It is a chilly November night where I live on Southern California’s high desert 60 miles north of Los Angeles. I am as far away as you can get from my hometown of Bowie, Maryland without winding up in the vast Pacific.
Tonight, I am reflecting upon my childhood memories.
I like to lie on the bed, close my eyes, and enter a journey back to the mid-1960s, remembering the sweet childhood moments that yield the happiest memories. I think my greatest childhood memories were the times I spent alone in my bedroom in our suburban Washington home gazing out into the night sky, watching the streetlights come on, feeling the cold frosty glass, fogging the cold glass with my warm breath, listening to Herb Alpert on the phonograph – dreaming of the future.
Do you remember being a kid and daydreaming of the future?
Ironic, isn’t it? Back then, we dreamed of the future. Today, we dream of the past. I was 12 years old and couldn’t wait to be grown up. I’d look out my window into the darkness and wonder what was out there. There was a huge world to be discovered. My perception of the world then was decidedly different than it is now .
As a kid on a warm and humid summer night, I’d watch the lightning and hear the approaching thunder outside my bedroom window and await the rush of an incredible thunderstorm. I’d see the lightning and wonder how far away it was. The dark squall line would appear on the horizon ahead of the storm signaling its arrival. Then—that first close lightning strike within a mile punctuating the raw power of what was about to unfold. The rush of downdrafts and gusty winds, then, the downpour and drama to follow.
A thunderstorm was like a symphony to me.
As a kid, I watched the seasons pass – the trees would turn colors and be bare as we headed into cold dark winter. I’d watch them bud and come alive in the springtime. Spring was a welcomed awakening where I felt alive again.
Living in California, I think of my Maryland roots often. Washington will always be home regardless of what direction I take. I think suburban Washington out in the sticks remains a wonderful place to live and a place where kids can grow up and feel safe. Kids growing up in Maryland today won’t have the same experiences we did 60 years ago when we were so isolated from Downtown Washington.
My faraway hometown in the East has become an old-old friend I’ve returned to time and time again to pat on the back and say hello. Yet, as much as I fantasize about back home, I’ve found you really can’t go home again.
Rarely is “back home” the same place.
While you were away, “back home” grew and changed. The friends you had as a child. The adults who were your mentors. The innocence of place in those days. It has all faded deep into the past. Your friends moved on both physically and mentally. There are also friends who are no longer with us. Our parents and mentors are largely gone now. Our schools are different. Businesses we frequented have closed or have changed hands. The fields where we played are now condos. The Mall where we hung out on a rainy day closed years back and is now a high-rise office building. Where you and your friends used to bowl is long gone along with a lot of gutter ball memories.
Keep in mind life sits still for no one…yet, despite the progress of civilization, you are free to relive the memories time and time again.