It's a weird thing when the places of your past take on mythic qualities and seem to have meaning beyond expression. In taking Heather to BYU-Idaho, I stayed in Aberdeen, my little home town, for a few days. I grew up a couple of miles outside of town--many long years ago. My dad lives in town with my step-mom now.
It's odd to walk around and see no one I knew or who knew me. It's equally odd to go to church and see old faces grown older, grown up children with children of their own, brand new faces.
I still have dreams about the road that led out from town to our farm. Sometimes I'm walking to the farm from town or vice versa, either in a snow storm or along a weird, tree-lined road. Sometimes I'm driving, but can't see where I'm going. They paved that road recently. In all my years growing up, I prayed every summer that they would pave the bumpy gravel road so I could ride my bicycle into town or to my best friend's house without being rattled to death . They never did--except now they did.
The people who bought my dad's house on the farm have taken out the garden spot and several of the trees. They've put up a new chain-link fence across the front. The barn is gone. The corrals are gone.
Aberdeen is a tiny oasis of trees and streets and houses amidst rich farmland. Potatoes, of course, and sugar beets, and wheat. Giant sprinkler systems irrigate this arid volcanic plain. Beyond the fields stretch miles of sagebrush and lava rocks.
In town, the elementary school and middle school are both new. The high school has been remodeled past recognition. There is now a one-way street past the schools, which seems ridiculous. Many of the buildings on Main Street are empty. The Villager no longer sells clothes. The Western Auto went out of business years ago. The one-time bank is a neat little senior center. The "frosty stand" is empty and black. There are businesses there--farm implements, computer services, groceries, a store, a post office. Vicentes' old bar is still there.
This little town has a five-lane highway down Main Street and a speed limit of 25 mph. No stop-light. No traffic. It's not really on the way anywhere. If you go to Aberdeen, it's because you're going there.
When I go back to Aberdeen, I feel like a girl again--I guess I feel like I did when I left there: an insecure teenager launching out into the world. I've forgotten many of the people I once knew. I'm sure many have forgotten me.
In my mind, I can revisit so many inconsequential places there. Somehow the dirt, the sagebrush, the rocks, the fields, the roads, the buildings all mean something. I wish I knew what.