Childhood's End

Over the past eight years I've been slowly but steadily saying goodbye to all the pieces of my childhood. I left for college in 1997 and started getting a taste for living on my own. It was an exhilarating time, and will continue to be one I look back on fondly, but at the same time it managed to be a confusing, lonely time. I felt a little lost, a little adrift. I didn't quite feel like I belonged anywhere. I felt homeless. In 2001, I graduated and got my first job, my first apartment. I started providing for myself. I valued my freedom at the same time that I rankled against my responsibilities. By the time I got married in 2003, I felt like more or less grown up. But I guess there's always a bit of the child left; when I found out that my mom and stepdad were going to be selling the house I grew up in and moving to a different state, it hit me harder than I would have expected.

I've never felt completely at home in my new surroundings. I still haven't figured out yet where I see myself ending up in ten years, whether I'll still be in the city or if I'll make it back to my small town roots. There was comfort, though, in knowing that, even if I didn't live there anymore, even if it wasn't my home anymore, I could still visit the place where I spent so much time as a child.

So many things about my town and neighborhood are different already. My friends have all moved away. Even some of their parents have. My mom's house isn't the same, either; the yard's changed several times, as has the paint. There aren't even the same number of rooms. It's not the same place where I used to live. Despite all that, whenever I went back I felt a sense of belonging, a feeling of comfort.

It's strange to realize that if the house sells soon enough I might never have a reason to go back to my old neighborhood. I find my mind flooding with images from the past. Like the swimming hole at the end of the street with the chalk shelf that extended out into the water, or the huge bay laurel my friends and I used to climb in the park across the river. The time my stepdad set up a treasure hunt all over the neighborhood for my birthday, which I might have missed because I didn't feel like going outside that morning. Finding a tiny kitten with a broken tail under the bench in our back yard--our cat Leon, who is old and arthritic now but still full of personality. Oakworms falling out of the tree in the front yard, stick-fighting in the driveway, frantically riding our bikes away from overly territorial neighborhood dogs. The sound of little league games, the bite in the morning air in the wintertime, the way the tap water always tasted like rust in the summer.

I'm happy for my mom, that she's going to be able to make the changes in her life that she needs. I'm sure that in time, the whole thing won't bother me at all. I'll be used to having family on both coasts. This is just another part of growing up. People get older, things change. I wish I could end this piece with something profound, some little piece of wisdom, but for now I just don't have the perspective that time will eventually bring.