A to Z Challenge
I haven’t been “back home” in 10 years. I haven’t lived “back home” since August 1998. I was 15 when we moved thousands of miles away from a small New England town that rests snugly against a long, winding river where tree tops turn your view of the sky into one through a fisheye window. I lived my entire life in this small town. I knew four different seasons well enough to know how far I could run on snow covered sidewalks before it became unbearable; I knew which vines and leaves to avoid in the woods, and I knew water in lakes and ponds were far cooler beneath the first layers of the sun’s reflection. I knew what it felt like to be cold in the summer, warm in autumn, and swollen in the face in spring. I knew what it felt like to roll freely downhill without too much worry of anything other than big sticks and rocks in the way.
And I came here, to Texas. The ground is flat, the sky is open, and the bugs are worrisomely fearless. Autumn is warm, winter bitter, spring hot, and summer spicy and steamy. Water in lakes is warm from top to bottom it seems. Shade provides little relief from the oppressive heat. Trees are essentially tall bramble. There’s awful little sticker burrs in the grass that stick to your shoelaces or the bottom hem of your pant legs. You don’t notice them until you’re about to tie your shoes and slide your fingers down your laces; it’s like sending your fingertips through a mini barb wire field. You take off your shoes, take a step forward and your heel presses down on a tiny ball of sharp needles. I’ve seen grown men yelp from the sudden pain of these burrs.
There’s a lot of reasons to love Texas and it took me only a couple years to figure it out. As it turns out, I really have a strong distaste for the cold. Not only do I not mind the heat but I don’t exactly feel comfortable if motion creates a cool breeze rather than a simple movement of air. I love rain and though it doesn’t rain often in my region of Texas, the storms that do hit are ones for the memory. I fell in love with the nature of Texas quickly. You can experience everything down here that you can experience outside of this state. One thing people say about Texans is how isolated they are mentally from the rest of the country. I stopped trying to explain to people where I’m from. I just started saying New York because at least people know where it is on a map; they get the general idea.
I have these ideas in my head of my small town. It’s a magical place. It’s luscious and full of life with raging rivers, diverse terrain, and a pallette of colors that decorate the scenery throughout the year. Narrow, two story houses dot the hills along the river, a marina illuminates dates as they peer over wrought iron railings and gaze into the waters that once were prosperous and vital to this town. I hear dead leaves rustle beneath my feet as I hike through the woods without a map, knowing my way by scars on paths that don’t exist. I feel the cool breeze sweep over my face as I stand atop a hill with thick blades of green grass dancing between my toes. I hear the hushed crunch of snow beneath tires of cars as they pass by me on the road I walk to the store.
Vividly, I can see myself with my toes curled around the guard rail of a bridge. I feel the wind beneath my outstretched arms, I hear the breeze through trees around me, I see the faces looking up at me as their mouths yell for me to jump. I can feel the stress of the summer’s heat peel away as I glide through the air and into the calm surface of the lake with a laughing splash.
I can smell the dirt beneath my feet as I ooze out of a pond and into a community of cedar hiding picnic tables and barbecue pits. The smoke drifting through and between the trees as it rises to their tops causes my stomach to rumble with sudden hunger. I can’t wait for night to settle so I can lay in my tent and listen to the fire crackle in its pit as it slowly fades out with the rising moon. The sound of morning dew sporadically hitting my tent will wake me and I’ll begin my day with barefeet warming near stones around a fire.
Everywhere I went as a kid, I went through the woods; no one would see me. I climbed large boulders, my fingers digging into the rich soil filling their cracks as my sneakers found their way to lift me higher. There was never silence around me in those woods. Something always moved, everything around you is alive and you’re aware of it as you are your own conscience while walking alone among this moving, unpretentious life.
These are wonderful memories. They are crisp, clean and full of emotion one can only feel and never truly express. But there is a major flaw within these memories. I know they are not real. I’ve made experiences grow into something more grand than they are. And this is why I choose nostalgia over “going home.” I love Texas (definitely not the politics) and I don’t see myself wanting to leave anytime soon but I don’t stay only because of how much I’ve yet to see of Texas.
My last visit “home” was over a decade ago. I didn’t get to go anywhere I wanted because I went with mom and Stilla and they ran the entire trip but I learned a lot that trip. I saw how much my home changed, how much I changed, and how much it was no longer “my home.” I was upset things didn’t go my way that trip but I saw enough to know by the time I was back in my own bed that the rest would only bring disappointment and possibly some degree of heartbreak. Not only had I grown into a different person but this town grew into a different town. I’ll keep the good memories I’ve exaggerated and remain hidden from the truth
I’d rather my Home Town be left as I remember it than to know what it’s become
This post was inspired by Saving Shards
We all know what nauseating means…and probably nostalgia too: a longing…sentimentality…yearning. And a sneaky little creature that sometimes tugs at the edges of our emotions luring us into rewriting times and events into something they really weren’t in the first place.