When we decided to go visit Utah, everyone asked us if we were excited to be going back home after 2 years away. I kept feeling like that what I should have been saying, "going back home to visit" instead of "going to Utah to visit."
But it doesn't feel like home. Not anymore.
I lived in Utah since I was in 5th grade until I moved here to Iowa nearly 2 years ago. After all those years, Utah should feel like home. But during that time, I lived in 8 different places. There was no one place that I set down roots. Since I moved to Iowa, my parents have moved twice. The house they live in now, the one that we stayed at while we were visiting, was one that I had never seen before.
It's hard to feel like you're going home when you don't know where the house is.
Our tenure in a small town really showed. The interstate intimidated me. The road felt crowded, the traffic felt terrible, the drivers felt aggressive. I kept wondering what people had against the perfect safe speed limit.
We had forgotten how spread out things were. There was no simple drive with everything so far away. It felt like 25% of our trip was spent commuting. Oh, those Utahns, how they love their commute. I remember when my previously 90 minute commute was reduced to 30 minutes, how fabulous that felt. Now, with my current 6 minute commute, I don't remember how I coped, spending so much of my life just driving. Not doing anything productive, not spending time with my family, just commuting.
It felt like everything was under construction. Roads we thought we knew were technically new ones. Neighborhoods we remembered were infiltrated with new shops and office buildings. On the surface, things looked the same, but everything felt different.
There were only two things that were just as wonderful as I remember.
First, the mountains. The glorious, snowcapped, unbelievably close mountains. They were just as tall and sharp silhouetted as my memory told me they were. Monkey, who did not remember mountains at all, was just amazed. It was good to be amazed by mountains again.
Second, but far more important, family. Nearly all of our time in Utah was spent with family. Crowded living rooms full of familiar, welcoming faces. Cars full of laughing people. Walks with more hands wanted to be held than I have hands to hold. Kitchens noisy with the hum of meals and conversation. It didn't matter that the rooms were all foreign, the walks all along unfamiliar paths. The family was the same, and it was comforting and welcoming and just as I remembered.
I kept having this feeling that everything is different. Everyone had changed. They had all either grown up, gotten married, had babies, or gotten divorced. There was too much new, too little the way I remember.
Maybe Utah isn't home anymore. Maybe I'm stuck with seeing Utah as a giant construction-laden, commute-filled desert.
But it doesn't matter. There will always be mountains and family. And they will always be just as wonderful as I remembered.