I arrived in Rochester in the back seat of a ‘57 Chrysler DeSoto, carsick from four hours on the New York State Thruway and the stench of my father’s cigars. I was wedged against the door on the sunny side by my three sisters who shared the seat with me. We weren’t allowed to crack a window – the slightest breeze could damage my mother’s teased up do, fragile as meringue.
We pulled into the driveway of a house in Penfield, a split-level box in a new development close to the schools. The front yard was a rectangle of graded dirt. A wilted maple sapling stood dead center, still in its burlap root ball, leaning at a crazy angle. My father got out of the car and glared at that tree for what seemed like forever, hands on his hips. I was more interested in the field across the road and the exciting smells in the air.
84 Hillcrest Drive was my home for the next 12 years. I went off to college, worked for a while in Minneapolis, and then came back. All told, I’ve lived in Rochester for almost half a century.
People ask me why. It’s like this: you live somewhere long enough, it gets in your blood. It’s there when you close your eyes, laid out like a map in your head. It’s the landscape of your dreams, the backdrop for your accumulating memories, layers and layers deep. Everywhere you go, you’re reminded.
How could I leave a place so rich with memories? Nowhere else could ever feel like home.