Going home for me was not what I thought it would be. Having been away from the place I grew up for 33 years, I finally made time to return home to Florence, Oregon. Traveling back to Oregon was an eye-opener to me, how much everything has changed from what each town looked like when I was a kid growing up in Oregon. I forgot how green the state of Oregon was over in the Eastern part.
My vacation started out by traveling up the Columbia River to my little brother Tracy and his family’s home in Estacada, Oregon. I had a great time having my short visit with my brother and his family. This gave me time to think things through that was going on in my life and the choices that I have made. I know that I must live with the choices that I make, and I know that the ones that I have made are big choices that I have to live with. I had a good visit with my niece. We had time to sit and talk a lot about what we were going through ourselves. I was glad that I decided to spend another day at my brother’s house. I felt that my niece needed someone to be there to listen to her that day and I’m glad that I was able to be there for her. I hope that what I left her with will help her make the right choices in her life.
After spending the two nights at my brother’s house, my journey picked up and I left Estacada and drove to Junction City, Oregon to stop in and visit with a long-time dear friend that has been in my life for a very long time. Even though we went our separate ways because of the choices I made to express how I really felt about her, she cut all ties to us. I was able to locate her on Facebook and open up our communication and rebuild our friendship that we once had. Driving over to Junction City I was reminded of just how beautiful the scenes are in the country and wooded areas of Oregon. That lush green growth on the side of the road. The green ferns and wild berries that grow along the side of the road. The tall pole pine trees along the side of the road that you cannot see through because they are so thick. The clean, clear rivers and creeks that run along the side of the road. The smell of the fresh air as you roll down your window and smell the scent of the pine trees and the fresh air outside.
As I got closer to Junction City some the roads looked familiar, but others had changed over the years. I couldn’t believe how big Junction City has grown since the last time I was there. If my memory serves me right, the last time I was in Junction City was in 1983, a year before I graduated. The city has grown so much I don’t even recognize it at all. It’s funny when you travel back to visit an old place that you grew up in and see how much it has changed from the time you were a kid. The railroad station at the end of town where the two roads junction out to go out of town has been torn down and replaced with different stores and Main Street is so crowded that it is hard to tell one building from another. Driving down Main Street now there are car dealers lined up one right after the other but instead of automobile dealers it is RV Centers one right after the other. It’s like Junction City has become RV heaven for selling RVs. I couldn’t even find the stop light that took you down to the high school and to turn to go to Riverside Road. That’s how much Junction City, Oregon has changed on me. I was excited to see my friend Cindy since the last time we saw each other was when she attended Ricks College (when it was still Ricks College). That was back in 1984 or ’85 when she went to school out there in Rexburg. It was around 2000 when we cut all ties of communication with each other, and it is so awesome to have her back in my life. She has no idea how much her friendship means to me. I don’t care what happened in the past, the past is the past and I forgive her. I am so glad that she made time to meet up with me and be able to say hello to her. I wanted to go out to be with her when her dad passed away but we didn’t have the money to get me out there at that time. I was glad to make the time to stop and visit with my friend Cindy and got to see how much Junction City, Oregon has changed on me.
From here I worked my way over to my old stomping grounds to go spend the weekend with my old high school friends. Driving over that way was so hard to see the changes that they have down the highway from Mapleton to Florence, Oregon. I didn’t even recognize any of the highway going over there. It’s amazing as the years pass by how much the landscape can change on you. Especially the towns that you grew up in and around. I didn’t hardly recognize Florence or Mapleton when I drove through them. I couldn’t believe a pizza place and A&W Root Beer were still there. After all these years they have hung on to staying in business with all the big franchises that have come into town. Safeway has moved from their original location to a bigger location. They have added a Fred Meyer in Florence and Les Schwab is not on the corner across the street from Johnston Motors. I was going to stop in and say hello, but I shied away from stopping in because I don’t know who is running the Ford dealer now. I drove right out to Alder Dunes where we were going to meet up for the weekend. I was the first one there, everyone else was coming in on Saturday which gave me some time to myself to do some thinking.
I really needed this time with my friends. It was well overdue, and I am going to make sure that this happens every year from this point on. I had a great time. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, like my thoughts tend to play a lot of scenarios in my brain of what will happen or take place. I get nervous when my thoughts do this because I am afraid of what might happen from them. Luckily it went quite different than my thoughts played out it would be. I had a great time with those who showed up and for those who did not show up, well they missed out on a great adventure with our gang from high school. Those who showed up were Nickie and her oldest daughter, husband and family, Mike, and Diana and her family. We just sat around the campfire and talked about the good old days in high school. The fun times that we had growing up as seniors in high school. We talked about what we were doing today and what we’ve all been through ourselves as adults. I asked my friends a question that I often find myself questioning myself about. I asked them, “Is your life the way you pictured it would be back in high school when you though about life after high school?” I never really got a direct answer from any one of them.
