I’ll be the old lady in the funny hat

Long ago, over a decade now, when I lived in this other place and was this other person, I thought it mattered.

I thought it mattered who I knew and what I wore. I thought it mattered what I drove and how I walked. Who I called, who I saw, where I lived.

I still call this place my home, and I still call many of these strangers “friends.” Odd, considering my family spends its nights on another coast and these strangers never call.

Today, I looked out a window at a white covered lake. I put on a funky orange hat, mismatched gloves, and thick boots. I crunched through fresh snow with my children, like a child. My hair static filled and flyaway, my face rosey and flushed.

I did not care.

Its odd to come “home” to a foreign place where so much of your life you cared, only to find yourself older and indifferent. Where so much of your life you calculated, only to find yourself carefree.

There is a piece of my heart that remains here, but it no longer beats as loud or as strong. It now ticks, and thumps, and sometimes skips as my little ones tell relatives they just met of their inherited quirks.

Part of me was never fully comfortable here. Everyone knew it. I was teased and joshed for being different. Never enough to alienate me, but always enough to make me eccentric. When I left the mid-west for California, no one was surprised. Although many believed I would eventually “settle down” and come “home.”

As I play here with my children, despite my age and despite my having found peace…I am still asked when I will return. When will my husband find work here and when will I move my life and my loves to this place they seem to think should ground us all.

I don’t harbor them any ill will, as I did in years past. I don’t even really answer anymore. I just put on my funny orange hat, remind my children we will leave for home in a few days, and give them hugs as if to squeeze my new found peace and confidence into their puzzled little bodies. You see, they too are different here. They are my children, so they are automatically branded. So be it. They simple nod their little heads and struggle to wear “snow pants” and “mittens.” They laugh and attempt to run and ask questions that make the locals laugh. Why would my child know what a “sled” might be?

They have no idea the conflict in my heart over this land, these people. The love and the hate and the longing to belong somewhere and to something that never fully accepted me. They will never know. What they will know, is the pride of being different. The joy of experiencing new things.

And the freedom of a funny orange hat.


  1. I totally know what you mean.
    I hear “when are you coming home” a lot.

    I haven’t lived there in 10 years. How am I supposed to live there now, I’m not even the same person. My friends, well, I’m not sure that they would even like me on a day to day basis.

    I think I pretend to be Hoosier self when I am home………….but I hardly remember how to anymore.

  2. You can’t go home again. That about sums up everything I could say on the matter, having experienced the same.

  3. For the longest time people asked me when I was coming home. The look on their faces when I said I wasn’t was priceless. Like you, I never felt like I fit in, so I didn’t understand why they thought I would go back. They knew I didn’t fit in either.

    Funny enough, I actually like going back now.

  4. I lived where I felt like an alien for 4 years, and it felt really, really bad. I am so happy to be at home where I live now.

  5. I have missed you my friend… what a beautiful post to jump into. I see mmyself in your words. Being stuck in Spain fits oh so well in this past you so vividly describe.

    My children do not fit in, especially my little psycho son who takes just after his misfit, black sheep of a mother.

    Time to move on…

    Remember, you get to go home soon!


  6. Beautifully written, Erin. It seems to ring true for me sometimes. I just don’t have the courage to leave.

    Funny that….

  7. Why do I even feel like you’re “gone” right now? I’m nowhere near California, but…

    Hurry home.

  8. Very nice. Great read. You rock.

  9. Queen of Spain says:

    We did come home, in 1999…I miss the West immensely, and sometimes I wish we’d never left. The promises of available family don’t happen as often as we’d like, and hello? No snow in Van.

    Erin – this was so beautifully written. xo

  10. Hear, hear!! My husband and I are moving to California this next week. While I will be closer to my family and there is good reason to make the move, our hearts will never stop yearning to be back in the Pacific Northwest.


  11. I guess that’s where the old saying comes from (“you can’t go home again.”) My husband feels much the same way when we visit his hometown. He’ll always be of that place, but this is where he feels most comfortable, where he now belongs.

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