I’m in San Francisco visiting my aged parents, but this time they are in relatively robust health, so instead of meeting with social workers and hanging out in hospital corridors, I’m mostly (cross my fingers, knock on wood) running a few errands and taking yoga classes and visiting with a few friends.
So yesterday my childhood friend R and I took a trip down Memory Lane. As we caught up and reminisced, she drove us down to our old hometown in what is now Silicon Valley. Once mostly blond hills freckled with scrubby oaks, it is now thick with McMansions. Main Street, once a drab, dry little street with secret pleasures (the bead store, the yardage shop), now smells lush with money but fails to feel alluring (“nice” clothes, tasteful restaurants).
Could I possibly have attended that high school and felt that turmoil behind those featureless walls? Behind that spread-eagled ... eagle? Could I possibly have lived in that upmarket house that breathes wealth? (I know for a fact that we never, not once, flew an American flag.)
I was hoping for an “Up” moment, in which a glimpse of my childhood would foretell my adulthood, or vise versa. But the big surprise was my failure to recognize the landscape—at all. It wasn't that it had changed. It was that it held not a smidgeon of familiarity.
And visiting that alien place has left me with a weird, empty feeling. If I didn’t live there, where is the place I lived? Or did I live at all?