The Hauntingly Familiar

This happens every time …

But I’ve just put a name to it.

Houston MapEvery time I return to a previous place I’ve lived, worked, or visited, the place has gone through huge changes.

What was 2 million people, is now closer to 8 million, more people than live in my current state! Infrastructure changes. Culture changes. Entire neighborhoods have sprung into a different hive. Downtown no longer feels familiar. What was once far out of town has been swallowed by an ever growing presence of people!

New businesses, roads, neighborhoods – old mixed in with the new, or the old demolished and the new replaces it.

Believe me, I’ve seen it all. In just 4 days.

Example: A huge warehouse complex, with frontage retail, was razed to the ground. Probably 200 acres or more… Cleared out and ready to build again. I cannot remember what was there before, it’s just one of those things that has changed dramatically.

Street names creep into my awareness and beg to be remembered from yesteryear.  OST (Old Spanish  Trail), Wayside, Rusk, a never ending list of the past.

So. What do I call this feeling of knowing that I’m in a familiar place, but I can realize nothing is the same?

The Hauntingly Familiar

I drove by an old, favored, work location. Gray Tool Company. It’s close to the Astrodome. Where I used to be able to pinpoint the Dome, now the open fields are crowded with buildings. Some look ancient, but they were not there 40 years ago. It’s haunting.

The familiar is not what I remember, but hauntingly I know I should feel right at home. Although, businesses have crowded in, failed, and rebirthed as something totally different.

The haunting is that it could be familiar – if I had never left! You know, grow up with the changes and you probably don’t even think about it. Get used to the changes incrementally.

Back to the Astrodome experience. I exited the freeway, and my mind tells me to hang a right at Almeda. But nothing is familiar! Wait. There’s Holly Hall. Should go left. No, right. Oh, well! Stuck in the left turn lane. Head over to the Astrodome and re-center my memory of 1977-1980. Get turned around and go back down Holly Hall. Whoa! Medical centers. Houses. Apartments. A street that keeps on going when it should dead end.

There. Ardmore. Left. Go slow. Somewhere in the midst of all the new is that piece of familiar. There it is. Different look. Haunted. Empty. Not a major presence as I remember it. New owners. New purpose.

Haunting. Yet familiar. 

How much I would love to wonder the hallways for a few minutes, go to the machine shop, and visit the computer room I spent hundreds of hours getting to know.

But that’s not important in this present world. My memories sustain me. In 40 years it will be rebirthed into something else. Totally different, it will no longer be familiar. Just a haunting memory.

Friday morning I took a few hours to orient to my past. Freeways are more crowded. Toll roads are everywhere. Construction happening every place you look. And the dreaded heat and humidity is just around the corner! Thankfully a few nights dropped into the comfortable 40’s!

Consider eating establishments: I am reminded many people head to Washington for many reasons. You hear complaints all the time.  It rains too much. Gloomy. Clouds. Snow. Then they start pouring it on and moan because the restaurant chains they are familiar with are missing.  Well, I’m seeing so many in Houston that I recognize from just about anywhere in North America – I can do without the experience of dining just like I would have back home, and search for something new and different. No. Not looking for the familiar. But 🍤 (shrimp) on the menu tomorrow at a new favorite…”Bubba’s” and not a Gump in sight!

Everywhere I go I am looking for a familiar face. It’s haunting that so many look like people I used to know… But no, that was not an old boss at the Starbucks… I’ve not run into anyone I used to be familiar with. It’s weird like Twilight Zone!

So happy for the Pacific Northwest. Green. Cool. Family. Friends. Mountains. Snow. Ice. Home. People know me. Love me.  And many I love are there.

It’s Familar… Hauntingly so!

Moral to the story: You never go back. You always go forward. Sometimes you take steps into your past.  Reconnect, yes, but only to remind you of who you are today, and where you are headed. Home.