For various reasons I’ve been visiting Maryland a fair amount over the last few months, and this summer I plan on spending a lot more time there, too – starting with another trip in just two weeks. Especially lately, the more I’m there, the more content I feel.
I lived in Ellicott City from the age of 9 to 18 (1987-96), so even though I was born and spent my early childhood in State College, I also consider Maryland “home” in many ways. Those years there are when I really grew up, and many of the formative events and relationships that shaped who I am, took place during that time and in that place. So even though my parents haven’t lived there since ’96 either, I still feel a deep-rooted connection to my home town.
Many aspects of the 250 mile drive down from Pittsburgh bring a lot of happiness – hitting the Maryland border after passing through Breezewood, feeling the slight increase in heat and humidity, seeing the hills give way to flatter land, and coming in range of my favorite old radio station, 98 Rock, which, because it’s become more of a retro station, STILL plays all the songs I loved in high school when they were new (there’s nothing quite like coming back to the place where you were a teen in the ‘90s and hearing “Plush” kick in as you’re driving down the old familiar highways).
And then I arrive, ready to spend time with old, dear friends who shared those days with me and somehow remained in touch…or, in one amazing case, with an old, dear friend who recently came back into my life after over two decades as if it was the most natural thing in the world – which, in fact, it was. Those relationships are what make these visits really work, because going “home” isn’t possible unless you can still share it with people who were there with you – people who can remind you of things you did together that you’d forgotten, or can finish the endings of your stories for you because they lived through them too.
So a return, as long as the experience is shared, can be a very special thing – a blending of the past and the present, a mix of old memories freshened and new memories waiting to be made. Home isn’t just a place, and isn’t just a time. It’s also circumstance. And when circumstances are right, despite what Thomas Wolfe said, you can go home again. Sometimes it’s still there after all, just waiting for you to come back.