A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to visit the town I grew up in: Manson, Washington. A tiny apple farming town on a beautiful lake, surrounded by snowy mountains. I have found my mind going back to Manson quite a lot lately. I remember how simple everything was and how easy it was to be happy. I am not sure if it was the town itself or my wonderfully enjoyable childhood, but I am beginning to realize it may not have been as simple and easy as I thought.
When I first moved to Chicago I thought this is where I belong. The big city. I thought I was cut out for a world of "culture," art, music, constant movement, noise, and people. I thought that I would never be happy in a small town again. I actually forgot Manson existed. Until this last year. I'm not sure if it is the fact that I am once again living in Washington or if I am maturing to the point where I am seeing my youth through a new lens, but I can't stop thinking about it.
Going "home" was an interesting experience for several reasons: the first being that I hadn't been there for about five years, the second being the fact that I hadn't been there with my sister in thirteen years, and the third being that I had the opportunity to bring my one year old nephew with me. It was a strange mix of youthful memories and startling realizations of maturity. I am not a child anymore, and it became blatantly clear the moment I started driving my sisters sleeping child past my old house. I felt very emotional, happy, sad, overwhelmed at the fact that I was not the kid asleep in the backseat waiting for my parents to get me home. I thought about how much I have been through since that moment. I thought about how much things have changed and whether my parents thought the same thing when they were driving me around their home towns.
I think one of the things that struck me was thinking about the complexities that I never noticed. I drove around a place that was so full of memories, yet with the feeling that I had never seen any of it before. I saw the poverty, the small shacks that generations of families lived in, and realized for the first time what it meant to live there. When I was a kid I didn't understand what it was like for the families of the kids I went to school with. I didn't understand the extent of the poverty or the wealth of the tourists that juxtaposed it. I am amazed at the things I never noticed. I was amazed at the beauty that I took for granted. I was upset by the new wealth and "summer homes" that surrounded my old house and playgrounds.
I suppose the point to this is that I'm still young, but I think for the first time I really understand what it feels like to be getting older. It was that moment where I could hear my eighty year old voice saying, "back in my day..."