I’ve mentioned before that my impending move to Boston is making me sentimental, which is my primary mode of operation while dealing with change. This will be the first move I’ve made outside of my hometown, and while I’m excited to experience a new place, I feel a settled determination to thoroughly savor this place before I leave it behind. I keep making plans for eating at my favorite restaurants, spending time with people I love, visiting my favorite places, and bringing my camera along for all of it. It’s not that any of these things are really out of the ordinary for me (except, perhaps, the part about the camera), but I want to do all of the comfortable, mundane things that make Abilene home and relish the experience of my life here before it changes. Before I change.
And that’s really what this is all about. I know that Abilene probably won’t change much in my absence. Our house and acreage outside of town will remain mostly the same. El Fenix and Square’s will almost definitely still be here when I come home to visit. And I know that I’ll be back here to visit and maybe to live again, later. But I also know that Boston will change me. I don’t know how, really, and I hope that it doesn’t change the best parts of me or the things that really matter. But it will change the way I think about things and the way I understand the world. That’s good–I want to grow and be stretched. However, because I’ll change, I know that Abilene will never be the same for me as it is right now. In that sense, this is the last summer I’ll spend in the Abilene I grew up in. And before I leave, I want to store up in my heart all the best this Abilene has to offer so that, when I’m feeling homesick and lost, I can remember the tastes and smells and sounds of home and remember myself too.
In the introduction to Dandelion Wine, an autobiographical novel, Ray Bradbury offers a reaction to one critic’s declamation of the novel’s idealized presentation of a very ordinary and, in places, ugly midwestern town. Bradbury’s response has always resonated with my feelings for my own hometown, and never more so than this summer as I prepare to leave. Having admitted the very unextraordinary nature of his hometown, Bradbury writes,
“In what way then was the town special? Why, I was born there. It was my life. I had to write of it as I saw fit.”
For him, the town had been full of magic and beauty in the wonder years of his childhood and there was no other way to write of it. I have known many people who have been less than enamored of plain, boring, ordinary Abilene, people for whom this little town is nothing special. But I was born here. It has been my life. And as I go through the summer savoring my favorite parts of it, I will write of it as I see fit. I hope you’ll enjoy the journey with me.