With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
-T.S. Eliot “Little Gidding”
Growing up, my parents took us up to Weston, Missouri, each October. We picked pumpkins and looked at the animals at Red Bard Farm and spent the day at Westbend State Park, which sits above the bluffs above the Missouri River.
The trail at the park is a three mile loop; my brother and I rode our bikes around while Mom and Dad walked. Sometimes, if we were feeling particularly strong, David and I would ride around again and catch them up from behind.
This year we took Harriet with us for a second time. Last year she was just a tiny baby, and Devin carried her around the trail in a sling.
This year she isn’t a baby anymore, but though this loss of baby-dom at times makes me unutterably sad, it was delightful to watch her interact with her surroundings with her boundless toddler energy and insatiable curiosity.
For me, going up to Weston is always a lesson in memory and nostalgia, and taking my child to my old haunts adds yet another layer to my experience of the place. This year, as I looked over the bluffs and down the river, the forested landscape pristine, turning gold, I thought about our childhood bike-trip around the Westbend Loop.
Now, I thought, I’ve really come full circle. I have caught my parents up from behind: I have become a mother myself. I’m bound to watch my daughter experience these places that are mine.
There is something rich about moving back to the place where you grew up. Richness and a strange kind of sorrow in watching a new child in your old place. Sorrow because you know you can’t be that child again. Sorrow because your daughter’s childhood is—though *yours* in one sense—in another sense completely inaccessible. Hers.
I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am so glad to be home, biding here in these familiar parts. Home, I find, is not the dull wasteland I feared it might be. Your house is, after all, your castle and your hometown a country of terrible beauty.