Some people look back and split up their past by years or maybe by loves, but I divide and define my life by places, mostly, thinking in terms of cities and corners and rooms. This is the hill where we watched the fireworks each year, where that boy said he loved me, where I forgot to say goodbye. And there, across the lake, that's the dock where we swore that things wouldn't change, where a friend cried over losing herself, where a guy told me something I'd never forget. It's the bench where she apologized, where he asked for a second chance, where I sat before leaving forever. That's the tree he nearly fell from, the peg where we carved our initials. For years there was just this one place, this one town, that carried so much. It's the backdrop to who I am, to who I've been.
Three days into our stay, Radley said, "You're sillier here. Lighter or something." And I knew exactly what he meant. Because certain spaces just feel as if they belong to you, don't they? Or maybe it's the other way around — you belong to a place. In any case, I find that I sink into the simplest, truest version of myself when I'm back in my hometown. It's not that I'm any different, really, or that I'm someone new. It's as if I'm everything I've ever been, as if the me from each year has been stacked inside the last like one of those traditional nesting dolls, erasing before and after. Somehow, just a span of days back in Glen Ellyn leaves me with a sort of steady peace, a simple calm. It's the feeling, I think, of knowing — or may just remembering — who you are. And being okay with it.