You Can't Go Home Again

Above the Clouds
Originally uploaded by xadrian.
Last weekend I took the kids and Tiger Lily up to Colorado to see my cousin get married. You'd think I was close to said cousin to make this trip but in reality I'm not. At one point in our lives we were close-ER but since I moved away 13 years ago I haven't been close to anyone up there. Most of my family lived in Denver or surrounding suburbs so it wasn't hard to remain in contact. While we wouldn't spend every weekend with my aunts and uncles, we would see them several times a year.

That changed after moving to Texas and it's harder and harder to go back each time. When I left I was still young. I wasn't a child, but I was not quite the perfectly responsible adult you think one would need to be in order to make that kind of transition. I wouldn't even think of myself that way today. In my head, I'm much younger than my years on this Earth. I may not remember exact details, but the nostalgia for times gone by is strong and I've noticed it's becoming painful. It's no longer a wistful recollection of sweetness and innocence and reckless abandon, but a scraping of your soul with a laser all the things you've lost, haven't done and likely never will do.

We crammed as much as we could into the few days we were there, including a drive to the summit of Pike's Peak. Tiger Lily had never been to Colorado, never seen mountains this large and had never been higher than a few hundred feet, with the exception of flying. We drove to Manitou Springs where we had buffalo burgers and ice cream. We drove through the Garden of the Gods and then eventually went through the neighborhood where I grew up.

It was small.

It was small and run down and really quite sad, but it was in the exact place I'd left it. The fences and buildings and most of the trees were just like I'd left them. The sidewalks and fire hydrants and hills and signs were mostly there. But I felt like an alien. I felt as though it was still me but I'd been pulled through a rift in time and space and dropped into an alternate universe, a universe in which everything was vibrant and real and tangible, but not right. I can still trace the path of the bike ride to the rec center in my head, but the route now seems wider and with a strange buzz in the air. The park and elementary school have different paint jobs and playgrounds but the structures are the same. Trees grow quite a bit in 13 years.

It was sad and unnerving and it made me want to cry and scratch my skin all over. I wanted to just walk into all the houses of my friends like I had done for so many years, knowing that the line "I used to live here" would not stop the current residents from pressing charges.

I think the saddest thing is that it looked like every where else.

There was no feeling of familiarity outside of knowing which way to turn. There was no warm feeling of being almost home or almost to my buddies house or nearly to the top of the hill on my bike. It was the moon from Baron Munchausen. It was all front and nothing behind it. It was really quite dead to me.

Instead of the PDQ it was just another Diamond Shamrock. Instead of long drives in between sub divisions, it was one long strip mall. Instead of it being small and quaint and unique, it was homogeneous and average. It was exactly as I remember it and nothing at all like I wanted it to be.

But what do you expect, really? I'm not 9, riding on my BMX Mongoose to the hills down between the neighborhoods. I'm not building Lego starships and leaving them buried in the sand at the rec center. I'm not riding my skateboard down the main street. Why would I expect it to be the same for me now? Because my brain was formed then. My life and my habits and my fascinations and hopes were all forged in that crummy little area of north west Denver, a few miles from a mall or a county airport or our church in the next town. That's the place I decided I wanted to be a cartoonist/fighter pilot/Lego builder/astronaut/movie star. That's the place I fell in love for the first time, had my first kiss, my first sexual encounter, my first car, speeding ticket, alcoholic beverage, video game, ice cream and X-Wing from Kenner.

Since then, I've accomplished much in the same way that the neighborhood has evolved. I work in an office. I got married and had kids. I have a car, a pet, bills and my hair line is receding. I feel like everyone else and the older I get the less distinctive I'll be, just like my neighborhood is now to me.

The trick is, never go back. Just move ahead.


李家黃喬盈榮 said...


Anonymous said...

Why would you leave them buried in the sand at the rec center?

Mr. Austin said...

Because they were big and we had to carry them up on our handlebars. It meant we could go back the next day and play with them again.