aided by several detours
Anyone who has truly left home--ventured out into the world and tasted it; lived away, with enough distance between you and that place to forget the view of the horizon; gone long enough to remember what the city or town or village looked like--will understand the nostalgia of going back. The sadness and sinking when the city looks less like it did in your years, and more like every other city in America, suffering from that same disease which grabs hold and spreads chain restaurants and chain stores like sores. Gone are many of the Mom & Pop family owned stores, replaced by those where they pretend to know you, asking your name, so they may shout it out jovially when your beverages come ready--fake familiarity.
Today I met up with Kathy and Kuz--Kuz was my 9th grade English teacher, a guy I adored, both hysterical and brilliant. Both lovers of lit and politics we went on to pen-pal through my college years, New England spell, and now my Ohio life, though our old snail mail sometimes takes the guise of Facebook messages and emails. The three of us met at my favorite restaurant, The French Laundry, for amazing food and coffee (get the Luana Louise) and to catch up. Chatting about what we're up to, sharing bits and pieces about people we both know, somehow it's nice to hear about my old classmates that he runs into, like taking stock on how your extended family you never see is doing.
Somewhere in our conversation I realized that these two people are the only ones left in this place. I spent 9 years in this school system and my parents owned our house for 20 years and I have nothing else that calls me back to this place. Seeking out the somethings (instead of the someones) familiar, I drove past the movie theater, my first real job, and saw the "SOLD" sign out front. It has long sat vacant and maybe there is something redemptive in knowing it will finally be repurposed, but I couldn't help but feel a little sad. I drove past my childhood church and examined its renovations, marveling how I still get that same awed feeling from the wooden archways and old stone. I drove past my middle school which is now an early education center of some sort; a new middle school and our old high school added onto and renovated and extended and...utterly unrecognizable.
I feel like I've been released from something today. It's like that good friend who you saw less and less of as you both began college and began that eventual drift apart, them gradually sliding out of your life entirely; that point when so much time has passed when you realize that other person is no longer part of your life anymore, and if you saw them you're not entirely sure what you'd talk about. Too much has happened.
Maybe aging is mostly about acknowledging the changes, embracing the nostalgia for a little bit, and then moving on...and I've definitely moved on.
I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.