Last month, as we were placing the last things in the moving van so our daughter could relocate to a new career out of state, a line of ducks flew long and low above the yard — a great quacking chorus that took us away, if just for a moment, from the packing of furniture and photographs, dresses and shoes, blankets and pillows, pots and pans.
The ducks were a strange and lovely thing to see. We live in the city, where it’s not so common to spot ducks tracing their way across the sky. I took their sudden presence as an omen of sorts — a friendly reminder that migration is natural, that life tends to move in circles rather than straight lines, that every act of leaving bears within it the promise of return.
As we finished, our daughter asked to take a parting walk through the house where she had grown up. We left her alone for a few minutes as she weaved through the rooms, made her way to the porch, sighed a bit, then climbed in the van for a 13-hour drive to the life she’s building someplace else.
But there was no real need to commit the landscape of her childhood to memory. The place will be here when she returns for holidays — or any other time the pull of family draws her back.
We moved her out on the first official day of fall, a season typically marked by the celebration of homecoming. Football schedules include a homecoming game to herald the return of the home team and, in a broader way, the return of alumni to campus. Churches host homecoming services to welcome back worshippers who once counted themselves among the congregation. In the deeper reaches of autumn, Thanksgiving looms large as our national homecoming, the great American pilgrimage through airports and highways as sons and daughters — and their sons and daughters — reunite with the center of the extended clan.
Those rituals of reconnection give us the confidence to leave home in the first place, embracing odysseys that bring their own rewards. New places teach us that there are other ways of living and doing things, ideas sometimes better than the ones we first learned. In Louisiana, we pride ourselves as a home-loving tribe — a state where, more than most others in the country, we tend to stay put. It’s a charming form of loyalty that hasn’t always served us well, closing us off to new insights from elsewhere.
Which is why, when our daughter explored opportunities far away after graduating college, we encouraged her to throw her net wide.
Maybe she’ll never live here full time again, and that’s OK. The important thing, for those of us who call Louisiana home, is to create opportunities so those who want to come back have the option to do so.
We have our work cut out for us.