The sign welcoming us into my hometown appears before us, a beacon on a hill that I had driven by all my life. I'm excited to show one of my best friends where I grew up, giving her glimpses into the life I had before I knew her. We pass by one of the side streets, blocked off for construction, and I make a left by the restaurant, immediately feeling enveloped by the maple lined main street.
We make our way down the road, and I find myself pointing out landmarks as we turn onto the street where I grew up. I tell her of neighbours as we round the corner, feeling myself driving as if on autopilot. And then I see the large green evergreens, the pool peeking out from behind, and I feel my breath catch as I'm brought back to a lifetime ago. We get closer to our house, and I slow down, feeling my heart hurt as we approach. I study the grey siding, the new gardens in the back brightening up the large backyard. I see evidence of the new family that's moved in; the new deck, the different cars in the driveway. In every way it feels as if someone has taken over my life, has moved in while I was away. I swallow and pull the car ahead away.
We're silent for a little while, until I point out the place where my dad's childhood home once stood. I wave to an old neighbour and then we're driving past the public pool and I'm remembering T-ball games and babysitting trips to the park. As we turn back onto main street, heading out of the village, I feel the tears well in my eyes and I grip the steering wheel harder.
"I think what makes everything so hard," I hear myself say, "is that it feels like I lost my whole life." As the words leave my mouth, I feel her hand on my shoulder. "I know," she answers quietly, and I'm infinitely grateful for the absence of empty, sympathetic words.
I can feel my sorrow and grief entering into the car with us, and I sit with them for a moment. I feel the weight of sadness and my heart is heavy. As the maple trees disappear into my rearview mirror, I swallow my remaining tears and look ahead. "Please God," I feel my heart pray, "some day let those memories not just be signs of loss. Let them be signs of blessing, too."