The Road(s) Home

Submitted into Contest #164 in response to: Write a story in which someone returns to their hometown.... view prompt


Creative Nonfiction

V Road

Old friend,

         I’m driving down that road you have always loved. You know the one; it’s the long way home. Its bends and twists are jarring, and I know that one who is unfamiliar with the way she dances may not be prepared for her surprising steps. But you and I, we’ve spent all of our lives learning each one of her tricks. In eighteen years, she hasn’t fooled us yet. And seeing as this road is the one familiar thing from the past, I don’t think she ever will. We’ve spent nearly our entire lives leaning into her movements, so much so that her turns feel almost like a lullaby.

         Fall is quietly peaking around the corner. She’s always timid at first, but she can’t help but show little bits of her beauty on that old road. Splashes of color pop orange, red, and brown amidst the sea of never-ending green. The trees sway with the wind, and the sunlight trickles in through the spaces between the leaves. It dances on the pavement: shadows creating nature’s own sheet music. Everything on this road seems to exist in perfect harmony; each member seems to be dancing to the very same tune. After years of being lost, and years of traveling down other roads, I lost my sense of that lyrical beauty. But now it seems I can hear the music once again, even if it’s only ever so slightly.

         Talk to you soon,

                     A Stranger

The Willow

Old Friend,

         So much has changed since the last time you and I journeyed down that familiar road together. The weeping willow where we spent hours playing is nothing but a sad stump. “One night, lightning struck the top of it,” mom tells me. “Half of the poor thing died, and we had no choice but to cut the whole tree down. It could have fallen on the house otherwise.” Its long cascading vines have vanished silently like the wind. The branches that seemed to touch heaven have long since fallen back down to earth. They are stashed away in what dad calls the “bonfire wood collection.” Funny how something once so sacred and cherished to us is something I will find myself enjoying in a new form: rather than climbing to the very top of that old tree, I will instead be sitting, very near the ground, around an orange fire that is fueled by the branches that once held me. The branches that once served as the only thing keeping me from falling to the ground. The only thing sustaining me.

         Mom and dad don’t like change either. What was once a loud and wild house is now struck dead by silence. It seems like lightning is doing her damage in more places than one these days. The two of them are finding their way, and what can I say, I often miss them. My stuffy apartment miles away is nothing compared to the wide-open spaces outside of that quaint home. But more than that, nothing can compare to the magic of that old willow tree. You and I swore we saw fairies dance among the treetops. No one believed us, of course. Especially not our two younger brothers. But we believed each other, and I promise I’m trying every day to capture the magic of those days and bring it to life in the new ones. But sometimes it’s hard.

         I’ll write again soon,

                     The Girl Who’s Finding Her Way

Dancing with Flowers

Old Friend,

         This spring, I was drawn back home after the world turned upside down. I was reluctant at first. “My home is here now. Everything and everyone I know are here,” I said to myself. Mom told me I was welcome home anytime and that I could even pack up my apartment and move back permanently for the summer if I desired. That sounds like her, doesn’t it? She loves her kids fiercely, and she would do anything to welcome them home. I told her I would see how everything played out. Eventually, my apartment became too stuffy to even think straight. I was restless and eager for the outdoors—for a little bit of adventure. I packed my bags and drove home. Well, our old home. But suddenly it felt familiar again.

         I spent more time outside in the greenhouse than I did in the actual house that summer. You would have loved every second of it. I helped dad move trays of flowers from within the plastic walls out onto the wooden tables, because the greenhouse had grown much too hot for them mid-summertime. They were able to breathe again after they had been set free. The sunlight bathed their beautiful faces with a warm, golden light, and I couldn’t help but get a little teary-eyed thinking about how I too had finally been set free and had been given room to breathe. I too was letting the sunshine wrap me in her warmth. I was letting her bring me back. Seems like everyone my age associates going away to school with freedom, but for me, it’s coming home. It’s our brothers, mom, and dad. It’s giving my mind something tangible to hold onto, something to pull me back down to earth. And because of the bliss that comes with this safe, stable feeling, I can’t help but ask the flowers if they want to dance.

         I’m getting closer and closer to you,

                     A Distant Friend

The Shop

Old Friend,

         You would laugh if you saw the shop, but not in a bad way. You would laugh at the fact that even though the past seems to have been shattered, there are little glass remains that glimmer and fit ever so slightly into the present. Mom and dad are building a shop in front of the greenhouses where you and I embarked on some of our best adventures. They created an outdoor space where people will be able to sit and watch the sunset while they sip on some hot apple cider. I’m in love with the idea and the sturdy foundation they have built for it so far. You would be, too.

