For whatever reason, as I drove to work this morning I found myself thinking of an old friend, Allen M., who I was pretty tight with through middle school and high school. We lived in vaguely similar circumstances; his dad had died when Allen was six or seven, and my folks split up at about the same time and I moved with my mom a couple hundred miles away to northern Indiana, and so didn't see my dad much. We went to a private school with kids from affluent families, although we ourselves came from modest means at best and relied on generous financial aid. Then we graduated from the same high school and both of our mothers relocated to places away from South Bend--mine to Dallas, his to Indianapolis--ensuring that, while we might come back to visit friends on breaks from school, we wouldn't really be able to come home again.
I saw him a couple of times during college--I went to Northwestern, he went to Purdue--at friends' houses over the summer. He always seemed a little tight, a little uncomfortable, not rooted. College ended, grad school came and went, and I never saw him again. I always scanned the news 'n' notes section of the grammar and high school alumni newsletters but there was never any mention of him, and when the class reunions rolled around he was always on the list of alumni the committee was seeking contact information for. I finally zabasearched him--o wicked, wicked tool--and found that he's living back in South Bend, not too far from the neighborhood where he grew up. I guess he finally made it back. I wonder what he's doing, if he's happy there, now that all the people we hung with in high school are living in Chicago or other places far away. I wonder if he feels like he's home.
When my own mom left South Bend I floundered for a while. I was a freshman in college fielding the usual triumvirate of questions (what's your name, where are you from, what's your major?), quickly tiring of trying to rapid-fire answer I more or less grew up in South Bend but my mom just moved to Dallas and my dad still lives in downstate Illinois and I guess that's where I'm really from now. I went back to the Bend a few times with another friend from high school who lived in a Northwestern dorm across the street from mine, but it was always very strange trying to square the familiarity of "home" with the knowledge that I didn't actually have a home of my own there any more. So I eventually embraced my roots Downstate, the small central Illinois town where my father, both sets of grandparents, assorted second cousins, and generations of family friends lived, the place where I had spent all my holidays and summer vacations as a kid. After grad school I spent a couple of years trying to get back there, but the jobs never panned out and I wound up in Arizona instead, and most of the family ended up moving away from the small town anyway..
A blizzard is rolling across central Illinois this morning. I can picture the snow and hear the muffled crunch of car tires rolling up the gravel driveway my dad and grandparents shared before Dad moved away and Grandpa died. I wonder if the storm will make it to northern Indiana and snow on Allen before petering out.