My Available Past: Coming Home to Sherman

“Will it ever be the same?”

“Stupid question.”

“Kinda the same?”

“Of course not! No one steps in the same river twice and all that. Nothing endures but change. Heraclitus, you know?”

“I don’t know. I think things could be more the same than different. There’s a range. Like, obviously, I’ll give you the endurance of change. But, how about the rate? Change, it can be super fast, super slow, it can even work in retrograde.”

“Eh, change can never work that way—you’re equating change with progress—which is wrong. Change is just time. Thinking that we can control it—that’s absurd. Anyhow, there’s probably some theoretical postulation of space and time that disproves what you’re trying to say. Be that as it may, remember that it’s not about the river. It’s about the one stepping in.”

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Every time I come home everyone has a nicer TV. Leaves are still trapped below the snow, unable to break through and find their way back to branch. Houses look the same to me—quiet and inviting. Streets, too. The same. People are the same. A little older, a little rounder, a little less hair, but the same. Discussions are the same: It’s the coldest winter ever and what’s the deal with the new budget proposal and so and so’s kid got into such and such school and so and so won’t stop talking about how their damn kid got into such and such school which isn’t really that good. Surely not as good as your kid’s. Stores are the same. Their names might change, but that doesn’t mean much. The TVs are always nicer, bigger, clearer, and flatter. Most everything else—more or less—the same. And I love that.

Funny, how that goes. By the time I was old enough to be conscious of my surroundings I only wanted to extricate myself from them. I was restless in my plodding circadian tedium. It just wasn’t that….. interesting. And it’s so fucking cold that you hate random objects—like your neighbors—with an entirely inexplicable passion. And you have to drive to the mailbox just so you can get an LL Bean catalogue. And there aren’t any bars and even if there were you’d have to drive to them and almost certainly get pinched by the cop who, because it’s so cold no one wants to leave their house, has nothing better to do than wait around the block for the guy who had one too many sips of Bacardi Breezer. But there aren’t any bars anyway. And there’s no one between the ages of 15 and 60 (Apparently not true.). And so and so always seems to have another kid to talk about. tumblr_mcdajeJoc21r63tw8o1_500

And I don’t want it to ever change. Every time I come home that’s what I say. I couldn’t wait to get out, I never want to come back, but I don’t want anything to change. How does that work? I suppose most of us humans are always trying to change our current state and affect our future state. Otherwise I guess I’d be sitting here typing this for the rest of my life. I’ve found that perceived pure and true satisfaction and ease are rarely something that can be experienced consciously. It’s always something we’re searching for, always something just over the hill. I’m sure that’s even realer in today’s hyper-accessible world. I’ve written about it before. https://tloebchina.wordpress.com/2014/10/19/the-bearable-lightness-of-heqing/

Ferris Bueller, on his day off, brilliantly said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around for a while, you could miss it.” More often than not, by the time we stop and look around, what we’re looking for has come and gone. I suspect that’s why I don’t want Sherman to change. As I get older—and I’m told I’m not very old—I realize what a special place it was that I spent my childhood. I appreciate it in a mindful way that, not so long ago, I never would have understood. Maybe this newfound comfort is more about myself than the place. Maybe it’s a bit selfish. Perhaps, I lucked out that I spent year after unappreciative youthful year wanting something more, but by the time I was able to stop and look around, this place, this circumstance, that I wanted to leave was still there. I didn’t miss it. It’s intact. Perhaps I want my past to be a living, breathing thing that I can still experience—albeit through a different, more cognizant lens—at a moment’s notice. A semi-immutable venue that will always persist. My past, re-livable at my convenience.

The other night, I went to dinner with my oldest friend, Tyler, his parents, and my parents. After dinner Tyler and I hopped in a familiar car, wound our way up and around frigid corners of 39, past houses that have existed since the dawn of time—our time, by rank and file swaths of branchy trees, begrudgingly relenting at that insufferable Speed Limit 25 sign, passing the school where we both grew and did great and stupid things, and up Sunny Lane to a house I first set foot in nearly 20 years ago. We went downstairs to do battle on a ping-pong table whose green has faded a little and whose net sags a lot. The guys on either side are taller, potentially wiser, certainly stubblier. The feeling of joy and competition and friendship hasn’t changed. Not in the slightest. pingpong3a

How lucky I am. How lucky I am to get to relive these things we call memories. When Heraclitus said “No one steps in the same river twice,” I’m not so sure he was talking about the river. That’s how I feel when I come back to places I’ve been, places that matter to me. And, I guess no place matters to me as much as this one. This place hasn’t changed all that much. But I have.

Me and the TVs.

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