Tuesday, June 23, 2009
The Long, Confusing Road Back Home (Part I)
The exact wording is up for debate, but when I left my hometown of 18 years for college, I declared something to the effect of, "I will never again step foot in this hellhole." According to my mom, I always had a flair for the dramatic, so I probably added the ever-effective "mark my words" or "I have spoken." (We watched The Ten Commandments every year at my house over Easter, so it's probably fair to assume I worked in some of the verbiage of Moses from the mountaintop.) Not to say I deemed myself as a powerful messenger of the Lord, but I did believe I was destined for greater things.
More than 15 years later, I did indeed return this past weekend, despite the hole of hell, to see my dad for Father's Day. Having only returned a handful of times previously, the last being my mother's funeral, I looked upon the journey as a positive; I had moved on to bigger and better things and was only making a temporary stop. I have a job in advertising that I love, I've finally found a tool to tame my impossibly curly hair, and I no longer wear jeans that I have to roll up. Plus, now I'm married, meaning I can stay out as late as I want and even sleep with a boy without getting in trouble.
That's not all I had to be excited about for this trip. One of my childhood dreams has always been to write cards for Hallmark. I gained a love for the art of card-giving early on in my life, thanks to my mother. She had her own mini-store of cards, pre-bought for every imaginable occasion, filed and stored for maximum thoughtfulness. Even during our turmultuous years of teen daughter/mother who forgot what it was like to be young, we found a way to communicate through cards. So this year, when I entered a Hallmark contest and won a spot as a finalist, meaning my card would be sold in stores throughout the country, I was really happy. Only when I returned home, I felt more sadness than excitement...because my mom wasn't there to share it with me.
What I didn't realize was how emotional I would become once I hit the city limits of Decatur, Illinois. It was probably the smell of the world's best pizza (Monical's), but I actually felt nostalgic. I was saddened when I visited the mall only to discover the store where I worked (Camelot Music) was now empty, available for lease but probably doomed to remain lost in a sea of obsolescence. The barbershop my dad went to every Saturday morning, often joined by a mini-me, feasting on Pop Rocks, was gone. I couldn't even bear to see our former homestead, now overtaken by a new family who was less interested in the natural beauty of their wooded setting and more concerned with easy access to their plastic furniture as soon as they stepped outside.
Why was this bothering me so much? I could create my own Facebook quiz of "What's Your Native American identity" based on my high school experience. Mine, inspired by my senior class t-shirt, would be My Name Forgotten. My sister and I hated each other when I lived there, and I wanted nothing more than to move far away and start a whole new life. You would think if I ever did return to this place, I'd feel nothing but relief that I didn't have to stay.
Yet there I was, actually sad, nostalgic, and longing for days gone by.
To be continued...