December 23, 2011

A walk down a shifting memory lane

Each time I come home, things look a little different.

I have made a point to get back to Seattle about every six months since my move south. Visiting this frequently does not allow much time for change, but it happens anyway. Just driving in from the airport, on ramps have changed, buildings have been knocked down and replaced, Quest Field is now Century Link Field, etc.

Recalling another native that returned after moving south, a friend asked if I had a strong reaction to coming home. That other friend grew misty crossing Lake Washington with Mount Rainier in the background after years in the desert. Since I have been visiting with some frequency, the reactions aren't as dramatic, but I have been gone long enough to have forgotten the particular mixture of gray and green here in the wintertime.

In many ways, it is like I never left. I joked on Facebook that I was "Sleeping in my parents' house, borrowing their car, eating their food, watching Rockford Files on tv, and I have a pimple on my nose. Time travel IS possible." 

I am lucky to be able to pick up with friends after a long absence and there is no weird tension or distance. For some it has been only six months, but I caught up with a great friend that I hadn't seen in almost two years. Much had changed in our lives since then, but conversation flowed as if I had seen him just last week.

Of course progress and chaos still have their hand in things. Just across the street from my friend's house, my old elementary school had been razed and rebuilt. Gone were the sprawling, one story buildings, replaced with a three story structure with interior hallways out of the rain. My high school across the street had also had a face lift, though it was at least recognizable.

Unfortunately, a couple of my friends' marriages are also being torn down, and they are still in the rubble stage. It is depressing, disheartening, and I don't wish that on anyone. Whatever is rebuilt in their place will be very different and may not be recognizable, but I can only hope that it is something strong and beautiful in its own way.

Rather unintentionally, I have ended up visiting several of my previous homes. After visiting Buzz and seeing the new elementary school, it was just another few minutes to the house I grew up in. It was strangely similar even after having gone through a period when it was used as a retirement home. While visiting another friend up north, I stopped by my house from when I was married. The bright red coat of paint still looked great, and only the car in the driveway gave away that it had changed hands.

Today I went for a walk around Green Lake with Tami. We talked about all that had changed and the struggles we were all having. Though the subjects have changed, the walk was familiar, as were several things around the neighborhood. The same woman was sitting at the end of the off ramp waving and asking for change, and there is still a block-sized crater just off the lake where a builder ran out of money years ago. Struggles continue.

As I was driving away, it dawned on me that I was only a few blocks from a house I had rented a decade ago. I lived there for a year or two, taking the place over after Matt and Holly moved back to San Diego. We all live together these days, but the Green Lake house was passed off like a baton on their way out of town. That house was my first rental with a backyard, and allowed me to adopt my pooch Sierra.

I stopped by to take a photo of the house both for myself and to send to Matt and Holly. When I pulled up, there was a family out front, letting their toddler and dog run around the yard. Not wanting to freak them out by taking a photo of their house, I introduced myself and mentioned that I had lived there previously. We got to talking, and it turns out they had moved up from San Diego only months before. We swapped stories about the house and my current town. The baton had been passed once more.

Nothing is completely stable, change is constant, the past is consistently being rewritten. But there are certain anchors that keep us tethered. My address has changed, and there are two places I call home, but family and friends are my anchors, and they keep me from drifting too far away.