         I can’t help but reminisce on the pumpkin patch days in the midst of this new shop. It reminds me so much of that business they ran from home for three short years. I remember how reluctant you and I were to the idea when they proposed it. “A pumpkin patch? Here? No!” We protested. It was our space to play, it was our space to let our imaginations run wild with the breeze. We were not willing to let random strangers into the world we had created for ourselves. “Give it a chance,” mom pleaded. “Maybe you’ll like it more than you think.” And as always, she was right. I remember when we eventually awoke with eagerness on Saturday mornings in the fall, as we knew our little world would be full of new people that day. The smell of tractor diesel filled the air, and as we peered through our window, we could see the trailer full of strangers drive by on the hayride. They all sat together with smiles on their faces, full to the brim with excitement for the pumpkins they would find. I now sometimes wonder if they ever stared back at that quaint little farmhouse and wondered about all the life that may be happening inside. I wonder if they commented on its foundation, its roots, its walls.

         I hope to sit at the shop with you soon,

                     The One Who Knows You Best

The Four-Legged Friends

Old Friend,

         Grief has been no stranger to me these last couple of years, and it seems I am reminded of it each time I park my car in the driveway and walk up to that white, welcoming front door. When you and I played here together, we were always welcomed by two of the best four-legged friends. As soon as we stepped out of our car back then, Rhus would come out of nowhere sprinting full force just to see us. He would run as fast as his short legs could carry him, which was surprisingly fast. Following shortly behind him, Teo would emerge from the bushes and hobble over to us. Getting out of my car this time; however, I am left with nothing but the eerie silence of two souls drifting. Perhaps they greet me through the rustling of the bushes in the wind, always fooling me for a split second thinking it’s them. The crosses made from sticks that are stuck into the dirt remind me there is no welcome party from them anymore. At least, not the welcome that you and I knew and loved.

         I am reminded yet again of their absence as I walk to the barn. Upon opening the side door, I find myself standing on that patio made of stone. I catch a glimmer of what I think is black fur, under the tree where he always used to lay, but instead I find that yet again my eyes are playing tricks on my heart. It was nothing but a shadow of the trees; nothing but nature reminding me that sometimes music can show itself even in the hours of grief.

         This one is short. Grief hits hard sometimes. I’ll write soon,

                     Your Dear Friend

Seeing the World Through Rose-Colored Glasses

Old Friend,

         Do you remember when we were sixteen and we saw the world for the first time? It was at the Osage Beach Walmart in the presence of mom and the eye doctor who seemed to want to be anywhere but there in that moment. She handed us those glasses, and for the first time, we saw the world unlike the way we had been seeing it our whole lives. The colors seemed brighter, the people more detailed, and everything was overall enhanced; everything was better. Those glasses were small black frames. I wonder what you would think of the ones I wear now: they are big, and they are the color of fall. I think you would be fond of them.

         I’m driving home. Well, not the home you know. This one is different. This one is stuffy and small—there isn’t any outdoor space, not even a small patio or deck. You would hate it. Sometimes I hate it, too, but I’m learning to see it differently. I’m starting to see it through these rose-colored glasses. Each day, I remind myself to invite little pieces of you into the space, and that has served to be of great comfort to me. I have three succulents that are thriving. They inhabit my little window. I think you would approve of them—you would especially enjoy the little scarecrows I stuck into the soil, just for fall. I open the window everyday and let the sun warm my face. Sometimes I go for a walk, and always, I think of you.

         The road that takes me to this new home is just like the road we spent all our lives traveling. She goes by a new name: Rock Quarry. I have grown to love her because she reminds me of you, she reminds me of us, she reminds me of that old road that led us home. The home you knew. I’m learning to dance with her twists, her turns, and her bends, rather than fight them. For so long, I refused to take her hand and dance. I refused to receive the gift she so freely offered me: a little bit of you. But my rose-colored vision reminds me that not all change is bad. I drive a little slower down this road, especially in the fall. I soak in her colors. I soak in her light. I listen to the tune she plays for me as I am slowly but surely learning to read nature’s sheet music again. I’m learning to sing and dance with her. It seems that you are closer than ever before. I can’t help but wonder as I drive if it’s possible to have many roads that lead us home.

         Welcome Home,


September 22, 2022 01:42

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Judy Nickles
01:52 Sep 29, 2022

Such a creative format! And the visuals were terrific. Words do paint pictures if you know how, and you certainly do.


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07:23 Sep 26, 2022

Oh, Taylor, this is beautiful. Love the format. Love the progression. Love the movement and the use of language. Love the "mystery" (and that I guessed correctly after seeing the sign off change in "The Willow!"). It begins and ends in distinctly perfect places, and I love, love, love every little thing in between. Fantastic work!


Taylor Petska
17:18 Sep 26, 2022

Thank you so much for the kind comments, Deserae! I'm so glad you caught on to the changes in the sign offs after each letter. I wasn't sure if they flowed properly as I was writing this piece! I am looking forward to reading your submission this week--it's on my list!


19:17 Sep 26, 2022

Very kind of you, Taylor; hope I finish in time to submit lol! But yes, I think you ordered the sign offs quite well. I was only able to guess it because the challenge you gave yourself as a writer in terms of the format INSTANTLY became a challenge to me as well XD. And still, even sure I knew who the author of these letters was, each vignette was so perfect that I looked forward to seeing how the MC would sign off now, and now, and now. Fingers are crossed for this submission to rise above the noise. Was a great response to the prompt, and...


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