If I had grown up in this house, how would my life be different? I would be used to the smallness, used to having less. I would have laid on my bed, watching games on the baseball diamond across the street until I was old enough to join them. Instead, I filmed my recruit video there, executed my first successful dive there, struck out 23 batters in a freshman year game there. Took BP in the summers and played catch there as a child.
I would have walked to school through the park named after my great-grandfather, and I would have made childhood friends in those halls I’ve never set foot in. I reckon I would have walked to middle school and high school, too.
I would have grown up entirely differently – different friends, different schools, different memories. It’s hard to say where the similarities would start and end if I had grown up here.
Instead, I grew up across town. In a town this size, that means two miles away. Would it be cliché to say “a world apart”?
Because it kind of was. And at the same time, it wasn’t at all. Both houses are in the same high school district, although technically, they’re in different city limits.
I grew up on the corner of a busy street, but we had a big backyard. Occasionally I grew envious of my friends who lived on quieter streets, with shadier trees, even the ones farther down the block from me. But my house was fun, the one friends always wanted to visit. The swings, the side lot, the bonfires.
We had our own traditions, some that centered around this old, current house: watching the fireworks from the front porch. Pillow sliding down the stairs with my cousins. Getting socks with horses or baseballs on them, from Santa on Christmas morning. Halloween visits.
In this old house, we’ve made new traditions rooted generations deep. The Christmas rituals that I was originally reluctant to accept, the layout differences and stained glass windows nonexistent in the house two miles away.
I’ve done a lot of growing up here.
Sitting in the living room after my grandpa died, everyone in silence. Asking my grandma for one thing: a paperweight engraved with my grandpa’s name. I was six. Two years later, being given the gold-inlaid cross he chose for me in the desert. He wanted to give it to me for my First Communion, but he couldn’t be there. He wanted me to wear it. And even though he wasn’t there in that church that day, I know he saw it around my neck. It’s still one of my most-treasured possessions.
I’ve done a lot of growing up here.
When my grandma moved out of here and into our house, two miles away, and this old house was empty for the first time since it was built by her father.
When my parents moved in, keeping the house in the family, keeping the traditions alive and paving opportunities for new ones. I got to choose the paint color for my room. Mint green.
I’ve done a lot of growing up here. From when all I wanted was to leave, to when all I could think about was coming back. Through the heart-pounding phone calls and interviews for my future, to a sense of peace. A sense of knowing that you can make plans for the future, but you can’t plan on those plans. You can direct the path you’d like to take, but you can’t conduct every step. And life takes a lot of different paths.
There is nothing new under the sun, and nothing new under this roof. Through all the places I’ve gotten to live and all the opportunities I’ve been fortunate enough to have, I never imagined that one of my paths in life would be two miles north on one of the busiest streets in town. After so much time gone, it’s good to be back.
Where I Grew Up – Kenny Chesney