Just like death has a way of digging up the bones of old memories, so does place. Things I hadn't thought about in years suddenly became vivid recollections as I turned off the highway:
Sneaking to my cousin's house a few blocks away to use her MSN Messenger.
Riding pegs with my first middle school crush--Robbie Reisdorf--who would later take me to homecoming in high school, who I feared would not pass the required breathalyzer. Whose aloof behavior I quickly became disenchanted with, desiring someone with more drive.
Sitting next to a fire and smoking Clove cigarettes on a sandbar in the Loup River with friends who I was sure would be my friends forever--people I haven't seen in years, spread across the country doing things they love.
Saturday evenings spent swinging and talking about the future at the park near my high school. Holding hands with boys on the landing near the top of the slides.
My grandma's house--the basement full of boxes and National Geographic magazines and clothes for dress up. Learning how to flip an egg on grandma's old stove. Running to the nearby park with my cousins on Thanksgiving day to have some freedom from the adults.
Playing countless games of catch in the summer with my younger brother in the street outside of our house on 40th Avenue.
My high school where I fell in love with writing and American Literature. Where I grew comfortable in becoming an individual who marched to the beat of my own proverbial drum.
Watching Monty Python and listening to Simon and Garfunkel at a friend's house that ended with an awkward kiss on the back porch beneath the glow of a bare lightbulb while the guy's little sister looked on from the back door. Walking out to my car the next day after school to find a burned CD of Simon and Garfunkel's greatest hits and a note scribbled quickly on a scrap of paper that read, I thought you'd like this.
Getting my nose pierced at a place called Skin Tight, passing out during the piercing, and coming-to on the front steps with the guy who pierced me while my friends planned their next tattoos and piercings inside the shop.
The track at Pawnee Park where I spent many evenings and weekends practicing hurdles and dreaming of earning a scholarship.
The funerals for grandparents and cousins and great-aunts and great-uncles and turkey sandwiches and mini bags of potato chips in the parlor at McKown Funeral Home.
Downtown: Frankfort Square and it's tall trees where I'd steal away to read after school. The public library and the tiny 4x5 art gallery tucked away upstairs. Reading Kahlil Gibran poetry and drinking black coffee with a friend at a coffee shop.
And then not looking back as I left that town, an angsty 18 year old set out to learn the real ways of the world that my hometown surely could not teach me.
Now, 13 years later on a cold November day, I'm feeling a little sentimental for my hometown. I want to tell my 18 year old self that this place would soon mean something to her. I want to tell her to look around a little longer because there would come a day where she'd truly have no need to return except for sad occasions. I want to tell her that someday she'd be homesick to return to a familiar place. I want to tell my 18 year old self that someday she wouldn't know where to claim as home because of her gypsy soul. But I can't go back. Instead, I point my car towards my new home--my husband's hometown--and hang onto these memories wanting to bottle them up saving them for another day when I need a good dose of nostalgia.