Have you ever noticed how much things change, yet how much remains the same? Do you go back somewhere expecting everything to be exactly as you left, and at first glance it seems to be so, but under more consideration you see how it has developed just as you have in your absence?
Last week I had the privilege of returning home to my beautiful home state of Oregon. It had been over three years since the majesty of that landscape had graced my vision and the soles of my feet had trod upon its soil. Five years ago I said goodbye to the everyday routine of uniforms and backpack slinging along with my friends of many years and took a giant step out into the scariness of the real world. Really it wasn’t that frightening, but I no longer had my companions alongside me with whom to experience these new adventures. From that particular point of Newberg, OR my intimate class of 16 scattered across the country and even oceans. But last week some of us found ourselves reunited once again in picturesque wine country Oregon.
I stepped off the plane and took in the familiar sight of the rather ugly carpeting in the Portland airport. And as the large, rotating door ushered me out onto the curbside I was greeted by the smiling face of one of my closest friends. This is lovely, I thought, as I breathed in the non-humid air of the Willamette Valley. The following days were spent catching up with class mates who were still living in or had moved back to our precious starting point. But we were no longer starting.
We were the same people, shared the same experiences in high school, but those five years had brought about so many variances. During college and work experiences new friends had been had, new interests uncovered, a new level of maturity achieved, and the excitement of attaining higher degrees and starting new jobs was buzzing throughout the conversation. Our acting, choir-loving, ultimate frisbee playing class had blossomed into a group of teachers, mentors, and medical professionals. It was fascinating to hear about everyone’s jobs, both the good experiences and the bad, and everything that shaped these various decisions and where they wanted to go next. Having been so intimately aware of everything happening with my classmates while in high school, it was strange not to know what these past five years had been like for them. I can’t imagine I was expecting them to be the same. After all, I have matured and grown while they were away, certainly they did the same while I was not around. Life goes on.
My job is probably the most nontraditional among all the others, but I would argue it’s probably the most fun! I get to ride for a living! How neat is that! My work and education is combined into this wonderful package that throws in free housing and no student debt. Hands-on experience like good old fashioned apprenticeship is what I’m getting. I couldn’t ask for a better way to learn. It is kinda fun to call myself a glorified pooper-scooper though. But I sell myself short. Some people cannot understand why I do what I do, but those who do tell me how they would love to have had my job and so live vicariously through my pictures and stories. You know who you are! And I’m doing what I love and love what I’m doing. My interests never changed from grade school. I set my mind on this path, and here I am. But I have grown in many ways, we all have. We are the same, but different. A good different.
I borrowed a Jeep to drive down to Salem to see my sister, brother-in-law, and nieces and nephews whom I haven’t seen in years. I drove on the same country roads I drove for years to go to and from school even playing the same radio station I listened to while growing up. Everything was the same. The nurseries, orchards, large farm vehicles that needed passing, and twice the stench of the dairy cows reached my nose and I closed my eyes in reverie! Even that tree that was trimmed to avoid the power lines still looked like a rooster! I was almost overcome by the nostalgia. But there were some changes too. Some old, decrepit barns had been torn down and there was the addition of a few wineries along that route. In fact the whole area around Newberg had become a high-end destination for wine tasting, vineyards, and even a fancy resort! It was the same, but different. A good different.
It was so good to see my sister and her family. I was most shocked when I saw my nephew of almost 6 years, who of course did not remember who I was. He was older, and taller, and talking, and understanding, and obeying. Once he understood I was his Aunt Bethany, he took me by the hand and would lead me places, talking all the while. A few times he melted my heart when he said, “Aunt Bethany, I love you.” How precious. It was good to have sister talks with my sister again. We must try to see each other more often.
Back in Newberg I met up with a few of the staff members from school and one of the teachers. As he was leading me down the boardwalks and pathways I knew so well to reach the classrooms, something was very different. The bushes in the landscaping lining the walkways had grown up significantly! Having been absent the past few years it felt so strange. For him, of course, it was a gradual change and so he chuckled at the fact that it affected me so. Funny the things that one notices. I had a wonderful long talk with this teacher and am so glad I got to catch up with him. I wasn’t expecting to see him, but when I did I surprised him. “What are you doing here!?” he said with a gleaming smile. I couldn’t have asked for a better reception.
All in all I’m so grateful I got the chance to go back to Oregon. Catching up with these old friends was wonderful and the weather, though hot, was not humid or buggy. Ok, I can live with that! Except I’m not, because I don’t live there anymore. Oh yeah, there is no sales tax (there isn’t in NH either), but you also don’t pump your own gas in Oregon. I grew up with that, but it seems weird now. Wait, why aren’t you jumping out of the car and filling it?….oh yeah, that’s right. In a way I felt I was jumping into the past, except it wasn’t the same. Life goes on. My friends are still my friends, they are themselves but more so. Life goes on. I hopped on the airplane to head back to New England, glad to have been there, but ready to move forward again. Life goes on. Everything moves on. I’m glad that the timelines of the 8 of us intersected even if for but a moment, once again at our starting point….that precious starting point from which we continue to leap and grow. Hopefully someday again soon we can unite and share once again. But for now, it’s off to our various stepping stones all working toward our individual ends. Life goes on, and I wish you all the best.
In other news, the force field has taken the lives of two more moles. And the monster Kleenex has consumed many more unsuspecting spiders. The hot plate rallied and boiled water in about 10 minutes but failed to muster up the strength to properly saute vegetables alongside. And that mouse is still practicing his dance steps above my head. I hope he wins whatever competition for which he’s training. He deserves it. Who knew life in a basement could be so entertaining?
Stay tuned for more adventures in the life of an enthusiastic, glorified pooper-scooper!