I grew up in a very small town. There were 15,000 people there when we moved from San Jose to that small, agricultural, Central Valley town. I’d never even heard of it before we moved. I was ten. It was terrifying. We’d left everything we knew and moved to this town where we knew no one. It was a small town with four elementary schools (in town), two middle schools (I’d never heard of middle schools either, only Junior High), and one (yes ONE) high school. I was shy to begin with. Moving to a new place at the beginning of 5th grade was pure hell for me, much less for my brother who was 14 and starting high school. It grew to be home, but after high school, I bolted. My parents split up after I graduated, and sold our house a year later. There wasn’t much to go back to. It wasn’t really home anymore.
We’ve lived in San Diego for over ten years now. Seems hard to believe. This is the longest I’ve lived in one home my entire life. I go “home” at least a couple of times a year to see my family. My brother moved back to that small town years ago. It’s always strange to me to be back home. I expect to run into people I know when we’re out and about town. But there are over 80,000 people in that city now. It’s not the small town it used to be. I continually look for familiar faces but don’t often see them. I see remnants and ghosts of that town, and I love when that happens. But grocery stores have moved, a mall has been added. The old movie theater we went to all through high school is some kind of church. My brother lives in what used to be “way-out-country” and is surrounded by houses, schools, and shopping centers. The high school has changed immensely, and there are now two other high schools in town. I drive through town and memories try to surface, but so many things are so different. Our old house has changed hands more times than I can count. I would love to show my kids my town….where I grew up, the library we used to ride our bikes to, the schools I attended, 11th Street where we watched all the parades, where we used to go for pizza, where we used to watch the football team practice, and so on. Half of it isn’t there anymore.
I went home after Christmas and, as has become tradition, my brother and I went to one of the local bars. It’s owned by a classmate of mine and it’s like walking into the past when you go through those doors. THS alumni seem to use it as an informal reunion location, and you almost always run into someone from your class, your siblings’ classes, the class before or after yours. I love seeing the jerseys, the pictures, the people. I can’t always find the home I remember when I’m driving around that town, but when I go into this bar, the ghosts of home have more substance. The memories are brought out, talked about, laughed about. Maybe you can’t go home again, but you can find someplace close.