My only grandchild lives in Los Angeles. I live near San Francisco. It’s a 400 mile trip. I’ve checked flights and with travel to and from airports and renting a car when I get there, it’s easier to drive. I love this place where I live but I also love that little girl, so I drive a lot.
From the time Caedan Ray was born, her mommy always said the same thing at the start of each visit. As I scooped up the baby, she’d ask, “You got your Hammy?” After Caedan learned to talk, when her mother asked the question, she answered with a big loud “Yes!”
During my drive south on I-5, her parents and I stay in phone contact and they tell her, “Hammy’s almost here.” When I pull up in front, Caedan is waiting at the front door or outside, standing with a parent by my parking spot. As soon as I’m out of the car, I hold out my arms. So far she chooses to jump up.
At the end of each visit, after a sad goodbye, I head north toward home, already missing the little family. At my halfway point, Harris Ranch, I feel a hint of “almost home.” The horizon shifts on the last hour of the drive. Northern California skies always hold a promise for me. That’s what I see when I look ahead.
I live in Marin County, in the redwoods. This is a place where the ratio of open space to developed land is astonishing and astonishingly beautiful. Is it foolish to love and need specific surroundings so much? Or is it something we’ve earned at this time of life?
During the last hour of my drive, traffic picks up considerably as I merge with drivers heading home from San Francisco, coming off the Bay Bridge and through several interchanges. The skies shift again. It’s usually late afternoon when I make this part of the trip, and fog rolls in. I love fog. It’s one of the reasons I live here.
From the top of the Richmond Bridge, I see ships alongside the dock. Welcome home. The city shimmers in the distance. Welcome home. Here’s the Larkspur Ferry Terminal. A commuter ferry coasts to a stop as I pass. Welcome home. I approach my exit and see redwoods in the distance. It’s familiar and beautiful and it’s blue and green and peaceful here.
But this homecoming is also teary. As I arrive at home, I’m thinking of the greeting I received from my granddaughter when I reached her door a few days ago. This time, she controlled everything. She didn’t wait for me to hold out my arms. Instead, as soon as I was out of the car, she leaped up and hugged me. She didn’t wait for her mommy to ask the usual question. Instead, she announced by herself for the first time, “I got my Hammy!”
It’s good to be home and it’s sad to be home. This commute certainly isn’t getting any easier.
Ó By Anita Garner