I know reflecting on days back when I was a senior in high school, I never pictured my life the way it has turned out to be. I thought I would find someone to marry me and live happily ever after and have a family. Boy I was wrong on all accounts. I’ve been through 4 failed marriages, the 5th marriage she passed away on me, and the 6th marriage I am working on slowly. We have hit some bumps in the road but we are working together to work through things to make our marriage work. This is what relationships are about is working through the hiccups that come into your relationship and forgive each other. Move on and work together to fix the problems that arise in your marriage to keep yourself together. I spent from July 16th to July 19th at Alder Dunes and what a peaceful place to relax and let go of the world around you.
After we spent the weekend together and Diana’s younger daughter survived her hornet sting, we departed and I headed home while they stayed right there in Florence since they have a house there and they were going to do more camping during the week. I spent a little time driving around checking out Florence and seeing how much the town has changed from the time I lived there in 1980 to 1984 and back in 1989 was the very last time I was in Florence, Oregon. The town has changed a little bit since the last time I was there. Not like I remember it as a teenager growing up there. Our old neighborhood looks like something out of the stone age had gone in there and turned everything upside down. Not one of the houses looked like they were even taken care of from their owners. My heart sank as I drove past our old home and got to see what the house looks like. I can say at least it looked like someone was trying to take care of the house. The street that ran down past the high school had been paved and more houses put in on that street. I never drove by the high school, the neighborhood was enough for me. The last thing I had to see was the beach and the ocean. This is where I really got shocked to see how much the shoreline of the beach had changed. You used to be able to just walk over the hill to the beach on the North Jetty and now you must walk over several hills to get out to the beach. That is how much the coastline has changed there in Florence since the last time I was there.
Going home was not what I expected to find when I got over to our hometown. Little town of Florence has grown up to become a big city over on the Oregon coast. Ocean beaches are not even the same as I remember them growing up there. Going home was not like what I thought it would be for me. So much has changed that it’s hard to take in all the changes that have taken place there in Florence. Going back to your hometown where you grew up, has it changed much for you and if so, how did you handle all the changes that have taken place? What was it like for you for the first time driving into your hometown? How did you feel when you saw all the changes that had taken place over the years you were gone? Did your hometown feel like the same town you grew up in or was there a different atmosphere to what you were feeling? For me all the changes made to the town of Florence seemed like I was coming into a place that was not familiar to me. I felt like the atmosphere had changed in some way that it is hard to explain. The one thing that hasn’t changed over on the coast is the fact that they preserve the nature of its beauty and the landscape around the coastal shores. This has not changed. It was awesome to see the Rhododendron bushes all around you along with the ferns and the different trees on the side of the road. Along with the wild berries that grow with mother nature over there. Yes, I have to say going home was an eye opener for me to see how much each area has grown and changed over the past 33 years since I’d been back over in that area of Oregon. It was however great to be home once again. To be surrounded by the green landscape all around me and white sandy beaches there. Yes, I was home and it felt so good to be back there that I almost did not want to come home because I knew where I was, and I felt at peace with myself. Especially when I took a walk on the beach and was all by myself to just hear the foghorn come off the jetty mouth and listening to the ocean waves coming in. How peaceful this sound was to walk along the beach once again to just clear my thoughts like I used to as a teenager when I needed to clear my head from my thoughts that run through my head. This is what I really miss about the Oregon coast beaches, that there are not so many people on the beach, and you can have this time to yourself to clear your head from all your worries and converse with the Lord if you need to talk with Him. This is what I really miss about Florence and growing up and those friends that made feel that I was worth something to save myself from leaving this earth at that time. Thank you, my dear friends, for an awesome weekend, for helping remind myself what is truly important in our lives: friends and family. I hope you take time to travel back to your stomping grounds and take time to spend with your friends from high school and thank them for being there for in the time you needed it most. I learned that we have lost some of our classmates and my heart goes out to their family and friends. That we have had classmates injured from fatal accidents in their lives. May God be with you all and your journey upon this earth be in peace and strength. Yes, it was good to be home and among good friends this past weekend. May we all take the time to journey back to our hometown even if it is to see how much it has changed. You will see how much you have grown as a person, I guarantee you will see the difference in you after you visit your hometown once again.