Just outside our apartment building, there is a long row of concrete stairs taking you down to one of the main streets flowing through the city. On a warm, early September day, I was going down these stairs, flanked by my parents, holding my restless hands.
I was wearing a checkered blue and white new uniform, with a handmade crispy white collar, my two side-ponytails jumping with joy. I was ready to step, for the first time, in our local school as a pupil. My proud parents told me this would be the road I would take, every single day for 8 years, to school and back, and that it may seem new and exciting at first, but in 8 years I’d surely be tired of it.
And I did take that childhood road for countless times, until one day when it became longer, thousands of miles longer instead of a few hundred meters. One day, that particular road took me by the hand and showed me the world. My U-shaped primary school was replaced by other “higher” schools. My road transformed into large boulevards and speedy highways.
Every time I return, walking on that first road of my home town, I step back into childhood. I am not just a traveler coming back home. I mold into this hybrid of past and present. Sights and smells invade me and pull me into that old world of mine. The sweet scent of my mother’s baking, the rugged feel of my old books crammed in our light-wood bookcase; a centennial chestnut tree that’s been there, imposing its heavy way, ever since I can remember.
The city is “mine” even if I stopped being “his” long time ago. If it were a seat, it wouldn’t be the hard wooden chair of my teenage years, or the salty beach chair of my first freedom, not even the comfy armchair of the latest years. Rather, it would be the shiny and colorful swing of my childhood.
Sure, I became familiar with many other avenues, having names of famous actors. My childhood’s chestnut tree has transformed into breezy palm trees. I also travelled with the latest airplane towards a new school, not just on foot. I learned to talk and feel in other languages, not just my own. I even sensibly prefer other architectures than the ones of my hometown. But the roads, the food, the trees and the buildings of home have rooted in me together with my evolution. They are stubbornly not coming out of my essence, no matter how much I distance myself from them.
Despite the bunch of “resident” IDs I’ve collected, my belonging to that old familiar hometown, with that 8-year-long first road, cannot be ripped off like an old patch. A reassuring feeling settles. I’ll always take “home” with me, no matter what galaxies I wind up on.