I went home last weekend. No, I don't mean I went back to my house. That wouldn't exactly be newsworthy, would it? No. I went home, back to my hometown. I haven't lived there since 1987, but Tracy will always be home. Why? The memories. I lived there from 2nd grade through my junior year of college, and since it was a small town, just about every street in the old section holds memories--good, bad, and stupid, but memories. When I go back, I always drive what we used to call the strip--11th Street, East Street, Grant Line, and Tracy Blvd.--at least once. That route takes me past my old high school and my old house, as well as the route I used to walk to school when I was little, the Taco Bell where I hit a parked car and got kissed by a really weird guy (not on the same night), my best friend's mom's business (where I got kissed by another weird--nay, scary--guy), the place that made the best vanilla Pepsi on the planet, the bank where I had my first checking account, the place where my favorite arcade used to be, the place where my favorite donut shop used to be (great cream cheese muffins, and the night manager was adorable--too bad he never kissed me), the drive-in where my cousin worked, and the park I used to play in. A short detour north on Tracy Blvd takes me to my uncle's old house, the Denny's where a bunch of us used to hang out till 4 AM, the place I met my husband, and the trailer park where my friend lived. A detour in a different direction takes me past the old movie theater where I saw Star Wars for the first time when I was 10, had my first date (a lot older than 10), and spent many happy Tuesday half-price nights. See what I mean? Memories. Everywhere. For me, going back to Tracy is the closest I'll ever come to time travel.
As you might expect, it's bittersweet. It's fun to wallow in memories, but that makes me realize how old I am and how much nearly everything has changed, including me. The theater is now a church. The old administration building at my high school was torn down last year, and the arcade and the donut shop are gone, as is the pizza place where I met hubby. My old house is still there, but it looks a lot different:
It looks pretty nice now, but when I lived there it had a flat roof and not much landscaping. And it had a garage instead of what appears to be a front room now (I wonder where all the black widow spiders live, now that there's no garage).
Whoever said you can't go home again was wrong. You can, but it isn't the same. Buildings come and go, but more than that, people grow up, move away, or move on--we're married, have kids, jobs, mortgages, responsibilities. The common ground we had in high school--the same music, movies, etc.--is gone. We've gone our different ways. Nothing wrong with that. I'm actually glad I moved away, because I've had the opportunity to grow in ways that would probably have been impossible had I stayed in town. But I do miss the days when I knew everyone and felt a sense of belonging I've never felt since I left.
Nostalgia comes from the Greek word nostos ("homecoming") + algos ("pain, grief, distress") -- thank you, dictionary.com. Those Greeks had it right. Whenever I go home, a part of me grieves for what I've lost--old times, old memories... my youth. It takes me a week or two to get back to normal. In the meantime, I write sappy, disjointed blog posts like this one.