Friday, July 24, 2009

Ghost Town

It’s been eleven years. More than a decade ago, I found myself standing in front of two glass doors, the threshold that would lead me into this crazy world. And now I am back, a brief interlude into a world that I left several years ago.

Returning to my Alma Mater has been a walk amongst ghosts. So much still remains as it was when I was a student, running around with the unstoppable energy that only stress can power. Many of the buildings are the same, as are the stores, streets, sidewalks I frequented with clockwork regularity - unchanged it seems, in the years that have passed. People, even, who I once saw daily, still at their posts, though my time interacting with them stopped long ago. A former life, still in motion, just without me in it.

What is perhaps most odd to me about this almost-homecoming is that it doesn’t feel like a homecoming at all. Not in the warm, comforting way of going home on winter break, or during a summer respite from school. Rather, this homecoming seems odd, a displaced vision of a life that I might have lived, had different choices been made. It is a parallel universe, that I get to somehow observe, watched like a movie on some three dimensional screen.

Maybe this melancholy nostalgia is due to the fact that the ‘Burgh was once home to me. I had a place here, once, where I returned to, where I lived. I had a mailing address here, where bills were sent, packages received, which told people that this was where I had laid roots. I drove by that house my first day in the city, and out of habit, found myself reaching for a garage door opener that I had long since handed over to new owners.

Maybe this only happens to me. But I have found that, if I have once lived in a place, returning fills me with a combination of excitement, yearning, and remorse. The memories of that place, and my life there, so little thought of when away, haunt me with vivid clarity. Insignificant moments are relived. Cravings return. A desire to re-inhabit that life with I left can become almost overwhelming. I never quite feel comfortable. I long to go back to the place I once called home, inhabit the rooms I once occupied, sleep in the space I once felt mine.

I am not one for sentimental collections. I don’t buy knick-knacks on vacation as “reminders” of where I’ve been. I rarely take photos. Instead, the places I have been house the events of my past. Overlaid upon the bricks and concrete, frozen within the walls and windows, are my memories, to be revived when revisited, remembered when touched. The physical wrapped in the ephemeral, myself the decoder to an invisible world.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Two steps forward...

And one step back. That's the old adage, no? Well, it seems to be the absolute truth regarding my life at this moment.

A major milestone. We moved my parents back into their home about a week ago. The run up to the big day was, as always, a mad dash. Odds and ends to be finished, lots of details still hanging out. But finished enough for them to get back in, which like kids anticipating Christmas morning, could not come any more quickly.

Top it all off, I foolishly scheduled the LEED exam for the following day. Let me tell you that, had I foreseen the timing of everything, that would have been the last thing I would have done. But, without any more time, I found myself working all day, studying most evenings. Repeating enough to revert to my old school schedule of little sleep and a lot of sugar. A couple of weeks was pretty much my limit.

The move went as smoothly as one could hope, I guess. Furniture got tentatively placed, beds unpacked, window coverings hung to prevent any accidental exposure. Within a day, my parents were sleeping in the place they had been for 25 years before...well, except for our little 6 month hiatus. It was a relief.

The LEED exam also went as well as one could hope, I guess. Passing was the goal, which it pains me to say, since I used to hold myself to high academic aspirations. But things give when time isn't on your side. And neither is the ability to concentrate as you once had. Rusty study skills, distractions left and right, the minor project of our move. Let's just say that, the day before, my confidence was lacking.

A hour and a half of sitting in a silent room was enough for me. I actually closed my eyes when I clicked to end my testing session, as though somehow the potential blow of failure might hurt less if I didn't see it hit me immediately. Lucky enough for me, I can now consider myself an Accredited Professional of the LEED system. And thank god for that.

But highs must be tempered. Late that evening, just a day after my parents had moved, and just 12 hours after the elation of not making an idiot of myself, I sat on the phone, listening to my mom rapturously describe her new jetted tub. Minutes into the converstation I heard my dad yell from behind her "Honey, get buckets. It's raining down here." Let's just say, If I EVER specify jetted tub again, it will be free-standing, with room to access it from any side.

So now, as we wait for parts and a certified repairman, I stare at the holes in the ceiling of the room below my parent's bathroom and think, we'll get there. Only now, it's just a bit later than we thought. So close.