I just returned from a seven-day road trip. There is very little glamor, after at least five of these now, in traveling with a slightly stinky beagly mutt in a Prius. And a man who can do a scary-good Tom Jones. But I can say this, now that I’m letting the rumble of the road wear off with a fresh glass of wine from A Blooming Hill Vineyard (my bonus mother’s winery near Portland, Ore.) and some Olive Pit olives stuffed with bleu cheese: We are hard-wired to go home.
We did the Seattle and Port Townsend rounds, visiting 40M, Amanda, Alison and All Adither. And then, Ground Zero for “home.” For at least three generations, McGradys have convened in Lilliwaup, Washington, for holidays. My Uncle Seamus lives in the 1930’s homestead, which has a fireplace my great grandfather built from beach rocks. We like Thanksgiving the best because it doesn’t involve complex codes for gift-giving and we are all tremendous cooks and we really, really enjoy being around each other.
Throughout the day on Thursday, the kids and cousins and friends spent time doing what we do there: hiking up to the tiny ancient graveyard where family and strangers are buried, where in 2003 we dumped the bulk of my dad’s ashes under a huckleberry bush. We saw fresh bear poop. From an obviously huge bear. And scurried down the hill. We went out in the pelting rain, in the dark when the tide was low, and carried kids over rivulets and collected hundreds of perfect oysters. One of the most magical moments was hiking along the creek (where, legend has it, my great grandmother and grandfather took watercress from along the banks to feed their wedding guests watercress sandwiches) and watched salmon spawning. Two-foot-long silvery fish fought their way against the rushing water, suddenly losing ground and coming back, never minding their dead brethren on the side.
In my hypnosis watching those fish, it all came very clear that despite crazy relatives and the long drive and that I could have spent my vacation somewhere sunny and tropical, I had to come home. It is in my genetic code. And I am grateful to have a place.