There are 263 miles between here and there, a vast swath of land swallowed up mostly by highway roads and open country. I’ve traveled those roads and seen that open country more times than a little, heading back home, but this is different. Instead of just going back home, I’m going back to the place that molded me after I left home, the place I never knew I would miss so much. I’m going back more than 263 miles. I’m going back 22 years, and I’m taking my family with me.
I wrote my first real rudimentary stories in high school, ones that had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Sure, they were filled with fancy, Thesaurus synonyms, sometimes words that didn’t even mean remotely the same as I thought they meant, but I was young. That’s what young people do. They aspire to greatness while believing they are already great. They pretend at understanding a world that they will never understand until they are entirely immersed in it. But I knew none of that then. I just knew it was supposed to be “the time of my life,” and I was hoping I lived up to that mantra.
It’s been a while since then, way more than 263 miles and 22 years would seem to attest. Life has taken me in its grip and shaken me like a rag doll at times, setting me down gently at others. The adventure that truly began in that little hamlet of Hamburg, Pennsylvania has morphed into something so much more. And I’m going back.
I’m going back to a campus that has changed some over the years, just like the world around it. Back to the memories of myself, that unsure shadow who always seemed incomplete. Back to people who I lived with, and cried with, and laughed with, and bonded with, even if at the time I didn’t realize any of that was happening. And my family won’t see all of that. What they’ll see is a group of rapidly-approaching-middle-age people who used to know each other way back when, not the kids we were when we met nearly 24 years ago, and not even the people we were when I saw them off at graduation in 1994.
Because they can’t go back with me. They can only go forward, and that’s okay. These memories with these people are mine and theirs to share. We all have these pockets of memories, and these places in the past where we can go to feel solace, to feel the same as we did then, only different because everything becomes different with time and experience. So my family will go back with me not to relive that life, but to show that I’ve created something since then, and to give them a glimpse at the world in which I lived, even if it has changed.
22 years have passed since I was a student at Blue Mountain, and 20 since I graduated from high school, and today starts the road back. Time to pack the car.