It changed. All of it changed. Somehow, without my knowledge, or permission, my childhood home changed.
I had never truly understood the meaning of, “You can never go home again”. Now I think I get it. It’s not that you aren’t capable of returning to childhood homes but that it will never be the same.
Almost ten years have passed since I had last seen the little blue house where I grew up. It seemed smaller, so did my little town. The houses seemed older and the trees shorter. Everything was the same but felt different.
I brought my wife to see it, to see all six streets of it, that small northern village. She’s a big city girl, and she marvelled as I gave her the sentimental tour. I showed her were the old convenience store was the one my mother and I rented a Nintendo. That first gaming system started my Mother’s love of video games.
I pointed out the old tavern. When I was very young, they had a vending machine that effectively microwaved French fries. They were the best fries, not because they tasted good but because they came from a machine and that was cool.
I showed her what was left of the grocery store. Once it seemed larger then life. I remember getting caught stealing sour gum. The clerk gave me a firm talking too and I never did it again. Latter I worked with them folding envelopes and working with Excel. My first real summer job.
Moving on I showed her the small white two-story building which hosts the bank. My mother had lived in the apartment above it when she worked as a waitress.
I showed her the new convenience store. I worked there part time in my last year of high school. The money was ok but the free vhs rentals were amazing. I watched more movies that year than I had my whole life.
I pointed out the old blue house. Not really that old, I remember my mother’s excitement as we would drive by as it was being built. She would say, “Let’s go visit our hole.” It still has the flowering crab apple tree that she planted twenty years ago when we moved in. I worked hard pruning and cleaning that tree. Picking the small bitter apples.
We drove up the steep road where my cousin and I would sit on our skateboards and fly down it. It was a monolithic hill. It really wasn’t. Somehow, overtime it had levelled itself out.
We passed the small white church and the still large Baseball field. Turned around in the old school yard. All the play structures I remembered were gone. Replaced with plastic, safe versions.
Of all the memories the old school brought back, it wasn’t the pranks, old friends, or bastard teachers that I remembered, it was my first kiss. I was in high school and she was visiting me for the day. My brother was home with his girlfriend and her son. The small blue house felt small and we escaped for a walk.
It was dark, maybe seven at night, and we walked to the old school. I was determined to kiss her, I had been paralyzed with fear for too long. I can’t remember why kissing terrified me but it had and now after almost a month of going steady, I was determined to kiss her. We went around to the old gym doors and there, under the orange glow of a light, I made my move. The kiss was sweet, soft and wonderful. I didn’t marry her and we ended badly but that moment was wonderful.
My wife and I drove down the last road in our tour. Both sets of grandparents lived on this road when I was young; they even lived across the street from each other.
That was the tour, it seemed so sad to me that such a big part of my life was suddenly so small. How could a place that felt so wrong feel so right? So many of my memories and experiences came from there and I love the place, but it’s not my home anymore. It has lost some intangible quality that made it my place in the world.
After some time thinking about it I realise, it isn’t smaller, it didn’t change, I did.