childhood friends

Exit 198. It’s okay to have two hometowns.

I was born in Salinas.  Salinas is a medium-sized city in central California, by which I mean it is considered small by California standards, but if it were located in Wyoming or West Virginia, it would be the largest city in the state.  It is located 100 miles south of San Francisco and one row of hills inland from the Monterey Bay, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean.  I lived there until I was 18, the day I moved away to begin my university education, in the same house where my parents live now.

In some ways, Salinas will always be home.  That is where my memories of school take place, and that is where I spent many hours playing with Legos and Hot Wheels.  That is where I watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons, Full House, the 80s-90s Mickey Mouse Club, and the early seasons of the Simpsons.  That is where I spent hours in my room reading Choose Your Own Adventure books and playing the early Mario and Zelda games.

But in other ways, Salinas does not feel like home.  In addition to the memories above, many people seem to have memories of home that involve good friends, organized youth activities like Boy/Girl Scouts or sports, and first loves.  I don’t have many of those memories associated with Salinas.  I did not really have friends until I was a teenager.  There were kids in the neighborhood, but many of them only lived there for a short time, and some of them also weren’t so much friends as people who came over to play with my toys.  I went to school one town over from where I should have, as I have explained before, so until I was old enough to drive, I never saw my school friends outside of school.  My brief forays into Cub Scouts and tee ball were very forgettable, and I did not have anything resembling a first love, beyond a couple of formal school dances that I actually did go to with someone, and a few crushes that left me heartbroken, with the other person never knowing how I felt in most cases.

Yesterday was Picnic Day, a large event that I have mentioned a few other times in this blog; it is essentially an open house and community festival event at my alma mater, UC Davis.  And I realized that I have a second place that feels like home in some ways.  I lived in Davis, a university town just outside of Sacramento, from age 18 until a few weeks before age 25.  Many of those maturing experiences revolving around friendship happened to me there.  This is where I finally felt like I had a community that wanted me around.  Davis is where I came to faith, and where I finally felt like I had connections to the greater community, after I started getting involved in church activities and volunteering with the youth group.  In many ways, going to Davis and the adjacent campus also feels like going home.

I should point out that I don’t mean to put down Salinas or any of my old neighbors or school friends.  I’m just stating things the way they were.  There were some neighborhood kids and classmates who were nice to me, and I started to finally have something resembling a group of close friends by the end of high school.  I think if I had had another year or two around those friends before we all scattered for college, I would have grown a lot closer to them.

Neither Salinas or Davis feels completely like home, and neither one is home anymore.  But being both places gives me a feeling of going back home, each in its own ways.  And that’s okay.  Everyone is different.  Not everyone has one place they consider home; many people move away during childhood, for example.  And, of course, I did not experience a first love in either Salinas nor Davis.  What I would call my first true relationship, with Vega The Nice Ex, happened later during a time when I really did not have a home, but that’s another story.  For now, it’s okay to have two hometowns.

Exit 30. I have a past.

Several years ago, back when I still used to do chat rooms, I said something to one of my chat room friends about my brother.  She replied, “It’s weird to me to think that you have a family.”  I asked why, and she said something about how she doesn’t know any of my family, and it’s like I just came out of nowhere.

I’m still not sure exactly what she meant by that, and I know she didn’t mean it as an insult.  But she does have a point.  Most of my closest friends now don’t know my family, although my brother has come to a couple of my birthday parties and 20th Century Video Game Nights.  I definitely have a family, though.  I’m not one of those bad-ass superheroes with dead parents, like Batman or Spider-Man or Kinsey Millhone.  My parents are very much alive, and they raised me.  I didn’t come out of nowhere.

But for a long time, I have felt that something similar was missing: childhood friends.  I don’t have that lifelong friend whom I’ve been close with since kindergarten.  In elementary school, I was the kid who constantly got picked on, and my attempts to fit in were met with ridicule and rejection.  I started making friends as a teenager, but once I graduated from high school and moved away, I would only hear from them sporadically, or not at all.

A few days ago, those of you who are my friends on Facebook may have seen a picture I was tagged in, a group photo of a bunch of kids with bad 80s haircuts wearing San Francisco Giants gear.  The picture, taken in October 1989, was from my 8th grade yearbook.  That was also the year that the Giants played (and lost to) the Oakland Athletics in the World Series.  Since those two teams are the closest to the school, we did group pictures of fans of each team.  And now, 25 years later, someone scanned that page from the yearbook, pointing out that we’d been Giants fans for a long time.  Similarly to the stories I told last month about my class reunion, this was a guy I had had a couple of classes with at one point, but we didn’t really run in the same circles later on in life.  Yet he still thought to tag me.

I hear friends talking about their childhood friends that they still spend a lot of time with, and sometimes I feel like that was something I missed out on.  Pretty much all the people I hang out with these days are considerably younger than me, and I feel like I’ve always been an adult as far as they’re concerned.  It’s like I came out of nowhere, like that one friend told me once.  But I have a past.  I had a childhood, I had teen years, and thanks to Facebook and the recent reunion, I feel a little more connected to my past than I have in a while.  I really should stay more connected with my past.