I have spent some years trying to forget about this place I used to call my hometown. Despite living here for about a decade altogether, I thought I had nothing to look back on once I left for good. Even after three years, something drew me back here- a familiar feeling I sought without really being aware of it until now. I can easily tell most people how much I dreaded the house I grew up in, the high school I graduated from, and most of the places I remember from the town.
All except one certain piece of Altus, Oklahoma.
Three years since my last visit, the stand my family would visit for sno cones lies fortified by a wooden fence with a sign out by the road with the address to the new location. My high school faced a massive remodel- a project still in the works. The Air Force Exchange that served my father’s family and many other military families exists a ghost of a thriving store, now selling little more than uniform items.
It became a pattern of disappointing visits- one after the other. My home began to seem more and more like a dream than a memory.
Between the high school and one of the town’s main roads, a weathered sign reads familiar words- “The City Park”. To anyone from out of town and to some of the locals, this landmark appears less than impressive. In my eyes, I still see it for what it was to me growing up. A maze of lights and sounds during Christmastime- decorated with wooden cutouts of popular Disney and other animated characters. For a small fee, one could ride on the back of a horse-drawn carriage, or patiently wait for the trolley to come around and give a short tour for free. One could buy a hot chocolate or a handful of other drinks and snacks for less than what some store-bought beverages cost now.
Walking through the park always gave me this warm feeling. For me, it was what made Christmas that much more special every year. It holds some of the limited memories I have of my father before his cancer. I had always hoped to be able to walk around its walkways hand-in-hand with someone special to me. What I would give to be able to spend another Christmastime walking through there.
But the town is changing and my absence may be another three years long. What will happen to this special place of mine? Will modern technology overcome those of the past? Will it fade away and be destroyed to make way for more town expansions?
Some people try to forget the place where they came from, but most fail to see it becomes a part of who they are.
The city will change. People will come and go. Places will expand or fail. Memories will be made- some treasured long and others forgotten.
Hopefully, This one piece of my childhood and youth will remain. And may it outlive my life and then continue on to those after mine. And may that feeling of home and happiness capture the hearts of many more as it has mine.