Sometimes it seems hard to believe that a small town like the one I grew up in could ever change. From the cement block of a civic center, to the cast-iron clocks, to the bowling alley that retains its original carpets, it always seemed that this place was stuck in a time warp. But even rocks are worn away with age, and so too must my town face the inevitable.
I should have heeded the signs earlier. Last summer, when I was on vacation with a hankering for my favorite strawberry icecream with Reeses Peanut Butter Cups on top, I came across the shocking discovery that Ice Jack’s, our local scoopery, had changed management. Same spot, same high school part-timers working, but the fresh flavor I had come to love was replaced with something no better than what I could get in a cardboard pint at Stop ‘n Shop. The worst part was that the ridiculous fifteen-year-old photo of my friend John licking a dripping chocolate icecream cone back on an elementary school fieldtrip no longer hung on the wall. How could this have possibly happened?!
This wouldn’t be the last change that would shake the townies. A week after I had returned to this suburban wasteland for good, I arranged to meet up with a high school friend at the local coffee house, a place where I had frequented since my pseudo-goth days in middle school. As I drove over there, I noticed new buildings had been erected and a new bar had opened, but nothing that completely altered my way of life. It was around 7pm, past normal hours and I parked in my normal spot, against the side of the coffee shop, but also in the parking lot of the Bank of America nextdoor. Since this is what I had been doing since the day I got my license, and what even my parents had been doing years before me, I thought nothing of it. Inside, a barista I had never seen before (one of the changes I do not mind, if you get my drift) took my order while I observed that the colorful chalkboard menu had been updated to a newfangled computer screen. They no longer served gelato. There was supposed to be live music every Thursday, but the stage stood empty. I told the guy behind the counter of all these changes, but he certainly wasn’t as affected since he had not spent his entire life here. I had a friend who once worked there and swore that the place was haunted. I couldn’t help but wonder if the ghosts tolerated these changes. We were kicked out at 9, an hour earlier than I remember it staying open till. Reluctantly, I trudged back to my car to see the worst change of all lying on my windshield. An angry orange parking ticket. I looked around. A sign saying “Bank Parking Only” stood in front of the spot next to mine, but certainly not on my spot! Not like anyone paid attention to those signs anyways. 22 years in this town! 22 years in a place that only abided by small town principalities. 22 years and now they decided to care?
People change. Relationships change. Every bloody thing in this world changes in some way or another. But your home town is supposed to be a place where you can run away from those changes. A place where you can revert to the security of your childhood. Where do you turn when even that has been uprooted?