmas, and to sit by the fire with Daddy, and to just be Home.
But when my two weeks is up, I’ll also be happy to get back on the train and head home to El Cerrito.