Volume 14, Issue 48 ~ November 30 - December 6, 2006

Bay Reflections

Navigating Home

I’ve got the latest technology, but it’s not what guides me

by M.L. Faunce

There’s an old song of my parent’s generation, “Show me the way to go home.”

That song came to me the other night, driving my new car with its navigation system on, global positioning finely tuned. It was just me on the road, a darkened night screen guiding me along the faint shoreline of Chesapeake Bay. On the screen, a small icon glowed brightly, as would a lighthouse beacon, leading me home. Not mirrors, but today’s technology at its best, guiding me in case I had no compass, no bearings.

Though I’ve traveled far and wide in my life — and lived for a time in Alaska — I’ve come to realize I have a reliable inner compass to guide me, honed by five generations of family rooted in this area. Frivolously, I’ve complained to my brother a time or two of going over the same tracks year after year, analogously to our father, who drove a streetcar for 40 years over the same routes through Washington, D.C., a job he loved and had no problem ever finding his way home from, across East Capitol Street from the Capital Transit car barn.

In contrast, my younger brother once described himself to me as a vagabond. A career in the Marine Corps and now corporate life makes him a citizen of the world, no different from many in the 21st century. It’s a life of unparalleled opportunity and challenge, not without its sacrifices or rewards, with children being raised far from the home and roots he knew as a boy.

My brother visited here after the death of our sister-in-law, tended to family business and stood outside my home close by Chesapeake Bay, where our childhood dreams were made.

He took in a long, deep breath.

“I always feel like I’m at home when I’m in your house,” he said.

That’s when I realized those same tracks I’ve gone over and over, and sometimes lamented, made sense in the larger scheme of things. It’s a connection to something as indefinable as the brackish scent of the Chesapeake that I breathe in when I stop to pick up my mail at the post office, then drive a mile more to home near the water’s edge.

At the end of an evening, after a family gathering in my parent’s day, my father, aunts and uncles would inevitably croon: “I had a little drink about an hour ago, and it went right to my head … Show me the way to go home.”

It’s easy, of course, to find your way when you have a compass and your bearings. But you don’t really need global positioning or an icon on a lighted screen when you have an internal compass to lead the way, a compass that has little to do with technology and everything to do with your own family history.

Since 1995, M.L. Faunce has written for Bay Weekly from Churchton.

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