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Home Didn’t Change – You Did

Another year, another conclusion to NaBloMoPo.

Like many people, coming home is an odd feeling. I’m not talking about a temporary space – I mean going home to your family or hometown after a long time. You know that feeling: the one where you come back, look around at familiar places, run into old friends and classmates, and ask why certain things changed. Often times you’ll hear, “This place didn’t change – you did.”

Why am I talking about the feeling one gets just by visiting home? You can attribute that to a memory I had of a classmate who wrote a gritty story about a young man who comes home from college, only to discover that his best friend has joined a rough crew and is fathering a baby. My classmate’s protagonist, seems naive, stunned to come home to a place where his best friend is a father and making questionable choices. At the end, his friend reminds him that the protagonist left this sleepy town to get a degree, meaning that he changed the most and sees things differently.

I can attribute to having that happen – just this weekend, my folks and I were talking about old friends from marching band. I recalled how some went to great schools on scholarships and how a rare few dropped out, finding that collegiate life wasn’t for them. A small percentage of those who stayed behind or came back reverted to their old lives and personalities from high school.

In a way, I think that life is like my favorite movie, American Graffiti. For those of you who have never seen it, it tells multiple stories of different characters set on the last day of summer in a small town in California in 1962. Steve and Laurie are trying to decide whether to see other people while the former is away at college. Terry is given Steve’s car for safekeeping and decides to take it out on the town, picking up a pretty blonde named Debbie. Curt is unsure about leaving for college and spends most of the night chasing down a mystery woman who mouths ‘I love you’ before driving away. John, the town’s fastest guy in a deuce coupe, has remained in town past graduation, arguing that he needs to protect his rep.

The overall story highlights various individuals that one can recognize and may have encountered in their own town: the couple trying make long distance work, the uncool kid trying to be cool, the guy who never left town, and the guy who is indecisive about the future ahead. Regardless of being set in the 1960s, I always felt that the story was easy to relate to because we’ve all experienced one or more feelings about leaving a place we’ve called home for so long.