Experience as a Flashlight: A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to travel back with my brothers to our boyhood town. It’s a small town in a largely agricultural area of Wisconsin. Our dad had moved us there from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan because of a job opportunity. We had no other family or friends there and so growing up we all had to make new friends.
It was not easy fitting into a new community because it seems no matter how long you live there, you will always be an outsider. In general I have good memories of the town, but life was still hard at times. We had to walk to school which seemed like a long distance. We had to listen to teachers and other adults who towered over us. We had to pay attention and study so we could receive good grades.
I now am seeing how many of those experiences influenced me, molding me into the person I am today. One of the things I have observed in my behavior is that I seem to be fighting battles with others that began in elementary school. Our family did not have extra income. Mom and dad were careful with the money so it would cover all the expenses. One of the areas they had to cut back in was clothes. We were not able to wear clothes that were considered popular at the time (eg button down shirts). As a result I thought I was not as good as the kids who were wearing them.
When my brothers and I went back, we all had the same reaction. What appeared so large back then seemed smaller now. The distance from our house to school was only about six blocks. Houses seemed smaller. The church seemed smaller. Even my memories were smaller.
I met with some of my best buddies thinking it would be just as it used to be. It wasn’t. They were different and we had almost nothing to talk about. It seemed that too much time had passed and we had nothing in common. Later I would attend a High School Reunion and again feel no connection with them, so I have given up going back.
I have come to realize that while those early years seemed to take on such an important role in my development, in reality their importance to me has shrunk over time. Everything about back there and then is smaller. And probably that is how it should be.