In a way, my life ended the day I left Our Town. At least my childhood did. On that day, I stopped thinking ofmy-self as a boy and set out on a path I could never reverse. I had left Our Town before, but only for short periods of time on trips that made me appreciate it even more.
The life of Our Town as I knew it also ended the day I left. The town continued to exist within and without me, but it wasn't the same. Not that I agree with the solipsistic notion that places and things have no independent existence outside one'sown mind. I believe there is a real world outside myself that obeys its own laws and holds all ofus in its grasp. No, I refer to the phenomenological notion that every person's perception of the world is unique and private. Other people may perceive a similar world, but it is not exactly the same.
When I say that Our Town died the day I left, I mean that the town that I had known ceased to exist. Actually, it wouldn't have mattered if it had remained physically the same,which, of course, it didn't. No, it changed in large measure because my conception of it changed and continues to change as I acquire new experiences and become mentally disabled with age. As I am altered, so that which I attempt to reconstruct in memory is altered, and the picture that I remember is different every time.
So now I know that I can't go home again, at least not to my childhood home. This simple fact has both advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that it would be difficult if not impossible for anyone to prove that things were not or did not happen the way that I say. A possible disadvantage is that I can never truly relive the events of my childhood that were most enjoyable and meaningful to me. Considering my tendency to see the past through rose-colored glasses, perhaps it's just as well. Leveling of some experiences, sharpening of others, and assimilation of still others into a generalized background of my present attitudes and beliefs are just some of the processes that occur when I try to reconstruct the past. My successes loom ever larger in retrospect, and my failures are not as devastating. I am loved more and hated less, and I return the favor in kind. The friends that I had were the very best of friends, with whom I spent many pleasurable hours.
The past is always with me, and usually more inviting and interesting than the present. Down the long stretch of days and years, I can still feel my boyhood presence moving in and out of places, interacting with other people, doing many things for the first and the last time. Now, in the evening of my life, I call upon my past frequently. It never fails to respond, providing me with the reason and the will to continue the game until past, present, and future finally merge into one.
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