This weekend I said two goodbyes. They weren’t to people, but to places.
Both played pivotal roles in shaping who I was and who I am, and I think I’m going to miss them a little more than I like to let on.
The first was Ballston (if you don’t live in the DC Metro area, Ballston is a section of Arlington, Virginia), when after a month of being reunited with that special place, I had to say goodbye again. The next was Olney (in the once-great State of Maryland), the town of my earliest memories. While I may have reason to visit one or both for some random reason again in the future, this weekend was the final, practical farewell for both.
Ballston and Olney are tied to some of my most significant moments in this life, and to say farewell is a little overwhelming.
I said farewell to Ballston some time ago. See, it was where Agent Bun lived when I met her, fell for her and promised to trust her enough to watch my cat Boo. She might insist Boo was “our” cat, but Boo was always my special little fuzzy princess. I still miss her. But the point is, I let Bun kidnap her and soon after I was to follow.
We had some good times there. We were young(er than we are now), we were learning each other and we had our future ahead of us. I remember those times as joyful for the most part, and they led to two adorable daughters, so something was irrevocably right about them.
I was still in my twenties then, though at the tail end of them, and just starting to define who I really am. When I went back for my new gig, and got hired, it felt like I’d come home after a very long trip. Like a time warp, I was able to walk streets that made me feel younger. That was pretty cool. Is the area different? Sure. But not enough to make it strange.
And now I say goodbye, just when I’d found its rhythm again. Kind of a bummer, like losing a connection to an old friend you’d just found once more (the former me).
Goodbye, old friend.
Then There’s Olney
Olney is my hometown. I may have been born in Silver Spring, but Olney is where I was from age 5 to 12. I lived there when it was a dusty nowhere, small town stores that closed on Sundays and playing in the park until you were forced to come back home.
Olney is where so many things happened, some of them happy and some of them sad, but all of them inextricably a part of me.
Olney is where we lived when my father’s parents died, when my father had his heart attack (and lived, thank God) and a lonely boy sat at home drawing home-made comics when Ronald Reagan came on the television and told me that we’d bombed the Hell out of Libya and France could go screw itself for not letting us use it as a stopping point.
Olney is where I had my first experience with the paranormal. It’s a long story that I don’t like to tell, so it’ll take some time before it ever makes it even to this blog, my great megaphone for my thoughts.
Olney is where Ron and I snuck out of his house to go to 7-11, dressed in black so his mom wouldn’t see us (we were kids, it made sense at the time) and getting chased down by a car that obviously thought we looked like vandals. We just wanted to buy squirt guns, man.
Olney Mill Park is where Rita, Rob and my brother tricked me to walk through a pitch black drainage tunnel by myself for…I don’t know. Fun? Traumatic experience, that.
Scott kissing Mia Beth, sledding down hills and nearly breaking my nose, my first flirtations with girls…that park held a lot of memories.
But now my brother’s family is leaving Olney, and so my last real attachment to it is leaving as well.
It’s all for the best, I suppose. The town is no longer what it once was. The old restaurants are gone and replaced with hipster organic markets and the ubiquitous Starbucks shops. The ICC has cut through a large swath of beauty that once was, and gypsy beggars line the intersections. The old movie theatre, Olney 9 Cinemas, where I saw Batman for the first time, is gone and replaced by a Harris Teeter. I saw Scrooged in that theatre, too, along with Die Hard 2 and Star Trek V. The only car accident my parents ever had, I was waiting in the parking lot of that theatre with my cousin Tim for them to pick us up.
The old Safeway is demolished and Blockbuster – the original one – is a liquor store. As the Counting Crows sang, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot. And I just threw up a little in my mouth for making that reference.
In the Name of Progress
So I guess it’s all progress. And I’m fine with that. It’s just that Olney wasn’t expanded. It was pillaged. It’s still being pillaged. And I am sad for what I know it will become within another ten years.
So I guess I’m a little envious of people that can show their hometown to their kids. Mine will only know random stories and the occasional snapshot that reveals a house detail or neighborhood that doesn’t exist anymore and never can again. I guess it makes me feel older than I should right now.
But like Captain Kirk said ever so eloquently:
Damn it, Bones, you’re a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away with a wave of a magic wand. They’re the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don’t want my pain taken away! I need my pain!
Cheap attempt to show Star Trek V some love aside, pain does help define us as people. It gives shape to our happiness and hopes, and reminds us at all times how fragile they are.
So goodbye Olney, for now and forever. You were a good place to live once, and I’ll always love what we were.