Last weekend I woke up in the town I had grown up in but haven’t slept in for over three decades. It was a bit jarring for when I woke up at 40, it looked the same as when I left it at 11.
I was born and raised in Bailey, Colorado, a small mountain town in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Driving through it, you would think there were only a few restaurants and a corner gas. It’s in the winding back roads and isolating hills where the locals hang.
I took Mike to the 1/4 mile of “downtown” Bailey and showed him the Knotty Pine, which still features ice cream, hot dogs and souvenirs. We saw the Sasquatch Outpost, which used to be the Bailey General Store where I would blow my allowance on Jolly Ranchers. I drove him by my old schools and the handful of houses we rented or owned while we called Bailey home.
Everything was the same . . . but different.
I meant up with some old friends of my parents who has kept in touch with me over the years, mostly birthday and Christmas cards. We met them for lunch and then went back to their place to watch the Kentucky Derby with some of their friends.
We sat around chatting and drinking mint juleps. We talked about what their kids are doing and their grand kids. Mike and I talked about our jobs and living in Canada.
It was the same . . . but different. We were all older and feeling the aches and pains of aging. We were all in different places of our lives — lives that haven’t involved each other in a long time, and yet it felt like talking to the neighbor you just saw yesterday.
Most of the time we leave a toy in the front yard, never knowing that is the last time we may play with it. We get our favourite burger at the local stand, never knowing that it may be the last one.
I have left my friend’s house hundreds of times as a kid, always with the assumption that I will be back. I’ll see them at the next ballgame. But on this day, for the first time, it was different.
We hugged. Promised to write. Somewhere deep down, I think all of us knew that this was the last time.
It’s a rare moment when you can appreciate the now, know it is your last and spend seven hours soaking up everything you can. You want to remember the lunch, losing the Kentucky Derby and watching the sunset from the back yard of a Bailey friend.
It was the same. But different.
The different was the changes in the town. The people. My friends.