A few days ago, I had a small meltdown. Someone I went to high school with invited me to a “friends from our hometown” style Facebook group. I loved growing up there, but I had a lot of baggage to leave behind. I’ve only been back a handful of times in the decades since high school.
One of the first threads on the “Friends from” page was (of course) a getting to know you thread. How are you connected to this tiny place in the middle of nowhere? It looks so innocent on the surface, but for me it’s a rabbit hole of a question that leads straight to the freak out zone for me. My family closet is full of so many skeletons that I could stage my own Danse Macabre. It’s all past history, but people in my small town do not forget. I very much enjoy the freedom of living far away where nobody cares whose secret baby I am.
Now, thanks to the magic of Facebook, my hometown looms. The woman who started the “Friends from. . .” group seems like a very nice person. Her family history is interesting and while she’s whitewashing a lot, she’s not misrepresenting, only making it into a kinder, gentler memory. I try to clean up my own parcel of rogues and all I have left to say is that my dad raised sheep on the Reservation.
I can relate the scandalous antics of my family history with hardly a blush– to anyone who’s not from my hometown. But when I start talking to anyone from the place, I feel like I’m walking into a field of landmines. I love my family and I love their stories. The bigamists and secret spouses, the crazy divorces, the ladies of ill-repute and alleged cattle rustlers, the secret babies. Out here in the world, it’s all fabulous, wild, wild west stories to amuse. Back there, it seems too personal and tender to share. Who are your people? Who do you come from? Yes, this is indeed the root of who we are. But that root can be seen through many different lenses. I prefer a long distance, detachable one.