21 May, 2010

You can't go home again

My wife and/or I noticed a few things on our drive from Mississippi to Virginia. In no particular order:

  • The large trees that line the interstates and main highways changed en route. In the Hattiesburg area they were almost all pine; in North Carolina we noticed a lot of deciduous trees mixed with the pine.
  • I noticed today that the birds sound different at my parents' house than at my own. The ones here sound more exotic and marshy (if that makes sense). Newport News is right on the water (the James River, York River, Chesapeake Bay, and Atlantic Ocean are all within a bird's flight) and my parents' neighborhood has many, varied, larger trees. My neighborhood is not one of those treeless landscapes one gets in new neighborhoods (much of my house gets shade during the summer months), but the trees there are puny by comparison.
  • Everywhere I go, there is no one I know. I was in a library today, then in the mall closest to my house, and I saw no one I recognized. I wasn't exactly scouting for old pals, but I do find it remarkable that I can return to my hometown, pass through very public areas, and recognize no one. How very different from the world I meet in so many books—from the world that my wife's family knows, or that I know from Italy.

    I did strike up conversations with two people in the Mall. I was at a jewelry store and the attendant turned out to be a Tatar from Uzbekistan. When she learned that I was married to a Russian, she said that I looked like someone who knew Russian. (Why? I wonder if that's just a polite form of small talk.) We had a neat conversation.

    A few minutes later, my eye happened on a painting in an art store, and while looking around I spoke with the cashier. She is originally from the Azores, part of Portugal. I embarrassed myself by saying they were part of Spain, and she scolded me. She's married to a former Navy man, and it turns out we've seen many of the same places: parts of Rhode Island, for example, and her husband's ship was also stationed a while in my mother's hometown of Gaeta.

    Figures that I would travel home, see no one that I knew in the eighteen years that I grew up there, and find pleasant conversation and shared experiences with immigrants. Welcome to America.
  • Speaking of the public library, I used to walk there all the time as a child. It was a small, flat building, unremarkable aesthetically. They remodeled it after I left for college, and boy has it changed: it looks more like a church than a library. Here's a photo (?) I stole downloaded from the website librarything.com:Keep in mind that this building lies near two other churches, one of which plays bells every quarter hour, and hymns every hour. I half-wonder if they deliberately designed it to resemble a church.

    Whatever the case, it was a great place to spend a few hours immersed in study.


Clemens said...

1. Birds of the same species have dialects, I believe.
2. Trying to make all the sounds of Russian warps the muscles of your face.
3. Spain!? You're lucky she didn't hit you.

Clemens, after his long hiatus

Anonymous said...

1. Ever been to Virginia Highlands in Atlanta? It is a neighborhood of Atlanta--like Buckhead but cooler. It has deciduous trees, not pines, and that is the reason for the name. A lot like Richmond, say. Definitely less piney and probably more cold snaps in winter than Va Beach or even Williamsburg (October might be milder though).

2. I've done Newport and Gaeta. Hardship 2 week reserve duties. ;)