Monday, May 18, 2015

It's Not Supposed to Change

I drove through my hometown today. It's been about six years since I last was there and this was just a passing through. We didn't have time this trip to stop and visit like we prefer doing. Over the past year or so I have been working on a memoir that, naturally, features my hometown. That means that I have spent a lot of time there - in my head and memory.

Imagine my shock today when the real town was there. The town that does not look like it did in 1965 (and earlier); the town that has been through changes and disasters as well as boom and bust. I drove down the street beside my childhood home. It's not the same. It was, as I remember it, a tree-lined street all the way down the next two blocks. Today there are none of those trees. All gone. "My" backyard is now not visible from the street as tall, narrow trees block the view and it looks like a fence was there. The building that was once a high school and then my junior high, looks a little worse for wear although it is now a shopping center.

The streets seemed smaller. The yards more compact. The neighborhoods closer together. There were newer homes next to older ones. There were falling down older homes and others that were well-kept. New businesses exist and some of the older ones are still there. What had been my Dad's store is gone, replaced in town by the big chain store.

No, it is not the place that was my hometown. That place was left behind a long, long time ago. At first I felt sad. But then I realized that even more recent places and memories exist only in the past. We can learn from them, build on them, but we cannot live there.

The town that was my hometown is now someone else's hometown. Over 45 years of high school students have gone through, including the children of family and friends. I am not part of that town and have not been for over 30 years.

That's okay! It was what it was, and for that I am grateful.

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