It's amazing to see the differences between my actual hometown and my adopted hometown.
When I left my real hometown here in Pennsylvania five and a half years ago, the local shopping outlet had just welcomed a combo Arby's/T.J. Cinnamons. Anytime any sort of national retailer comes to this town of 5,000, it's a big deal, whether it's Arby's or something else. I didn't get a chance to drive around town during this Easter weekend trip; then again, I don't need to. The post office, coffee shop, convienence stores, banks and schools are all in the same place.
Meanwhile, Northern Virginia is in constant flux. Areas are always being built and re-built as massive constuction cranes create their own unique silhouette along the skyline. There are stores there that wouldn't dream of settling anywhere near my hometown.
There's something to be said for sameness. I can drive through any part of Lehighton (my hometown) and tell my wife a story for every block we pass. It's like Bruce Springsteen in "My Hometown," a song that always saddens me for leaving my roots and family in the rearview mirror. "Take a good look around," The Boss tells his son in the song, "this is your hometown."
I drive past friends' homes or businesses and wonder how they're doing. Whenever I come in town from the west, I drive past a chiropractic clinic run by an old football teammate and classmate. I can drive through town and remember where all of my friends lived.
Those houses are all still there, of course.
My high school class scattered around eastern Pennsylvania, mostly, but a few of us made it as far south as Virginia and North Carolina. One girl, who I was pretty good friends with, went off to college at UCLA (I think; maybe it was USC) and I never heard from her again. Wherever she is, I hope she is well.
Coming back here always makes me think all of those people I've lost touch with - and all of those people I should do a better job of staying in touch with. At the same time, I'm always worried it will be perceived as me wanting to draw attention to myself - like I'd tell people about some of the things I've been fortunate enough to do and some of the people I've been fortunate enough to meet, and for whatever reason, they might be put off by it.
I hope that wouldn't be the case, but I could understand it.
For whatever reason, leaving is always difficult. I'm always down whenever I visit and then leave, because I always feel like I'm leaving something behind. In a sense, I'm leaving behind my childhood and early adult life; but that shouldn't be a big deal, right?
One would think so. I know that to the town generally, I'm one of the many of the younger generation that moved elsewhere because the town and surrounding area simply doesn't support a lot of white-collar jobs. My parents understood that, and gave me their blessing.
So I'm about eight hours from leaving. It's not an easy deal, leaving 85 percent of my family behind. But there is an apartment, lots of friends and a job to tend to four hours south of here. It will be a while before I see Lehighton again.
And when I do, most everything will be in the exact same spot as I remember it.