Go to any reunion, or homecoming, or alumni weekend, and you’re bound to hear the following phrase, in some variant:
“This isn’t the place I remember!”
Well, of course it isn’t.
Time marches on.
Our experiences are formed not only by the place where we had our first kiss, or discovered that we weren’t the center of the universe, or found love, but also by the times we lived through, and the people we lived through them with.
Our experiences of place as an unchanging anchor in our lives is a trick of our minds; they are mere snapshots of our passage through time, not indelibly frozen for eternity.
A favorite song of mine, several decades old now, is the Rank Stranger, by the Stanley Brothers. It’s a song about homecoming: but bitterly finding home is no longer home, with family and friends having long moved on, while youth has given way to the cares and toils of life. It touches upon the truth of it – that place is only where your experiences happened; but dear friends, family, and loved ones make place truly what is longed for: home.
They knew not my name, and I knew not their faces. I found they were all rank strangers to me.
These are the thoughts I think of, when I pass through where I grew up. Connecting with old friends. Telling the old stories. Re-feeling the joys and the regrets.
It leaves me wanting. Not sad. Just recognizing – and acknowledging – that I am only passing through, while someone else’s experiences of home are being made afresh.
This knowledge, however, is not an onerous burden; it is a charge – a charge to be a good steward for the experiences created surrounding me.
To build a good home for my boys. To work on my marriage. To foster a great working environment for my employees and colleagues. To craft exceptional beauty and creativity in everything I do and say.
So that Everyone. Anyone. Someone. Will one day look back, and say, “this is the place that I remember.”
Where no one will be a rank stranger to me.