Moving back to your hometown as a married woman with children is a very odd thing. At least, for me it is. I have held this little town in such esteem for so many years, crediting it with both my strong roots and my wanderlust. It was here that I made my very best friends, learned to dance, performed on a stage for the first time, discovered my love of the Spanish language and writing and had my first kiss. It was here that I created memory boxes full of non-edited/non-selfied photos flecked with bad haircuts, a smaller waistline, and a beaming smile full of lip bumpers and braces. It was here that I worked my first summer job, got my license, went to prom, suffered my first losses. It was here that I graduated on my 18th birthday and set out for the adventure of a lifetime.
Now sixteen years later, having lived in four different dorm rooms, four different states, and seven different apartments/houses, I am back home, but this time in a much different capacity. I am the wife of a midwestern boy. A mom of a toddler and a newborn. A homeowner. And the childhood magic maker for a new generation. My waistline has changed, my hair has seen its first few grays, I am in desperate need of glasses for distance, and the laugh lines are much more pronounced. I am happy and I am nostalgic all at once.
The other day I was sitting on the basement floor, listening to Strawberry Wine by Deana Carter, remembering the time one of my best friends and I plotted out the cross country road trip we would take when we were 18 – you know, before we went to college and eventually landed jobs on Broadway. We never took the trip or ended up on Broadway. Our dreams changed, our lives turned… and though I love and am grateful for the life I have, there are always moments when I think back with a smile about the big dreams I once had.
Right now as I write this, I am sitting in my living room drinking a cup of coffee, staring at my baby who is sleeping on a little blanket next to me. I sometimes wonder if I am doing all that I could be doing in this world or if I’m living up to the expectations of the friends, family and teachers that raised me…. or if I’m even living up to my own. But dreams change and for right now, I’m staring at mine as her chest rises and falls. I’m piecing together part time jobs and in dire need of a haircut, yet I wouldn’t trade this life for anything.
I will always feel a bittersweet little pang of love and gratitude when I see the school bus pull down the street, or hear that a little girl is on the same dance team as the one I grew up on. I’ll smile when I drive down into Prouts Neck to look at the boats and remember skating on Massacre Pond in the winter and eating grilled cheese and tomato soup. I’ll laugh thinking of the dance parties I had in basements, the games of truth or dare, the nighttime beach walks, old movies, cast parties, long days at the Clambake, and first dates. I’ll hear NSYNC and immediately sing along. I’ll step into my parents’ house and instantly feel safe and loved. I will sift through old memory boxes and pray that one day, both my children love this place like I do and fill their own shoeboxes and hearts with memories of childhood magic – one where they develop the confidence to see the world and try new things and one where they always love coming home.