Sunday, April 02, 2006

Going Home... Sort Of

Shannon and I were out of town for a few days recently, visiting one of my two home towns. Most of my childhood was spent in LaGrange, but during the early formitive years my family lived outside Greenville, South Carolina in the town of Mauldin. It's been nearly 30 years since we moved, and while I've passed through several times, this was my first time going back and searching out all the things I had memories of. It was a fantastic trip, and my lovely wife made a wonderful sidekick.

But I learned something interesting on this trip, and I suppose it applies to all of us. Over the years following the move back to Georgia, my memories of South Carolina grew into something almost mythical. Everything seemed big and special, whether it was my childhood home or elementary school playground or just the road into town. I was amazed seeing all that had changed. Greenville is a beautiful, vibrant city, and the downtown area is bustling with people. It even seemed to make a very good impression on Shannon, who sees everything in comparison to the other love in her life - Atlanta.

But a lot of the places and things I remember were still around. Obviously they were older (we moved in 1978). The interesting thing to me, though, was how much smaller everything seemed. When we're children, everything seems larger. We are always looking up, at people or counters or doorknobs. I never understood, until this trip, that all my memories are from the perspective of a young child looking up at the world. All that I remember of Greenville and Mauldin, I remember from about three feet tall. I'd never thought about how that perspective affects our view on things.

Our old house looks great, but it's much smaller than I recalled. I always thought our street was longer, and I remembered living further from my school. So much that I remembered seemed larger in my mind than it did sitting before me.

I could have easily been disappointed that what we were seeing didn't match up to my recollections, but something very different happened. Instead of tarnishing my memories, it actually added another layer of reality to them. They were placed in a new, more accurate context. The pictures in my mind had been broad, sweeping, meaningful images. But they were black and white, soft. The trip back gave them color and contrast, sharpness, relevance. Now they have life.

If anything, my memories are now more meaningful.