I've been spending unexpected moments longing for odd things lately--especially this weekend. I was in St. Augustine, walking the streets ... George Street, residential streets, and I longed to live there and I couldn't figure out why.
Was it the atmosphere? The history? The fact that the houses were all different like I was used to back in my neighborhoods up north? Was it the cute little shops--all different with fewer chain shops and restaurants? That had to be it--uniqueness. Was that the theme? Different homes? The uneven sidewalks that had seen countless generations walk to school as they fought against old tree roots? Different shops? Different coffee origins? I do gravitate toward unique things and people.
But at one point I walked past a corner house that wasn't particularly spectacular on the outside--many St. Augustine homes are not: they are often old and beaten up from flooding--and I suddenly wanted to go inside. I stopped walking a moment and wondered what was wrong with me. I mean why? I didn't know the people. I thought, thought, and ... then I had it.
Roots. The home looked like the people living there had roots they put down over the years. The flower pots looked like they had been there a long time. I could see some stuffed shelf units through a window. There were rocking chairs on the beat up porch and an older shed in the backyard that I imagined held a mower and a family history worth of junk.
I grew up in the two-family house my father grew up in. I found my grandparents' old Christmas ornaments in the attic. Our home was ... ours ... our history. I had found marbles my father and uncle used to play with while digging in the backyard. My mother always spoke of the past as if clinging to it even though she had left England in her early 20s. Both my parents were very regimented in the way they did things. I grew up very adverse to change, always seeing the sentimental in everything. Always trying to hold onto the past.
It was exhausting.
Eventually, that way of thinking made me feel stuck and I grew a fear of the past repeating itself ... seeing school pictures of your father on his first days of school standing exactly where you did in yours will do that. By 17 I was craving change--but I went to a close college where I didn't need to stay in dorms. Going further was discouraged. But that's another story.
When I got married and moved out, then later moved a little further into NJ, it was to a town where we used to visit family friends. I had dreamed of moving to that beautiful suburb my whole life. It was like a dream come true. After a while, I did find its drawbacks--I suppose every town has them. Still, I wasn't prepared to move from my comfort zone and all the way down South three years ago.
Now I'm in a brand new development where the houses, despite variances in style, all look the same to me. There are rules about what can be displayed, etc., and I feel like I've lost my roots and that much of this new area has been wiped clean of its past. But change happens. I know this: You can't step into the same river twice.
After renting it out for years, my parents sold my childhood home shortly before I moved out of NJ--with many of the things they had deemed so worthy of hanging onto still in it. And when I moved fom my home, so many things had to be given away or sold first. And I hate the sadness of so much being gone, but it was just stuff--not important. Yet, sometimes I need to remind myself of that. So, now I'm surrounded by chain everything, and the only sense I can find of history and roots is in antique shops--which I can't stand. But that, too, is another story.
So, I'm caught between running from the past and wanting to feel roots. Looking to the future and missing the past. And this, too, is exhausting. So, looking at that house on a little street in St. Augustine, wanting in, perhaps was my heart's way of wishing to experience roots even if they were someone else's. And that ... I think ... is just plain weird.
I guess what it means is that I'm still in transition down here...even as more changes are heading my way with kids going off to college. It really is time to look toward the surprises of new horizons and while I do enjoy the idea of that, part of me is stubborn, still trying to grab the past and hold it close, and asking myself, "For what?"
Before leaving St. Augustine, I walked on the beach, played with the shell-strewn sand. Finally, I relaxed. Fiddling with small handfuls of shells out of gajillions, watching huge amounts of water tumble, roll, and seep up onto the shore ... it became a momentary peace. I was small in comparison, yet I had my place in it all. The shoreline balanced my love and hate of nostaglia, my craving for the past and my yearning for something new and fantastic in the future. I wish I could bottle that feeling.
Anyway, like I said, it's complicated.