As I’ve mentioned before, I used to live in Orleans. We moved there when I was in grade 5 and I left only after OAC (Grade 13 for non-Ontarians) on my way to university. It’s definitely the longest I have ever lived anywhere, and why it remains ‘home’ to me, no matter where I am.
But after having lived elsewhere for the past 13-14 years, I had completely forgotten what it was like to live there. Granted, so much has changed since I packed my bags and left, but some things remain – things that bring back hoards of memories – thankfully, mostly good.
For instance: There is a giant water tower that marks the landscape on Innes Road, which was once, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere. Though you could see it from a fairly busy road, you used to have to drive down a windy, dirt road to get there and were soon surrounded by woods on one side and a farmer’s field on the other. I know this because we once camped there. A group of us wanted a night under the stars, but were probably too cheap to drive out of town and pay for a campsite – so we got the hair-brained idea to go out to the woods and camp there – for free. Problem was, we, as a group, were not very organized. One person was in charge of the tent – he forgot the stakes so we had to park a car on either side and hold the sides of the tent up by rolling the windows up on the cords. Another guy was in charge of food. He brought a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter. No knife. It was ridiculous. But the ridiculous details of that night are still fresh in my mind. Even after 15 years.
Our new house is situated just down and across the road from that water tower, and I see it everyday, and every time I see it, I think fondly back on that night. But the tower is no longer ‘in the middle of nowhere’. It is flanked with an enormous Wal-Mart on one side and Innes Road has been widened so the long dirt road that we once took to get there is half the length. And there’s a fence up. Perhaps to keep the hooligans from camping there? Yup, things sure have changed.
The weirdest part about moving back to your home town after being gone for an extended time – well, for me, anyway – are the familiar faces. Everywhere. I don’t go into a store, restaurant, coffee shop that I don’t see someone I recognize. Most are strangers once again and conversation rarely happens -it’s been over a decade since we last laid eyes on each other, and catching up is almost out of the question. Too much has happened and time is short. I kind of liked my anonymity of living away. For a long time, no one has recognized me, or remembers when I wore tapered jeans or spiked my bangs or dated ‘what’s his face’. I was just another girl.
Unfortunately, after a few weeks, and though I’ve had a few lovely visits, I’ve found that I’ve barely seen the faces I’d hoped to see. Moving closer to friends and family gives you the hope that living closer will mean more time spent together. This is not always the case. People are busy. Schedules are full. Weekends are booked. What I have learned is that miles between you don’t mean a thing. If you allow distance to stand in the way of a friendship, it will. And, on the other hand, if you work at it, hundreds of miles can feel like just steps away.