It had been nine years since I had been back to Utah, where I spent my high school years. I was visiting my best friend from high school and had only a morning to catch up. I met Jen my sophomore year of high school when I joined the swim team. By our senior year, we were co-captains of our swim team and our water polo team. We were inseparable. And, we hadn’t seen each other in nine years!
We were really close in high school, but I had butterflies as I drove from Salt Lake City to Ogen to meet Jen for breakfast. We’ve taken different paths in our lives. She is married and now a stay-at-home mom to two precious little girls; I moved back east after high school and am still settling on my career path. You might think for a second that we don’t have much to talk about. But as soon as I arrived at her house, you would have thought we had just chatted the day before. We didn’t stop talking from the time I arrived until the time I had to leave. We caught up on high school gossip and on life. Her older daughter was so chatty with me, and I thought she looked just like her mama.
We made a hearty breakfast of pancakes and sausage, and Jen had a little surprise in store- her mom and her youngest sister dropped in to say hi. I had left a spunky little 8 year old behind in Utah that I treated as my little sister, and I was shocked to see a young woman walk through the door that was about to graduate high school. The few hours we had together went by in just a matter of minutes. It was hard to say goodbye, but I had to get on the road to drive to Colorado that day.
I still wanted to drive by my old house, so I left Jen’s house and drove north. It was all a bit surreal. I drove past Jen’s parents’ neighborhood and by homes where my other friends used to live. It felt like another lifetime.
It was good to drive past my old home, a house that my mother and I cherished for it’s gigantic kitchen where we spent many of our evenings together with her cooking and my doing homework. The latest owners had painted the door red. The yard that we landscaped when we moved into the home had matured- a tree now shaded the east bedroom, and they had added a fence.
And the empty lots across the street from us that sat unsold during our entire time we lived there (leaving us an unobstructed view of the entire Salt Lake valley and a stunning sight at night) had sold, and a house was being constructed. It wasn’t the same, but then again, I guess I shouldn’t have expected it to be. I thought of my high school crush that moved in behind me my senior year (who is now married with 3 kids) and passed my other best friend’s house.
I glanced out over the Salt Lake and Antelope Island and then drove the short drive down the mountain.
I took one last glance at the North Ogden community and tucked my memories away. It was great to visit but time to move on. The visit beckoned the question of what exactly defines a home. I’m not from Utah and I never refer to it as home, but I did have a life there. And though I no longer call Utah home, I know that my ties with dear friends will always call me back.
On the highway headed south, I appreciated the view of the mountains. The Appalachia are like little hills compared to the Wasatch Mountains and I enjoyed the drive. As I neared the canyon to head west, I passed windmills.
I passed town names that I recognized from having visited for water polo tournaments… mere specks on a map but places I had made memories.
And finally, I stopped at a gas station near the turn-off for Moab and spotted the Scooby Doo van. I smiled. Maybe this isn’t goodbye, Utah, but more like a see you later.