Wednesday, May 26, 2010
THE STREET LIGHTS OF HOME
Night Lights, Chapel Hill, NC
I recently traveled back to my birth place in central Kansas for a graduation celebration which was a wonderful family time. Since it was also the weekend prior to Memorial Day, we had the opportunity to place flowers on the final resting places of parents, grandparents, an uncle lost in WWII and a great grandmother who lived to be 91 and whose grave site is becoming lost in time. Even the powerful Pharaohs of ancient Egypt couldn't keep their burial places and memories intact forever. We cruised main street one more time and drove through the old neighborhood where we bicycled and played cork ball in the street on many long summer days and into the warm evenings under the shining street lights. Our childhood home has since burned down and the neighborhood has not weathered well over the years. Main street has been supplanted by the ubiquitous Wal*Mart on the edge of town. Gone are the idyllic days of parking on the street and conversing with everyone during the holidays. Now we just park in a huge lot and stare at the empty vehicle parked on the other side.
Flying back through Washington DC and then on to the Carolina’s, the plane was on approach in both cities as hundreds of thousands of street lights dotted the landscape below. That’s always a reflective sight from high above the earth’s surface which puts our small lives in perspective. It's a sobering graphic of the insignificance of a self centered life moving among millions of others. I wondered if there were children playing cork ball under any of the lights. I can’t return to my childhood home any more. So I was flying back to where I currently keep all my stuff. That’s when it occurred to me that “past memories are generally preferable to present realities”, especially when it relates to our childhood home. People and places live on in our memories, until there is no longer any consciousness that cares to contain them. Of course, we keep the positive memories on a shorter leash and suppress the negative ones to cope with life. Human nostalgia characterizes past events as being more pleasant than they actually were. If you were one of the lucky ones to have a loving childhood home, that’s as good as it gets. And we can still return to the street lights of home in our minds, no matter where life takes us.