The town that doesn’t know my name


Me and my papa in front of the house I grew up in.

I’m in my hometown for the week, a small town in Indiana with one grocery store and a few stoplights, a town that I was born and raised in. Surrounded by the love of my grandparents, my Nina and Papa, their neighbors, Gail and Sammy and Zach and Paul, my mom, and my godmother, Molly, I grew up in this small town and the village that raised me watched it all happen. 

And it seems that every time I’m back in this town, the town that watched me grow up, I feel increasingly disconnected each time. I’m not the little girl who feeds the fish in the pond with worms anymore. I’m not the little girl who walks barefoot across the gravel alley to visit Gail and sit on her swing with her. I’m not the little girl who looks out the kitchen window to see if Zach is outside playing basketball anymore. 

Most of the fish in the pond are dead. Gail doesn’t even live in the house across the alley anymore, and the new owners got rid of the swing. Zach lives in California now, and the basketball hoop is broken anyway. 

I’m not so little anymore, and everything is different, and the town that raised me isn’t the same. 

I’m not the same. 

I’ve never experienced true heartbreak, but being in my hometown and feeling like a stranger is as close as I’ll get, I think. 

As I finished up the last of my college applications this week, with my parents on the phone and my grandparents right beside me, all I could think about was how much this town doesn’t know about me. 

I moved away when I was four, and although I come back here so often that it sometimes feels like I still live here, I’ve spent the majority of my youth not here. I’ve done a lot of growing—a lot of changing—since then; the village that shaped the first four years of my life hasn’t faded, but the town has. 

It doesn’t know about all the love and loss these past thirteen years, it doesn’t know about the opportunities that living in Michigan has provided, it doesn’t know about how desperately I want—need—to go to Syracuse University and how devastated I’ll be if I don’t get in. 

This town raised me, but now it’s like it doesn’t even remember my favorite color, or which shoulder my head rests on when we hug, or what song gets me out of bed in the morning. 

It’s a strange, strange feeling being back here—a stranger in this ghost town that I don’t even think remembers my name.