Today I drove through my hometown–the place where I lived from the time I was 2 until I moved away for college at the age of 18. I hadn’t been back there since Mom’s memorial service last summer, and the time before that was way back in 2008 when I sold the house where I grew up.
Other than some major road construction (which has been the source of much annoyance according to friends who still live there), Brenham hasn’t changed much in the past year. There has definitely been growth and development since I stopped visiting regularly (when Mom moved to live with me in 2007), but most of the town remains the same. The Blue Bell factory is still standing, which is probably the biggest concern for ice cream fans.
As I was on my way out of town, I realized that most of the memories that flooded into my mind today were from high school and college. I actually felt a bit overwhelmed by the volume and quickness of memories and almost couldn’t process it all.
But my mind still focused on a specific time period, with few recollections of childhood. It’s not that I never think of childhood–those who know me well would tell you that my memory is frighteningly deep and detailed–at times, far more than I would prefer. Those younger experiences just didn’t seem to be in the forefront of my mind today.
It occurred to me that the reason I seemed to conjure up memories of high school and college is because of the way I drove into town. I had spent the past two days in Houston and had made a point of driving by my grandmother’s old house on my way to Brenham. I think that’s where it all started. The sight of my grandmother’s house triggered memories of the last few times I visited her and the night that she passed away. So perhaps I was already in “adult mode” when it came to what I was thinking about.
Then in Brenham, I drove past my childhood home, and I thought of all the times I had pulled up in the driveway. I was in a new car–the first time I’d driven it there–and considering that this is only the third vehicle that I’ve owned, maybe the car affected how I perceived and related to the house. It’s undergone such a transformation since I sold it to the man who lived next door (an old classmate), and I was able to visit with him for a few minutes today. I also checked in on some other old familiar haunts, again recalling experiences mainly from high school and later.
In addition to the possibility that my car impacted how I related to my hometown environment, I think that something else shaped my perspective. Brenham no longer feels like “home” to me. Even a decade ago, I would have said that Brenham was my home. Sure, I moved away in 1993, but I still visited several times a year, usually staying in the house where I grew up. That house was my reference point, and the town extended out from that familiar hub.
So, why memories from my teenage years and early adulthood? Those were years when I was gradually detaching from my childhood and the comfort of home as I individuated and increasingly became my own person. I’m in another phase where I’m “finding myself,” so to speak. My identity is no longer wrapped up in my role as caregiver, which is both liberating and daunting. This is another time of transition in my life.
Brenham will always have a special place in my heart. The town has its flaws, as all places do, but it’s also full of wonderful memories of friends, family, and experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’m glad that I don’t live there anymore. I’m excited about continuing on my path, wherever it might lead. And I know that my relationship with my childhood home will continue to evolve as I step out more into the world, with fewer and fewer returns to the stability of that familiar past.