Where is your hometown? Do you still live there? Do you consider it home?
Anyone who knows me can tell you that I miss Portland. I didn’t spend my youth there, but it’s a place that got into my system and changed me for the better.
But we now live in Iowa. 2,000 miles from Portland, Cannon Beach, Astoria, or Mt Hood. I’m also 2,000 miles from my parents and family. Is it strange that I don’t feel the same longing for my hometown? My grandmother lives there. My grandfather is buried there. My parents live one town over. I grew up there, spent 12 years in school there, had my first love, heartbreak, independence, and driving lessons there. It is me. But I don’t miss it.
Maybe it’s because the area has had a housing boom and now resembles a suburb instead of a rural county life. Maybe the heart breaks and life lessons have jaded me from any positive feelings that I may have felt. The amount of change that Rochester has gone through since I moved away years ago is ridiculous. We used to get made fun of by our big city friends for living in such a po-dunk little place. Many a weekend night was spent in the surrounding Capital Forest and mudding in the Willapa Hills or out in Independence Valley. I had FUN there growing up. For a long time, I wanted my kids to have the same life.
But it is not the same place anymore. The old IGA grocery moved to a new building across town. The drugstore closed. There are new primary and middle schools. The elementary school was remodeled. I don’t know everyone driving down Hwy 12 because there are so many new people in the area. It feels like a shadow of what I grew up in. My best friend and I used to walk the eight miles between our houses on the back roads, because we weren’t allowed to walk on Hwy 12. We walked 5 miles home from school for fun. I knew every single person in my class, in my SCHOOL. All 500 or so kids. But I knew first & last names, siblings names, what activities they did, and maybe where they lived.
Funny how growing up changes your perspective. I would never move back there. My heart aches for what home used to mean to me… A wide-spread rural area with a couple of rivers, a ton of trees, and comfort in my surroundings. I found more of a home and a sense of belonging in the PDX metro area of 2.3 million people than I ever did in Rochester. And it feels like a loss of innocence, of a time before the world changed me. I miss the naïve child that I used to be.
The first time I was in Portland it was a month after moving to Iowa. I cried during take-off. I didn’t want to leave my green city of bridges behind. I missed my creature comforts of Starbucks on every corner, Powells, and the MAX. And I wanted them back. I was ready to just plant my feet on the damp soil and refuse to leave, make Ryan come HOME, and start over.
Of course I didn’t. I came back to Iowa and I survived. I flew into Seattle this past week. Let me just say, I hate the SeaTac airport anyway, but after doing it with an infant, I will never fly out of there again. (More on that later.) It was overcast and depressing when we landed. I couldn’t see Mt Rainer or the foothills. The weather was sticky, damp, and moldy– a typical Washington day. The next 6 days were spent with me shivering and freezing. I had that to-the-bone cold that I couldn’t shake. The time in Centralia wasn’t great, either. That town is so ran-down with drugs, poverty, and depression, I don’t know how anything positive can come out of it.
Ten years ago, I would have loved to have a house and settle down where I was raised. Now, I know that it isn’t ME. I’ve seen the great big world outside of that bubble, and I could never be happy there. While I’ve tried to explain to my family that we won’t be moving back to Centralia/Rochester ever again, that didn’t stop the guilt trips from rolling in all week long.
Anyway, after spending 6 days in Rochester/Centralia/Seattle, it dawned on me that I was more than ready to come HOME. Two months ago, I was panicking at leaving ‘home’. And there I was, smack dab in the chaos of the SeaTac airport, realizing that I was no longer home in the NW. It was one of those surreal moments that movie producers show with the spinning cameras… where the main character is frozen in time and the world buzzes on in hyper speed around them….
What an epiphany.