Monday, October 24, 2005

Back to the beginning

I'm actually "out of the office" right now, visiting my birthplace--Milwaukee, WI--plus relatives in Kenosha and Richland Center. It's been a great trip, but today, as my parents and I drove around to check out all the old haunts (houses of aunts and uncles who've passed away--people who were big lights in our lives), I got a little sad. We've all experienced change before, but it hits you harder than ever when, after the absence of several years, you see a place that you really loved--especially when it's been altered for the worst. At my aunt Grace and uncle John's, a Target had been built in front of their cozy white-brick Gingerbread house, totally decimating the beautiful open field that used to greet it. At my aunt Jean's, the cute little plank house looked so small and lonely without her in it. At my mom's childhood home, weeds were loitering against the porch boards and rust was eating away at the screen door. At my family's initial home, the dwelling itself had been well maintained, but down the street, as I set eyes upon the very first school I attended, my parents asked me if I remembered how mean my teacher had been; I'd often come home in tears because she would yell at me. Now, I was a kid who aimed to please, and when an adult reprimanded me, I took it very seriously. I don't recall a second of my first days of school, and I wonder if that's on purpose. While we drove away from it, I was deeply disturbed, not remembering the details of being yelled at, but feeling the discomfort nonetheless.

Why do we insist on going back to places we've left? I guess because there's a bittersweetness to seeing them--recalling the best of times while knowing we'll never recreate the happiness. We dredge up things we've outgrown--and sometimes with good reason--but we also realize how every stitch that holds our days together matters in our growth. Maybe we're trying to see if those stitches unravel by tugging at them, and we feel good when they hold. Who knows. All I can say is that it's nice to see where my life began--it gives good perspective.

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