Jul 29, 2006

SAMISH ISLAND, Washington: We hit the Blaine border-jam sooner than expected. By 1pm, we're shooting south on US highways.

"Ed," I wheedle. "Can I drive past my old home?"

Soon we're weaving down Chuckanut Drive from Bellingham to Samish Island. This sinuous cliff-side squiggle stars in many auto adverts.

I'd always driven the seismograph curves in a manual. A low-slung Honda or Toyota. Dad taught me to shift and accelerate out of the bends. Until I flipped into an agricultural ditch brimming with cow manure, aged 17, I figured I had a pretty good grasp of Rural Road Vectors.

Black ice trumps all.

No surprise there.

And a 19-foot Suburban automatic adds a whole 'nother dimension.

With apologies to Edward's mum – the original owner – I could do without a truck that handles like a transpacific barge...

My knuckles do that freaky bloodless thing on the steering wheel. Cow Crotch Curve. I breathe shallowly. The Coyote Run. Samish Slough. The Devil Children's House, where I once skinned a gerbil's tail unwittingly.

"Need me to drive?" my friend asks.

"No ... no. It's keeping me calm."

I idle the truck past my old house. My parents' misanthropic hedges – at long last – completely obscure the Lindell cedar A-frame. I spot a new door, a fresh aluminum roof. But largely, it's the shaggy beachside home I recall. A home of childhood summers.

Other kids live there now, racing along the clots of driftwood, poking in the seaweed, shrieking in the bay.

You can't go home.

But you can pass home along. And that's comfort enough.

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