It’s amazing how much detail I remember about that night. I remember what I was wearing. I even remember dancing with James Blauert, a kid I knew from junior high. I was very nervous because the weekend before school started I fell while skating and fractured my right wrist. I didn’t have a full cast – just a half-cast, sort of splint-like and wrapped with an ace bandage. I was nervous because I was afraid that the cast would be too heavy on poor Jim’s shoulders. I remember the darkness of the gym and the loudness of the music…and I remember how I felt. That teenaged angst, the fear no one would ask you to dance…and conversely, the fear that someone would ask you to dance. That “new” feeling, first week of high school, first football game, first high school dance. All those anxieties when the biggest part of your life seemed to be social.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my home town this week. I joined a new Facebook group: You Know You Grew Up in Merced When??? (Apparently it’s becoming a Trend – I’ve seen people on my Friends List posting to pages like You Know You Grew Up in Auburn, AL or You Know You Grew Up in Pasadena When.)
I discovered this page when a friend posted something on it, so I’m not sure how long it’s been up…but not long. So far they have more than 4200 members and there have been almost 11,000 posts.
Lots of memories are being posted, inquiries about long-lost friends, pictures shared. It’s been fun (and somewhat addictive) wandering down memory lane – which in Merced’s case would be 17th – between G and R Streets (our version of Cruising Main).
We seem more able, or more apt, to remember all the happy memories. Time seems to color our past in a soft, fuzzy, golden glow of nostalgia. I remember the houses I lived in…some very vividly. I remember the oppressive heat of summer in the Central Valley of California and I remember the “tule” fog in winter, when often you wouldn’t see the sun for weeks.
I remember swimming at Lake Yosemite.
Playing on the swings and merry-go-round, and hanging with my friends at Applegate Park.
All-day Saturday movies at the Merced Theater.
I remember sneaking into the Country Club and going ice-sliding on the golf course at night. Church bazaars and spaghetti suppers, getting to go to the big social event of the year - the Job's Daughters/DeMolay New Year's Even Dance. Early morning bike rides - before it got too hot. Slumber parties and girls camp. Toilet papering houses and egg fights on Halloween. High school plays in the auditorium at old East Campus.
And of course, I remember the people. My friends and neighbors, teachers from school and church, people who owned restaurants and stores, the major "players" in town.
We are what we’ve experienced and where we’ve been. Merced formed a lot of what I was and what I am – for good or bad. I think of it with a certain sense of longing, for the good that was, for an opportunity to re-live and perhaps re-form the past that wasn’t so good. There is an ache of homesickness for the place…and the time.
But there is the knowledge that Merced has changed (a lot) and so have I…and you can never really go home again.