About a month from now, I will be headed back to the place where I was born and spent the first 12.5 years of my life: a little town called Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. My wife (aka: the poor unfortunate soul that is my travelling companion) has never been there. I haven’t been back in 30 years.
Wow. 30 years.
In the intervening years, I moved to Texas, where I spent the next 6 years, joined the military, spent another year in Texas, 2 different years in Korea, and every other year since then living here in Utah.
Quite a journey, no?
I wonder what I will find when I get there? I’m a very different person than I was then, obviously. I don’t even have anything left of my PA accent, having spent so much time out West. When I spent 4 days in Boston last year, though, I found myself slipping into that mode of speech pretty easily. It’s not exactly the same as what I grew up with, but it’s pretty close.
I remember when I moved to Texas, someone actually asked me “are you from England or something?” Seriously. I swore that I’d never say “y’all,” but after about 3 months it was part of my lexicon as much as any other word.
When I made the trip back to Texas five years ago for my 20th High School reunion, I drove around, looking at all of the places I remembered from my time there and marveling at the incredible changes that had happened since I’d left. Serious bummer. I’d even lost the little bit of accent I’d acquired while I’d lived there because I’d been gone so long.
Sometimes I feel like a man without roots. I mean, I don’t really remember any of my extended family from Pennsylvania, nor have I kept in touch with any of them. My friends from that time? Please; I left when I was twelve. Who knows the people they knew at twelve? My parents and two brothers live in Texas, and I’m still living in Utah. (Don’t get me wrong: I like Utah)
What I learned from that trip back to Texas was that I had romanticized the time I had spent there. I was seriously underwhelmed at the state of the places I remembered, and depressed by the amount of things I didn’t remember, or that had just flat out changed/disappeared while I’d been gone.
So for this trip back home (yes, I still call it home, at least for now), I am trying to make sure that I am also treating it like a vacation to any other place, finding entertaining things to do while we’re there, things to see that I didn’t when I was a kid, etc. You know: quasi-touristy stuff.
So why go back at all? An excellent question, I grant you. I suppose it’s because I still consider it home, no matter what. All the building blocks that formed me were there. That’s where I was built. Sure, Texas and the military did some renovations and additions, but if I had a label, it would say “Made in Bellefonte.” Maybe I’m returning myself for some warranty work of the heart and soul. Maybe I need an infusion of that place to carry me through the next 30 years.
But maybe, just maybe, I need to go back to see that there isn’t there anymore. Maybe it never was. I hope not; I hope it’s still there.
Can you go home again? I guess I’ll find out.