It all begs the question of whether you can go home again. Maybe in a physical sense you can but do you ever find things the way you left them? Physically they may (or may not) be but if you are looking at them through a different, more experienced lens, are they really the same? Are they as you remembered them or do they look older, larger or smaller, or just different?
The past couple of weeks have been a blur of activity for us as we have been traveling up the East Coast visiting family, friends, and places we haven't seen in several years, if not longer. Its been exciting and exhausting, enjoyable and disappointing all at the same time. Because just as people change, things change... meaning I'm not viewing these places I once called home in the same way I did before. It is like attending a class reunion where everyone is vaguely familiar but not quite the same as you remembered them. This isn't a good or bad thing; but rather I'm finding the whole experience to be mildly unnerving.
As we've moved from one old haunt to the next it has felt as we are slogging along in slow motion, viewing the world as outsiders looking in. Things have changed yet remained the same. The traffic in the DC metro area? It is as horrible, if not worse, than we remember it and served as a constant reminder about what we don't like about the area. The cookie cutter suburbs filled with the same oversized house after same oversized house on the identically landscaped lots struck me as disturbingly conformist. At the same time I found the vibrancy and seeming rebirth of parts of the area to be exciting. Construction that had been halted amid the economic bust the last time we were in the area was once again moving forward while other projects had been completed. We visited on the cusp of the long anticipated opening of the new silver line of the Metro. As we've seen in cities around the world, a committment to expanded public transportation is always a positive move for a community and seeing the years of talks, construction and disruption come to fruition made me stop and think that maybe the area is more progressive than I had been thinking.
Driving through our old home town of Norfolk we felt as though the city was frozen in time. Most of the restaurants and shops were exactly as I remembered them. There the same construction projects that had been unfinished four years ago still remained idle. I swear, even the pot holes and road construction signs looked as though they hadn't been touched since the last time I saw them. Our old house, the labor of love where we had invested hundreds of hours of manual labor to remodel looked exactly as it did the day we moved out. In a way it was haunting to sit at the end of our old driveway and look at the house and life that used to be ours. Did I miss it? No. But it felt funny just the same. Yes there were noticeable differences though both good and bad. First the good: the city now has its own light rail system and we saw the shiny train cars making their way through the city streets. The bad? the cars, however, appeared to be devoid of passengers at all hours of the day. And those beautiful old neighborhoods along the water that I used to dream of living in? They were still there but now for sale signs dotted too many yards to count. Their prices were so low (I looked) that we could easily afford to buy one now but is it the time to buy or to get out?
The list of things that are different but the same in places all along our journey goes on. But have these places really stayed the same yet changed or have I? Am I not seeing things the same way I used to? I guess at this point I'm simply feeling unnerved. The places that used to feel like home to me no longer do. And it all begs the question of where can I now call home?