So, this past weekend, I had the good fortune to go back to my home town and see my family. It's always a wild experience going back to my old stomping grounds, and every time I do it I get a little something new. Perhaps something I'd misplaced, perhaps something I didn't even realize I was missing, but each visit is invariably a life experience. This visit, I gained a history. I regained a connection I'd pretty much given up as lost, and I had the pleasure of refreshing all the other relationships I tend to forget.
Now, a family history is a strange thing. By the time you have a family history, the history has lost much of its urgency. The people are generally long since dead, the relationships in question have lost much meaning, and all that's left is an assortment of black and white photos fading into yellow of people that look just a little bit more familiar that the sort of people in those pictures generally look. With my mother's side of the family, it was always taken for granted that they'd been around since the dawn of time. Or possibly since the days of French fur traders, whichever came first. But my father's family has always been a bit of a mystery. I know that we all come with large ears, hot tempers, and varying degrees of blue around the collar. There were sketchy references to this ancestor from Mexico, or that relative who was Cherokee, but by and large it was something that simply didn't come up in conversation. This weekend, though, my older sister showed me that maybe things weren't so simple after all. Turns out the big ears come from both sides of my Dad's family. As well as the penchant for facial hair and the expandable forehead. A whole new universe full of stories and facts I'd never known I was connected to, laid out in all its sepia glory.
Growing up, I never really questioned my family. My sisters, my parents, everyone just kinda was. They weren't so much people as they were geographical features. One is never surprised when they leave the house in the morning, and discover the hill across the street is still there. So it was with my family. But then, one day some time in high school, the hill across the street wasn't as big as it had been the day before. That ancient oak that stood sentinel on the corner was suddenly replaced by a shrub, a little bush daring you to ask what happened. One bit at a time, it all slipped away. By the time I knew what was happening, though, I was the rat deserting the sinking ship. It's been a long time, though. I no longer have anything to run from in that town, and I finally have the chance to restore some connections. A series of happy accidents connected me with old friends and family I had given up as lost, and I discovered the world keeps turning under all of us. And with these friends, this family, it all spun in just the right way.
I must have left that town a hundred times since I first came north eight years ago. This was the first time I truly grasped what all I was leaving behind. The world is a fluid place, and there are things in life too important to be taken for granted.