I visited my hometown, a place I haven’t seen in years, to attend a wedding. A day before the wedding, my feelings of nostalgia led me to the old neighborhood where I grew up. How differerent it looked from the days of my youth! It took days to untangle my emotions and wrap them up in words.
Here’s what I told myself:
What did you expect? When you walked away thirty years ago, did you think you were the only one who would leave? You thought home would always be there, didn’t you? Well, things change.
Where you once lived, the new owners have installed wrought iron stairs leading to your old room on the second floor. At the top of the stairs is a door instead of a window. Two familites live there now.
As you walk the streets of your childhood memories, you notice the sidewalks where you learned to ride a bicycle are less shady. You can’t recall their exact location, but you know there are trees missing. Wasn’t there a willow tree here?
The neighborhood has changed, too. Houses now occupy the fields where you played hide and seek. You’re bewildered. You remember slinging your ice skates over your shoulder to join a dozen others on a frozen pond. Where’s the pond? That too, has morphed into an unrecognizable cluster of track houses.
You wonder if your mind is playing tricks on you. Back yards that once blended in congenial fraternity are now partitioned in stockade fencing. You’re saddened by the thought that your idea of “neighborhood” is as obsolete as a game of jacks.
Is there a constant in the universe of your memory, a single element that grounds you to the place you called home? You yearn for the elusive anchor that will moor you to the past, if only for a moment. If you don’t find a familiar marker, you’re certain your heart will float away, adrift and alone.
Then you remember the poultry farm and its garage style store where your brothers earned their first paychecks. Even though you haven’t seen it yet, you know it’s still there, right around the corner. You approach on foot and notice that the gravel parking lot is now paved and larger than you remembered. Inside, the gleaming glass cases stock the same stuff, only there’s more of it – chicken pot pie, chicken salad, chicken croquettes, eggs – just like you remembered. You buy the chicken salad and taste it.
Suddenly, for one tangy and sweet moment you’re back home.
Thanks for stopping by!
Next post: research in the Adirondacks on June 21st.