On my trip last week, Dad and I took the girls to Jena, Louisiana, where I lived from 5th grade to the summer before my junior year of high school, the hometown of my growing up years.
Driving in, I told Dad that I'd often dream of being back there, but in my dreams the streets were always messed up, and I could never figure out how to get around. I was surprised that day when I quickly regained my bearings and fairly easily retraced the routes I'd traveled hundreds of times in my adolescent and teen years.
The town's landscape looks basically the same as it did when we were there in the '80s, but slight differences indicate how much time changes things. Trees are much taller, wooded areas more dense. Super WalMart has left the old WalMart a vacant shell. A number of chain restaurants now dot the main drag (Sonic was the only "name brand" restaurant there when we left, but now there's a McDonalds, a KFC, and a Popeye's). Much, however, remains the same. One of my favorite old haunts that we visited was Burger Barn, where everybody went on in-town dates and which still draws in business. I ordered an amazing hot fudge sundae - complete with whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry on top (who does that anymore?)!
We also drove by Good Pine Middle School, Jena Junior High, and Jena High School. The middle school had been updated a little, but the others looked largely the same. We dropped by the public library, too, and went inside for a quick visit (and an impromptu diaper changing session). They don't weed very aggressively, so many of the books were those that I'd browsed time after time in my youth. I wanted to see if I could find my name in any of the books, but they'd changed to a number punch card sometime in the '80s, so no such luck (I actually looked through a bunch - I am such a library nerd).
The coolest thing we did was to visit our old house (third row, second picture from the left), which is located on a dead end street with only four other houses. Right before we got there, Hannah fell asleep in the car, so Dad stayed with her while Jaycie and I walked between the houses across the street and cut through the property line to see the pond, another favorite spot of mine and my siblings. To my delight, I was able to meet the lady whose family currently owns the property and worked to make the pond even more picturesque than before. Her husband was the son of one of our neighbors, and he and his brother ran a snow-cone business when we lived there, where I'd worked when I was 15 (my first real/non-babysitting job). I'd also baby-sat for her niece when I lived there and knew all of her in-laws. We had a great conversation before I had to leave (Dad had started to get worried).
All in all, it was a wonderful trip. Many thanks to my dad for our stroll down memory lane!