I deliberately try to avoid getting too attached to material goods, to not be waylaid into insentience by the daily detritus of a crowded existence. The experts say we should concentrate on our families, our relationships, not our things, and we all know experts are to be trusted.
But what about an attachment to a place?
A place can’t be a literal member of the family. It has no feelings, doesn’t reciprocate any love felt for it, is nothing more, really, than a pinpoint on an impossibly large globe due to be swallowed by the sun five billion years from now.
But still. In my life, there is a place I hold above all others. I consider myself well-traveled; I’ve seen the sun set over the Pacific and the clear waters of the Mediterranean. I’ve climbed down Alpine glaciers, sat on a camel in the Middle East, skied in Dubai, and eaten sushi in Japan. Of all the places I’ve seen, though, all the natural wonders and manmade marvels, not one has come close to claiming the top spot.
I don’t know if there’s an afterlife, and even if there is, it’s doubtful I’m headed for the good side. If an everlasting paradise does exist, though, I’m convinced I already know what it looks like.
Family legend says that my great-grandfather went to this New Hampshire lake to fish. His son, my grandfather, bought a piece of waterfront there. My family has been swimming there ever since. This summer was my younger son’s first visit, but certainly not his last.
I’m not a mystical person by any means, but after 50 years and five generations, it seems impossible that some imprint hasn’t been left by our presence. We are a more transient population than ever before; my family is spread literally from coast to coast. I’ve had a dozen addresses since I left home for college; the three years I’ve lived in Howard County represent the longest I’ve stayed in one place since high school. Lake Winnipesaukee, however, has remained the one constant. It’s where my brothers took me when I returned home from deployment (their “Welcum Hom Lootenant Mayotte” sign, scrawled on a torn-up Bud Light box, remains a fond memory) and where ashes have been scattered. It is the center of my family’s universe.
So I know home is where the heart is, or maybe it’s wherever I’m with you, but it’s hard to imagine not making my annual pilgrimage to Lake Winnipesaukee. It’s the lure and allure of a specific place, a place so deeply soaked with familial memories the two are inseparable. It may not define us, but a place can certain unite us.