The last time I was there, it didn’t look like home.
They tell me it still doesn’t look like home, even now. And it never will.
The neighborhoods have been replaced with construction sites and the homes with upgraded, more modern houses. The highschool that I attended no longer exists, and the sign in front of the old parking lot shows a picture of a building I will never recognize. Gone is the low, sprawling building that held so many of my cornerstone memories. In its place will be a three story tower with a basement where people can take shelter.
Just in case.
There is no grocery store. No restaurant. No bar and grill where we can gather with our friends for a night while everyone is back in town for the holidays.
Physically, visually, my hometown was wiped from the face of the Earth last spring.
And yet, today, we get on a plane to go home.
We’ll sit with my mother and my brothers and their new families, in a house that has no place in my childhood. And we’ll laugh and tell stories and eat over sized black olives drowned in french onion dip in the exact same way that we have since the three of us were babies.
We’ll gather with his parents and his siblings, our niece and our nephew, in his brother’s home instead of his parents – who are still homeless. We won’t give his dad tools or his mom paintings to hang on a wall, but we’ll share pictures and videos of their grandchildren with them. Out kids will play with their cousins and save up new memories to carry them into the next year.
And still, without a local bar and grill, we’ll be with our friends. We’ll sleep in their guest beds and drink beer in their garages. We’ll pile their children with our children into playrooms and bunk beds and swap war stories about parenting and marriage who used to be the bigger whore back in the day.
And there is where we’ll find home.
Not in the buildings that were wiped away, or even in the homes that are deeply missed and mourned for. But in the people. In the memories and the relationships. In the circles where you can breathe more easily than you have in months because there, here, is where you are known.