Tonight I went to the last event I will ever attend (at least within the scope of imagination) that will end in the Bulldog fight song. I stood in the oppressive heat of a high school auditorium whose air conditioner has never been adequate and invited a headache by fighting tears. I don’t know why I fought them. Before I started, I knew they would win.
It was not my alma mater or my song. I did not even have a blood-related child on the stage, but it is my youngest son’s senior year. I have watched him and his two older brothers progress from kindergarten through their senior years in this school district, and, well, if anything destroys my composure, it is always music.In just two weeks, I’ll be leaving this town after a number of years that I choose not to disclose on the basis that the number would place my age between barely acceptable and I don’t want go there. By leaving, I begin my fourth life. I have spent a longer stint here than any other, although I neither chose this place nor wanted to come.
I do chose to leave it now, but there are doubts that hover and settle in that area of the brain that harbors sentiment, resistance to change, and pessimism. Where in the city will I ever be able to sail into a store, grab something from a shelf, call to the cashier (whoever it might be for the day) to put it on my tab, and dash home again–all in a ten minute span? In what part of the city will I browse where I meet no less than seven people who stop me for a conversation?
Of course, that can be annoying, too; however, there is comfort in being known even when what is known is not entirely true. There is security in rubbing familiar shoulders although the practices committed by some of those shoulders you know to be vile. Admittedly, some are noble, unforgettable and responsible for changing your life or the life of your child. Or perhaps they’re indelibly grateful to you for changing theirs. Most are not any of these things. Most are ordinary, average, rather boring people. And most of them probably think the same of you.
I don’t know if people in the city think this way. I don’t know if they care or even stop to consider what those around them are actually like beyond moving out of their way with some measure of courtesy.
Joyce Dennys wrote that living in a small town was like living in a large family of uncongenial relations. She compared living in a large town to being an only child. I was born an only child. My husband accused me of rebelling against that only-childom by harboring a latent need to people the world. He said this the day I gleefully told him that I was pregnant with our youngest. I don’t deny it. While I’ve never feared being lonely, I love the surround sound of human beings, the noise of their regret, the tangible vibration of their expectancy.
I will lay the fight song to rest and relinquish the privilege of ten minute shopping runs ending in unsigned tabs, but I do hope that masses of people in one place don’t put to death camaraderie and comfortable trust. I hope that, at the end of this fourth life, the definition of home is not so changed that I can’t hold it with sentimental regard.