Traffic forced me to take the long way home tonight. It’s not often I take that route, and it’s not often that I drive in silence, but I needed to think, so no music, no podcasts. Just me and my car.
I drove on a road that, when I first moved here in 1981, was bustling. It’s a ghost town now. But the ghosts are friendly.
I drove past the building–now an insurance office–that once housed a restaurant. On lucky days, my dad would take me and my sisters to this restaurant for breakfast, and he’d let us order hot chocolate with whipped cream before taking us to school.
I drove past the building–now generic office space–that once was a movie theatre. The movie theatre where my friends and I tried to sneak in to see “Good Morning, Vietnam” (I was in junior high) but we were caught by the manager and forced to see “Overboard” instead. The movie theatre where I saw Toy Story 2 with a boy who held my hand through the whole movie and kissed me on the way to his car.
I drove past the Air Force Base where I spent time in the Library, the BX, the Commissary. As I drove past the base, I could see the building where I took my first college class after leaving BYU–the first step to putting my life back together after some pretty rotten choices. And then I drove under the road that my mom would use as she carted us to and from the Officer’s Club Pool almost every day during the summer.
I ended up not thinking about whatever was bothering me at 6 PM; instead I thought about this town that’s been home to a rather transient person. And even though so much about this town has changed in the past 31 years, these random landmarks remain. Repurposed at times, sure, but they’re still there.
Sometimes, friends ask me why I live in Nebraska, when I could teach anywhere: Chicago, DC, overseas. And sometimes, I get a little wanderlust and entertain the idea of moving. And then I remember how, when I was growing up and my dad was moving us all over hither and yon, how much I craved to live in a place I knew. I remember that, and I look out my window and think, It’s not such a bad place to be.