Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Stranger In My Own Home.

I have been reliving my youth.

My childhood, my adolescence has surrounded me, drifting in on breezes that smell of wild lilac and cool water. Currently, I'm at the in-laws', up near Baraga. For the week before that, I was back home, with my family. It has been good to be back on the Great Lakes--I was tired of being landlocked. It's hard for me to explain to people who've never been here how the Lakes, as we call them, are not so much lakes as much as inland seas; a sheet of water stretching all the way to the horizon. Everywhere I go, the smell of the water reaches me, and the effect on my morale is readily apparent, even to myself.

Spent a good part of the last week "on walkabout," as my father calls it. Ran six miles back and forth over the concrete breakwall on in Port Austin Harbor. I shared a round of beers with my best friend since first grade, later the best man at my wedding. We talked about Army life, about politics, about his upcoming semester at college, and about what I can expect over the next year downrange. It was nice to see him again. As we parted ways, my friend took a moment to remind me of the deal we made after high school.

"Once a year," he called out, climbing into his truck. "This year's obligation is fulfilled. Next year it's on you." I laughed, waving him off.

"Once a year." I grinned. It's an obligation I look forward to upholding.

The rest of my time has been spent pretty much alone. The mornings here have been clear and cool, with some light rains as is typical of the storm season on the Huron shoreline. I visited the old quarry I used to hang out at growing up, and took trips out to see my old middle school. I dropped in on my old metal-god high school band teacher, already busy whipping this years' drumline into shape. I informed him that the current steward of my old bass drum needs to treat my instrument with more respect. Even now, the legend of that drum and my exploits with it are spoken of in whisper. It was good to see him again, but I admit, it was strange to the the faces--they're all so young. I transferred to that school in ninth grade, and but for my time there, I don't think there'd be anyone in the entire county who remembers me.

I grew up in a town of about 700 people. Of these, I knew perhaps half a dozen. I was always a solitary sort of person, and so I was always able to enjoy a certain measure of privacy. But that privacy comes at a price. Just the other day, I stepped into an old restaurant in my hometown, one I've patronized with my parents since I was a child. I recognized one of the waitresses, a few years younger than myself, but other than that, the sea of faces I saw over the noontime rush were largely alien. I, a proud soldier and accomplished native son, have returned to find that, while the place that I loved so much remains the same, there are none to see that I am here. To be certain, I look a little different from the Milo these people remember, with my Army muscles and severe military fade, but still, it bothers me on some level that I am as yet unable to identify.

I'll be in the desert in just over a month. There is a chance, however small, I may not return. I don't expect to be worshipped for having decided to joined the Army, but all the same, I'd like for someone to see that I did all right for myself. I want some part of me to remain here, in the memories of those who remained behind. And coming home, I fear now that such may not come to be. It makes me sad.

It's one thing to have nobody know that you're gone. It's quite another to have none remember you were there. I feel now as the native son that my hometown has forgotten.

I feel now as a stranger in my own home.


Blogger cinnabari said...

I kinda envy those of you who do have places that have roots. I've never had a place-home. I grew up in places over three-year blocks, Air Force style. Boulder comes closest to home by virtue of the longest association, but even now... most of my friends have scattered, and even if we went back... it wouldn't be that same home again. It'd be echoes. Shadows. I think I'd rather be out here, and all of us scattered, than the last one left in the all the old haunts.

6:53 PM  
Blogger cameo said...

milo, you make me sad.

6:40 PM  
Blogger anno said...

You may return to the same location, but you never return to the same place. Whatever place it was, you have to re-make or re-invent each time you return. At least that's my experience.

9:38 PM  

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