Friday, October 19, 2012

There's a Small Town in My Mind.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX
*  *  *
Regina Spektor

I must have left a thousand times
But every day begins the same
Cause there's a small town in my mind
How can I leave without hurting every one that made me?

Oh, baby, baby it's all about the moon
I wish you wouldn't have broke my camera
Cause we're gonna get real old real soon
Today we're younger than we ever gonna be

Stop! Stop, what's the hurry?
Come on baby, don't you worry worry
Everybody not so nice nice

Thought you ought to know by now
Everybody not so nice nice

Oh baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby,
It's all about the moon

I must have left a thousand times
But there's a small town in my mind
How can I leave without hurting every one that made me?

*  *  *

I love the new Regina Spektor CD.  Her first song, "Small Town Moon", and especially its first stanza, really encapsulates exactly how I've felt for a long time (almost exactly since the first day I moved out of my parents' house when I was 17 years old to go galavanting independently on the Penisola Italiana).  I must have left a thousand times, but everyday begins the same.

I wondered so many times that first year outside the proverbial fold, when I'd return to Texas for good (would I ever return to Texas for good?), where I'd make my home (my forever home this time!), and would it be anything like that small town in my mind (and heart)?  It's impossible not to idealize your hometown - in my case, only after years of dissecting it, dismissing it, rejecting and oftentimes forgetting it.  When I first left, I was perpetually torn over what-could-have-been, guilt over having left too soon, left too many people behind.

It wasn't until last week that it all came full-circle.

I found that when we drove from Colorado to Texas last week, retracing (almost exactly) a route I drove nearly 16 years ago with my Girl Scout Troop, I was happy to take in the rolling hills of New Mexico, the painfully flat plains of Oklahoma, the hot dryness of Palo Duro Canyon, singing wildly to Is This the Way to Amarillo.  There were no tinges of sadness. I find myself healthily nostalgic about the small town that made me, and all the people and things from my past that I chose to leave there.  Everything I'd done made sense, had purpose and meaning and a clear end: my wonderful life today. 

Going home to my mom's house (no longer the house I grew up in) and picking up a small u-haul's worth of belongings that had been patiently stored for 15 years by my mother - a mix of travel nicknacks (whosits and whatsits galore, might I add), hundreds of post cards, old Christmas gifts, wedding favors, love letters, homecoming pictures and childhood awards - was the final step I'd been waiting for since the day I walked out of my parents' home in 1998.  I often lamented that I'd always felt like I was still half-way in Texas because I'd never completely left: so much of my childhood, my adolescence and so many of my memories still sat in a closet waiting for me.  But last week, rifling through old pictures, I finally felt that I no longer needed to hold onto silly mementos because the life I had before - so different and yet equally wonderful when compared to the adult life I have now - was a fully cemented part of my past.

It's hard to leave places behind.  I've done a lot of that.  Maybe because my mother and sister hate moving so much I felt I needed to make up for it in extreme wanderlust.  Have I ever regretted a single voyage, move or random pick-up-and-go?  Well maybe hitch-hiking from Germany to Amsterdam wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done, but - no, not really.  I have so much perspective, so much respect for other people and places, and, finally!, so much more respect for those who choose to stay in one place and love it hard - something I could never fully understand until now.

Matt likes to joke that we're "seeing the USA in our Chevrolet" (Seriously, "the Rockies out west are calling you"?! who knew.) every time we take a road trip.  We are.  After 15 years of seeing almost every other place I could think of (or at least afford), I'm so happy and feel so blessed to be back in America - the country I petulantly swore I'd never move back to (because I was going to raise my kids in an idyllic small town in Greece, don't you know?  It could still happen!).  I have rarely felt more pride than when we drove from Maine to Colorado in June - seeing America in all its glory and taking real pleasure in touring a coal mine, eating hamburgers at one-horse-town diners, petting llamas in the middle of West Virginia or discovering the birthplace of Quaker Oats in Missouri, watching my son (I actually have a child! this still shocks and thrills me!) marvel at the OZ Museum in Kansas, and enjoying a romantic bottle of wine with my husband and soul mate in the Rocky Mountains, our new home.

It's so funny.  I have a million memories of exotic and awe-inspiring trips. But in the end, no matter how much more open my mind and heart have become, I have a small town in my mind.  It feels good to remember my roots - and set down new ones at last.

*  *  *
Our First Drive Cross-Country

West Virginia

Gramma Llama

Shaker Village, Kentucky

St. Louis, MO


Have a Heart.

West Kansas

East Colorado

Palo Duro Canyon, TX
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