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You Can Go Home Again, But It Will Be Weird

This past weekend I returned to the land of my youth.  I moved to the Southeast shortly after my son was born, but his father still lives in the Midwest, so the past few years I have driven the young man up to Indiana to meet his dad for summer break.  Every single time, I manage to forget how weird it is until I get there.

We moved around a lot when I was a kid, but we managed to settle in Indiana for a whole eleven years.  During those years, I hit puberty, had my first kiss, went to high school, started college, and had a kid.  In my mind, that’s where I grew up.  So, even though I’ve been in Georgia for fifteen years, there’s a part of me that will always see Indianapolis as “home.”

When I start planning our road trip back home, I get really excited.  The nostalgia factor kicks into overdrive.  However, when we actually get there, the fifteen year gap smacks me in the face like a cold fish.  Imagine that Pride and Prejudice is your favorite book of all time and you’ve read it a million times and know large sections of it by heart.  Now imagine picking up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by accident.  You’re reading along, settling in to the familiar grooves of the old story, and suddenly you’re saying “Where the fuck did that come from?”  It’s kind of like that.  There are new buildings and new roads and parking lots where old buildings used to be, and then, just when I accept that it’s been a long time and everything has changed, like a ghost, something will pop up that looks exactly the same as it did twenty years ago.  The whole thing gets surreal.  My son thinks I’m crazy, and maybe I am, because I have to drive by my old high school every single time, just so I can look at it and say “It’s so weird.”  If you squint a little, you can still see the buildings I remember squatting like toads among all the shiny new construction.

As I get better at picking out and recognizing the bones of my youth under this shiny new veneer, the weird factor hikes up another notch, because the people are all wrong.  Logically, I know that the people I used to see in these places have moved on, just like I did, but the teenager that lives in my head keeps expecting to see all my old friends just where I left them.  So now I am feeling kind of surreal and disjointed and lonely.  When I hit this trifecta of weird, a fun fourth element creeps in.  I start to feel fat.  If, by some bizarre cosmic coincidence, I were to run into someone I used to know, they’ll see all the weight I’ve gained.  Don’t even get me started on the crow’s feet.  By the end of my first day back “home” I am a giant, sad sack of crap.

This year was a little different though.  It was my fourth year of putting myself through this brand of torture, and I decided I was over it.  When I got to the “I’m old and fat and ugly” stage I reminded myself that I don’t care.  In the normal course of things, I have accepted the fact that I’m not nineteen anymore, and I think I’m pretty.  Anyone who disagrees can go screw.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but what pushed me back over the edge into my normal sassy self was a commercial on the Disney channel.  I saw Selena Gomez singing “Who says you’re not perfect?” and I said “Damn straight.  If I can be happy with myself in Georgia, I can be happy with myself here too.”

On day two, I had a wonderful time.  I went to a craft fair to see an old friend who was selling her wares and bought a magnetic squid.  I met another college friend and her husband for dinner and had a great time talking about whatever popped into our funny little heads.  And I didn’t waste a single second feeling like I should apologize for not being quite the same person I was before I moved.

By my last day in town, I was feeling pretty good about life.  It was a beautiful evening, so I went for a long walk around my old stomping grounds.  I marveled at all the new things and rediscovered all the quiet little corners that have resisted the passage of time, and I did it all with a smile on my face.*

*A quiet, little smile of contentment, not one of those big crazy smiles that make you wonder why that person is walking around with a big ol’ grin for no reason.  That would have been creepy.

 

By [E]SaraB

Glass artisan by day, blogger by night (and sometimes vice versa). SaraB has three kids, three pets, one husband and a bizarre sense of humor. Her glass pendants can be found at www.etsy.com/shop/AngryOwlStudio if you're interested in checking it out.

4 replies on “You Can Go Home Again, But It Will Be Weird”

I still live in the small county of Effingham, Georgia, I grew up in. I am still pissed about all the development in this once small -town community. We still only have 2 high schools, 3 middle schools and about 9 elementary schools spread throughout the county. We are mostly a farm county, wide open spaces and not much to it, except in some parts. They four-laned the main highway through town, built a freakin Goodys and Gamestop and all that bullshit in the old Kroger/Wal-Mart shopping center. Kroger and Wal-Mart now exist seperatly. Wal-Mart is a Supercenter. More apartments and subdivisions are popping up almost daily, traffic is a nightmare, and I hate it. We got a McDonalds and a Buger King about 15 years ago, the countys first! It isnt the place I remember it at all. I ride past my old elementary school almost daily, and am still so sad to see it looking different than I remember. I know it doesnt look the same on the inside. As much as I want to go inside and tour the “new” Rincon Elementary, I dont dare. I know I will break down in tears, because it just wont be the same. I know that development is supposed to be for the best, but if I could go back about 25 years and freeze time, I would…just to preserve the memories.

The year after I graduated high school, they basically tore the thing down (as much as one can with students still inside) and rebuilt it.
I went back to the school about three years later and EVERYTHING was different. A friend and I tried to find parts that were the same, parts that were the parts we remembered. They had even changed the location of the front entrance.
It was no longer the school I remembered.
Now, high school was not fun for me. I really hated a lot of it. But, the parts that were good can now only exist in my head. The stage I worked on is gone. The classroom I spend three years in for math is gone. Hell, they built a goram ‘math wing’ as if to segregate the mathletes from the rest of the school. The hallways where we once hung out during lunch is now the hallway next to the library. There is still a passage way but the cafeteria is now in a completely different location. And our beloved, easy to manage figure eight structure is now a mishmash of hallways and phalanges. The inner courtyards (including the “secret garden” courtyard that was blocked off from use until I broke in the last week of senior year) are all gone. Those trees, plants, grass, sun. Gone.
I hate it. God, I really just hate that school.
The only place I like to go that never seems to change is the outer rim of the city limits of my first home (my actual house is gone, thanks suburban development!), the farmland around the town never changes. Only the cattle get bigger, the sheep get fluffier and sometimes the trucks change – sometimes – but that’s it. It’s like the main part of town has no idea that area exists. I hope it stays that way. :) Besides, no one really knows where Sandy, Oregon is unless they have ever stopped for gas going to Mt Hood.

The one thing I realize and get a little freaked out about every time I go home is that no matter how much the places change with buildings torn down or new ones going up, the people are still the same.

In the case of my hometown this isn’t a positive statement. The people are still as narrow-minded, nosy, and unwilling to change in 2011 as they were when I left in 1989.

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