The gorgeous sparkle of the emerald, green features of Seattle that she grew up in and called home, was starting to dim. That glimmer was lessening as her wanderlust ensued. The rain, gorgeous skyline and views of mountains covered in trees like little spikes in the distance used to give her comfort but her heart was starting to change in its troubled state.
Sometimes at night when she couldn’t sleep, she would go to the bottom drawer of her dresser and open a box she kept hidden in there. In the box, she kept things that made her happy. It was her memory box. Its worn-leather texture was aged but beautiful and inside were trinkets and memories she had collected over the years. There was a slew of love notes from old crushes, poems she wrote in class, sketches of gowns and outfits she’d dream up, drawings of faraway places, pictures of important moments of her life, postcards from her travels, jewelry from her late grandmother and other tokens of her life.
One night though, she decided to visit one memory in particular from her box. She found an old vintage postcard that was tied to a bundle of letters from an old friend, Jake. He was her best friend growing up. Happy memories of playing tag, running around outside, making daisy chains, racing to the swings, kicking the soccer ball, making art with chalk, blowing bubbles, and other simple joys of childhood always resurface when he would come to mind. He was her best friend and in her most secret of thoughts, she used to think perhaps one day, it could have been more. Sadly, he moved away when they were teenagers before they could ever find out.
Jake left with his family to San Francisco when they were 16. After a night of tears of losing one of her best friends, she said goodbye and as life does, his absence became the new normal and she adjusted to the change. They kept up their correspondence via letters every so often. They both always said they enjoyed receiving snail mail so they made an effort to write, putting their Gelly Roll collection from the 5th grade to use.
After the letters grew less and less and time passed, Joanna thought about Jake from time to time. After all the break ups, all the heartache she had endured over the years from different relationships, she always steered back to thinking of that easy friendship she had as a kid and teenager with a boy she always considered to be one of her best friends. Especially on the days adult-ing was hard, it was easy to remember all the fun from childhood. It was a common wistfulness when the valleys of growing up felt extra deep.
After piecing through the letters, reminded of all the funny memories, she picked up a pen, grabbed some stationery and decided to take a risk and write.
She told him about her job, how her family was doing, and the general life inquiries, asking for an update from him in return. The next morning she left the letter in the mail box, already anticipating the answer. She wondered if rekindling an old habit and friendship from childhood would ignite a new adventure in adulthood and silently wished that the letter fell into his hands even if his address had changed.
Weeks had passed and no response. She forbid herself to go online to start the conversation, allowing her belief in serendipitous happenings to take the reigns on this.
She eventually let go of the hope but on one extra rainy Saturday, while curled up reading, she made some hot tea and wandered to the mail box, umbrella in hand. After going through some bills, invitations, and magazines, she found a card at the end of the pile. Heart beating as she opened it, she saw a San Francisco illustration and couldn’t help but smile instantly. She carefully opened it and impossibly sloppy yet familiar handwriting covered the inside of it.
She read. The happy scribble of funny words, jokes, updates and stories filled the paper and left her laughing and elated. She felt a little lighter, regardless of the dreary weather.
Over the next few weeks their correspondence continued and not through the instantaneousness of the internet. And though her life was happy, she found that this friendship was what she was missing and it was starting to feel more like love each day. They started to discuss when they would reunite and when Joanna scribbled a P.S. I miss you, she received a letter in return a few days later saying, “I have an idea”.
Within a couple days, she came home to find a handsome man at her doorstep smiling. She recognized those big brown eyes right away as they were those that smiled back at her through countless games of Four Square and Tether Ball.
She laughed from the joy of the happy shock to see him. It had been so long. As they hugged, Jake whispered “let’s go on an adventure”.
She led him inside where they continued to catch up and she packed. Once she was done, they walked outside and she saw what she didn’t notice before. Waiting for them was a rundown jeep across the street with a sunroof, the perfect road trip car. They jumped in and started their journey.
They spent the next couple weeks traveling South, enjoying the coast of Washington, stopping at wonderful places to eat seafood, going on hikes and oyster shucking. Then beer and wine tasting in Portland and exploring the rainy, green views of Oregon.
Once they made their way down to California, they saw the rustic, country part of the state, enjoyed looking at the Redwoods and sipping their way through Napa Valley. They explored shops, tourist stops, and adorable B&Bs. Taking in their escapades while reconnecting, Joanna slowly started to feel her restlessness fade and that void being filled with the fun and love of the excursions she and Jake were going on.
When they finally made it to San Francisco, Joanna felt breathless as she looked at the Bay and admired the beautiful rust structure as they drove through the Golden Gate Bridge. She had never been to San Francisco and the excitement of a big city mixed with the gorgeous scenery made a wonderful destination spot for their trip.
Jake took her to a remote spot that had views of not only the Golden Gate Bridge but Alcatraz, Sausalito, and the city skyline. They sat there quietly, comfortable in the silence and she felt enormous gratitude to have him back in her life and that he was someone who made her feel adventurous and loved exploring as much as she did.
Jake stood up suddenly, taking in more of the view. She looked up at him and couldn’t help but smile. It had been a wonderful adventure; there was a majestic view and a perfect finale to their road trip. And though it was the end, it felt like the beginning.
Joanna loved this scenery and the company she was with and just new she belonged. She could make this home. Unlike Dororthy, Joanna left the Emerald City of Seattle and took a version of the yellow brick road to get to the beautiful golden road of the Golden Gate Bridge and because she took the risk, she had a new story to tell and a new love.
It is true, home is where your heart is and she finally found it. There really is no place like it.
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