Lockdown Lemonade #44 by Jennifer Leonhardt

In Search of Home

I spent the last year and a half ironically traveling a great deal. After the quarantine was mostly lifted, I found that I was compelled out the door, on a journey of a little bit of searching for something, and a little bit of just getting away. What I found was surprising to me.

I get pretty antsy when I feel like I’m hemmed in at all, and even though I usually am in town for the duration- for work, for availability, for family, because there’s always something to be completing, I hadn’t really travelled in some time. But I grabbed my guitar, and some clothes and my toothbrush, and went to where the searching took me: over to Texas of course, twice. Once right after the ice storm in which winter storm warnings were issued on Valentine’s Day, 2021, and that hobbled the entire state enough to shut down Texas infrastructure for weeks. Up to Santa Fe and Taos, because there’s family there too, and it was needed. The changes were amazing; whole swaths of countryside which used to be tumbleweed and oil rigs were now being built up with roadside attractions of various sorts, but people were largely shut in and keeping safe from possible harms. I took the low road and the high one, they were both hot even in late winter. I chugged up stretches of desolate highway and down steep inclines into familiar valleys of green and sagebrush. Mostly I wanted to feel connected to this country again, out of range of the rhetoric and heat of the political polarities and into some peace, some space, maybe a bit of freedom.

Over the course of eighteen months, I covered a lot of ground. Airports, borders. I saw of lot of places I’d never seen before. I came back in between because I was still in play for work and keeping things going in LA. I noticed that my neighbors were gone a lot too- maybe with family? Maybe for work? The whole Eastside seemed to clear out, there were parking spaces a-plenty. The homeless villages under the overpasses moved to nearby parks and parking lots. Even the birds seemed to have drifted to new spots, instead of jays jabbering at each other over the fence outside the kitchen window during breakfast.

When I got home last week, after lugging in my guitar and the remnants of my last trip, spilling coffee on the sidewalk out front of my place, I dropped everything on the floor and sat down. I was overcome with a sense of relief- to be home, to have a home, grateful to be back, to be alive, to be well. I was so happy for my floors, for my dining table, and the two terrible orange velvet slipcovers I had made for the chairs without padding, because I was too impatient to wait for it to arrive. The helicopters, the fire engines, the heat. The good smell of pine trees and my kitchen that had no supplies, just an empty fridge waiting to get filled. My guitar needed new strings. I was glad to be home, and I hadn’t felt that in years. It suddenly hit me that I had been looking for a place to feel like myself. And that I’d found it.

Here’s my favorite lemonade recipe, in case you’re looking for one, from my quarantine to yours:
6 lemons, juiced
6 green apples, juiced
2 quarts of filtered water
Blend and serve cold over ice.

~ Jennifer Leonhardt

Jennifer is a transplanted Texan who makes her home in Los Angeles. She enjoys time with her family there and is back on the road with her band, the Pattycakes, this fall in support of a new release album, Songs My Mother Sang, a collection of traditional folk songs and spirituals. She enjoys cold weather and green peppers. And of course watermelon.

Lockdown Lemonade is FAR-West’s response to the dramatic and drastic shifts of 2020’s global health and economic crises. For many, this cultural reckoning and political upheaval spurred a period of personal reflection and the discovery of coping mechanisms some of us didn’t even know we had. Lockdown Lemonade is a look at the bright side. With this collection of flash creative nonfiction, brief personal essays, recollections, and musings from members of our community, we hope to shine a light on the best things that can and have come out of the most challenging of times. This column will continue on a weekly basis and postings will be released at 10 AM Pacific every Monday, so watch for them! For guidelines and submission details, please contact Julie Zipperer at julieZ@far-west.org or Marlynn Block at marlynn@far-west.org Submissions will be posted based on approval from the Lockdown Lemonade Committee.
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