Monday, March 9, 2009

Don't Let Me Come Home a Stranger - Robin/Linda Williams

Home. Few words, in and of themselves, have so much power. Besides the word "love," it is hard to come up with a word whose literal meaning - and symbolic and emotional resonance - is more visceral. In fact, I would argue that love is so overdone that home wins in an arm wrestling contest. When I have an idea I want to write about I generally go to my iTunes Library and do some searching on the key words around the topic. So I typed in "home" and got 90 items. I am sure that is a record. No pun intended.

I arrived in Northern California last Thursday afternoon. It was a crisp spring day. And certain things just hold:
  • You can bet there will be See's and Ghirardelli chocolate stores in the airport
  • If you can, you always want to drive on 280 vs 101. The experience is just so much better.
  • There will be lots of people outside. Always.
  • The fog will roll in over the hills in that billowing way.
  • Mom will have put fresh cut flowers and a bottle of water in my room and
  • Dad will have a fire going in the fireplace, even if it's really not that cold.
As usual, the smells are the thing that always kick me in the butt. They yell at me - FAMILIARITY! EASE! HISTORY! No, that's wrong. They whisper to me, "familiarity, comfort, embrace." Saturday my brother and sister-in-law and I went over to the coast...the beach of my growing up. Santa Cruz, Twin Lakes, Capitola. We sat in the sun (me, with 50+ sunscreen on the surgery scar on my neck), we ate lunch by the water, we drove along the cliffs. And we came back on the "old highway." With the window cracked just an inch I drank in the smell of the eucalyptus trees. It's just a smell you don't get on the east coast. And it is a smell that causes that strong, familiar feeling.

This song, written by the Williams' and in my view best performed by Tim O'Brien, really sums it up for me. Tim is a Telluride Bluegrass regular, and this song was on an album he and his sister Mollie put out in 1994 that speaks to their Appalachian/Celtic roots. Mary Black does a great version, which is popular in Ireland. Unfortunately I could not find any of them on YouTube, but this version is nice.

Here's how they so beautifully sum up the fear of losing that feeling of home:
Will there come a time when the memories fade
And pass on with the long, long years?
When the ties no longer bind
Lord save me from this darkest fear
Don't let me come home a stranger
I couldn't stand to be a stranger

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