Thursday, July 24, 2014

Can't wait to smell the cow shit.

Last weekend at the Farmer’s Market, I saw a necklace on a pretty college girl working at a food stand.  It was a string of random numbers hammered into a metal plate.  It reminded me of a tattoo I saw once on the forearm of a waitress, displaying the same kind of array.  “The numbers are coordinates of my hometown,” the girl explained when I asked.  Her food stand was busy, so I didn’t inquire more, but I stood there wondering what was so special about this place she called home.  And that waitress – she had a permanent reminder of where she came from.  But, why?  I asked myself whether I would ever sport a tattoo or necklace displaying the coordinates of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a place I stopped referring to as “home” many years ago when the mountains embraced me like no place ever had before.  What would drive me to ever want this kind of reminder?  Would it be the fond memories of this place I grew up in?  Or would it be to honor the challenges of being me then, of being in a very different place – mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally – from where I am now?

When we think of our hometowns, we experience a wide spectrum of emotions, don’t we?  I am sure some people want nothing to do with the place they once called home.  And others of us feel something deep and unnamable when we conjure up images of our childhood place(s).  For me, Lancaster evokes a mixture of emotions.  I remember the landscape and being outside a lot.  The smells and the memories.  I see a lot of laughter with family and friends.  I see a place where people knew me then, and that brings a kind of comfort only poetry (if I could ever learn to write it) can describe.  I appreciate where I began and am grateful of the evolution of my self since my days of living there.  I often reflect on the experiences that began to shape me, change me, shift me.  These are all parts of what drives me to return. 

This weekend I am taking Calvin back to Lancaster during my favorite season to be there.  I have hopes for this time in my hometown.  I would like to find the ways in which my current home is inspired by my past one.  I would like to be able to show Calvin where I grew up and expose him to a little bit of the magic.  I fear, however, that maybe I’ve romanticized the details and it won’t appear for us.  Or perhaps the places will be so different that as I introduce Calvin to all of it, I will be introducing myself too.  I have these expectations of what landing at these coordinates will bring us, and I don’t want to be disappointed.  Obviously, at the surface of it all, I won’t be.  I will love to see my mom and Pop-pop and the friends we happen to run into.  I will love the time in a special place and to show Calvin the simplicities of growing up in farm country.  But, I wonder what will rise up for me while I am there.  I wonder whether anything will – of course it will – and when it does, what I will allow it to teach me.

Above all, I am excited to be there with Calvin in this season, for it is the time of humidity and a constant layer of sweat.  Of the bugs that are awake both in the thick mornings and sticky nights.  Of the sweet smells of cow manure and honeysuckle.  The season of rich green lawns and rolling fields of tall corn.  The time of creamy Pine View Dairy ice cream and calves trying to steal off the top scoop.  Of hazy sunsets and driving back roads with the windows down that is like being in a dream.  It is the time of my childhood, of bare feet and neighborhood hide-n-seek and catching lightening bugs until our mothers called us in for bath.  Of lifeguarding and swim meets that ended with the House of Pizza.  Of sitting on the deck, swatting flies, and drinking a cold Yuengling Lager.   It is the season of admiring the flowers and bitching about the neighbor spraying pesticides.  Of walks and hikes and trickling creeks under old railroad tracks and swimming in the pools of family friends who are like family themselves.  It is the time… Of my dad’s most vibrant life and most dreaded death.  Of being young again and telling old stories.  It is a magical season, a season that invites me to call 40.0397° N, 76.3044° W “home.”

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