Not spending any appreciable time in my hometown over the years meant I missed opportunities to reconnect in a meaningful way with old friends and family. I was ok with that for a very long time.
When I look back, it’s obvious that I wasn’t done growing up, something I had to do away from my place of birth. I was afraid my hometown might suck me back in. I was never meant to stay there.
Besides, as the years passed, all our lives were in full swing. Most everybody was busy — raising families, developing careers. There was no time to sit together and reminisce. And the past didn’t exist yet, not in any real way.
Things are different now.
We are all slowing down, retiring. I’m grown up. I know who I am and my boundaries are better defined. So it’s with great pleasure that I have reconnected with people from my past. I am not sure when I’ve laughed as much as I have in these get-togethers.
As we were saying goodbye the other night, one friend from childhood commented with affection (and maybe some relief), “Carol, you’re just the same as you were 50 years ago,” and that got me thinking:
I think I am quite different from the kid I was back then. In fact, we’re ALL different, because life experience forges and shapes us. So, in many important ways, we are different and should be different.
But I think what my old friend was talking about was “authenticity.”
That although our circumstances might change, we are still, at heart, the same soul we were. No airs, no pretenses, no big differences. Recognizable as who we were as teens. I could see the thread connecting each phase of our lives through the years. We grew and developed, but we remained rooted in the place we started.
As I considered how I thought I had changed, I saw that I didn’t grow OUT of my hometown, I grew INTO appreciating it. And I like that idea. I’m still not meant to stay there, but I do enjoy the connection with my roots I couldn’t appreciate back in the day.
My old friend is still the same person they were back then, too, which was obvious during hours of talk and laughter. There were many points of connection. Our families were well-acquainted. Our childhood experiences were a little different than the norm. And then there’s our shared culture.
I’ve missed that shared culture and point of view.
And yes, there are huge political differences in my hometown that I do not appreciate. Sometimes I struggle to bring that all into balance. I try to look at the whole person and how those views developed so differently for them and me. I will never respect some politics. But the person is sometimes a different story.
I can still see us at 16 sitting listening to Cream on a stereo system that just happened to “fall off a truck.” So many nuances in those memories.
The rich experiences I’m having now are ones unavailable to me in my beloved California. I arrived a stranger and developed a life–but it wasn’t my root culture. Many good friends I made over my years here in the Golden State are now gone, in different places or dead.
In recent years I have felt keenly the loss of my tribe. I just didn’t realize that I would find part of it again in my hometown.
I’m still a Californian, but my roots are in my hometown. Our second home there was my husband’s idea and I think it was one of his best. We’ll be on our way there very soon, to enjoy the waning weeks of summer and a very beautiful fall.