Although I've always been partial to the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys, I'm also sympathetic to Dorothy's plight. There is no place like home. Especially, if like me, you were lucky enough to have grown up in Livingston, Montana.
|cruisin' Main Street on a summer day in Livingston|
So last week, I clicked my heels together three times and traveled back home. There weren't any lions or tigers to be found, but I did see a bear on a hike...and a huge elk, lots of deer, bald eagles, ospry learning to fly, and a huckleberry patch just ripe for the picking!
|nothing beats the taste of fresh huckleberries!!|
Kansas and Oz have nothing on Livingston. Where else can you make jam from raspberries grown in the backyard,
|Sure-Jell and fresh raspberries are a perfect match :)|
eat at Mark's In & Out,
|No one is sitting on the ledge??|
shop at the world's best book/stationary store while catching up on the latest town news with the owner,
|the best selection of western authors and Necco Wafers around|
and join a zumba class along the Yellowstone River in the city park, all in the same day??
|seriously the most beautiful park anywhere|
|the mighty Yellowstone River|
Also on this trip, I discovered that Dorothy's mantra carries a literal and figurative meaning for me. Livingston is home to me because my family and good friends are there. It's also home to me because of the physical houses there.
Over the week, I woke up early each morning, threw on a light jacket (as it is Montana, summer or not!), and went for a walk with my mom. As we strolled through the neighborhood, the sight of houses brought back warm childhood memories.
|early morning walk on the North Side hill|
There was Mike's house where we played horse in the driveway for hours on end, baseball in the yard (with outfield in the middle of the street, you didn't really want that position), and an inventive game of toss that involved bouncing a tennis ball on the roof right above the dining room, often during dinner time. When winter moved us indoors, we played dress-up and store in the basement and later danced to Friday night videos in the family room back when MTV actually played music. Then there was the year that we watched scary movies late at night while holding onto baseball bats for protection.
|site of the great tennis ball bounce/catch game|
Next door was Lisa's house. We used it as our point of reference when we decided to set the world record for the most consecutive bike rides around a block...Unfortunately the record was never broken because we had to stop and go inside when Wonder Woman or Batman came on. Lisa's backyard was the setting for a great mudpie factory as well as for our Charlie's Angels adventures.
|Charlie's Angels' second office :)|
A block away was my best friend Sarah's house. I slept over there so much that I probably was considered the fifth daughter in the family. There were a million small spaces where a child could squeeze into in her house, and games of hide-and-seek could last for hours. My favorite place was the front entry/coat room where we would spy on the older siblings or pull at their boyfriends' leg hairs as they walked by. And I cringe now to think of the hours we spent laying out in the backyard, slathered in baby oil with lemon juice in our hair.
|my second home|
To get to Sarah's house, I had to walk by the Wagner (or Talcott) House on the corner. The huge bushes and trees in front were the perfect place for criminals to hide, I always imagined. Walking to my house at night, I counted my steps to keep my fears in check...I rarely made it to the around the corner before I broke out into a sprint!
|It looks much scarier at night!|
On one of our walks, my mom and I headed down to 9th Street Island to see the new bridge that had been built recently. We came along a group of ten deer feeding on the grass in someone's yard and this led to a conversation about the animals that my old cat Buffy had brought into our house over the years...I can still picture my mother chasing a live bat around the upstairs bathroom with a broom!
|9th Street Island residents|
Of course, the most important house on the walk was the house in which I grew up. There's something to be said about being able to return to the same address that you memorized in kindergarten. The paint is different now and my parents don't rely on the woodburning stove to heat the downstairs as much as they did when we were younger. Still, it's home.
|check out the mailbox I made in shop class!|
It's where I watched Looney Tunes on Saturday mornings while eating Lucky Charms straight from the box, where I once believed that a poltergeist lived in the attic, where my dad built a backboard so I could practice my tennis strokes, where I blew out candles on the cartoon character birthday cakes my mom made, where I slept in a tent with cousins in the backyard during the summer, where I sat on my grandpa's shoulders watching old Charlie Chaplin movies on his projectors, where I rolled down the stairs while playing with my hoppy frog, where my brother and I played endless games of Battleship, where I learned to read by pouring over library books again and again.
|It's true, there's no place like home!|
All of these memories of home are a mixture of warm feelings and physical images from around the homes: a bike, a woodburning stove, steep steps, a tall fence, an old tv with rabbit ears. To be home, we need family and friends. We also need a physical house as a frame for our lives. Maybe that's why I'm such a fan of Habitat for Humanity.
Dorothy wanted to be with Auntie Em, but she also wanted to see the walls inside the white farmhouse. And she got it right...There's no place like home.
I'd still take a flying monkey, too!