This has taken far longer to finish than I meant. But this is the third and final post on a trip I took back to LaGrange, Georgia
recently nearing a year ago now. I lived in LaGrange during high school. It is a good thing I wrote most of this last fall because I wouldn’t even remember at this point.
Sunday morning, we attended Western Heights Baptist Church where Rev. Steve Vickery, Micah’s father is a pastor. After lunch, we began the trip back home. But as it seemed like we weren’t pressed for time, I asked if we could take a detour. Micah wanted to drive through downtown LaGrange, and from there we took a back way up to Grantville where I actually lived. This was the route I would take in 10th and 11th grade when I started coming to LaGrange willingly, not just for school. I remember loving to drive these roads in my dad’s old red Toyota pickup truck, a truck which I still think of as my favorite vehicle. There was something about the smell of that truck that seemed to encapsulate my entire life. What I wouldn’t give to have that truck back.
I imagined being in that truck again as we drove down these largely unaltered roads between LaGrange and Grantville, GA. The first place I saw that took me back was the Zaxby’s where I worked. I didn’t work there very long, and I remember there being some sketchy stuff going on there, maybe drug dealing. Then we passed by the Kroger Grocery I worked at after Zaxby’s. The only things I remember there are the coworker I dated and the fact that I used to get Stouffer’s Lasagna every time I had a meal break, which would take the entirety of my break to heat up and then would be too hot to eat. So naturally I’d be late coming back to work. At the time I felt like a victim about all of this.
We continued down Hogansville Rd., and came to “downtown” Hogansville, which isn’t anything. I have a strange memory about deciding to try to drive my truck into the woods (ironically to impress a girl, I think. The coworker from Kroger!) just to see how far I could get. Or I may have been driving the old Buick Century that my Great Aunt Claude left me when she passed. Either way, I guess I made it out of those woods.
Man. That Buick. I wore that car out. I’m honestly not really sure what happened to it… I guess it just disintegrated. If you looked at the roof from the outside, you could see hundreds of dents going up, not down. Because I had a tendency to drive down the road punching my fist into the ceiling as hard as I could while listening to NOFX, Millencolin, NUFAN, etc. Not sure if that was anger or excitement. I’m glad to report I don’t do that anymore. Anyway, this was an excursion.
We kept driving and I started recognizing a lot of things I had not thought of in years and years. A particular house; a cinder block building; the way a small road turned off. The way is pretty much a straight shot, though at one point you have to veer to the left. I was surprised to instinctively know where that happened.
Interestingly, this is where I stopped writing last fall. So the rest of this is from my older (30 now!) more enlightened May 2014 perspective.
Veering off put us on LaGrange St, the street I lived on. As we drove, I recognized everything. It was as if the town had frozen in time. We came up on Reese St., so my old house was just two away. Pass the big faded yellow Victorian house that old Coot and Elaine lived in and… there it was.
It isn’t much to look at; just a simple brick ranch. I remember when we were first looking at the house. It had an in-ground pool in the back yard, which really is the most unlikely thing we would have had. We would have so many youth parties and birthday parties at that pool. There were also pecan trees and boy did we harvest them. When we were looking at the house for the first time, we heard a loud train and realized there were train tracks literally in the back yard. Nervous about this, my parents asked the owners how often the train ran. They said “not that often, it hasn’t run today.” When my parents told them it had just run and how could they not have heard it, they insisted that you get used to it and you stop hearing it. We found that to be true.
We lost many pets while living there. I mean, a few dogs and several cats and kittens. I’m amazed at people who grew up with one animal; we managed to go through them pretty quickly. They would get hit by a car, or eat something poisonous, or be mauled by neighborhood dogs. Or they would simply leave and not come back, which now that I consider it, was a wise choice.
I remember the cool youngish couple that lived next door. He let me play his video games. Pretty sure his dogs killed some of our cats. And on the other side of him were the sisters, Tiffany and Tabitha. Tabitha had a dimple in one cheek because she said she fell on a mounted deer head’s antlers and one poked through her cheek. Tiffany was my age and I crushed on her for a long time. My sister and I would camp in the back yard with Tiffany and Tabitha (they had a little brother, who apparently wasn’t very important to me.) And we would play “Truth or Dare” (with my sister!?!) and my sister would dare me to do scandalous things with Tiffany like pick her up and carry her around the tent.
Back to the present. Micah was driving the van, you remember. So he pulled into the driveway of my old house, wanting to go knock on the door. So… that’s what we did. And a crazy old northerner answered the door with a look of utter incredulity on his face like we better have a damn good reason for being there or he is going to beat us off his property with his cane. So I just dove right in, “Sorry to bother you mister, it’s just that I used to live in this house years ago when I was growing up, and I just wanted to see it. When he heard this, he softened, determining that my presence was justified. I say softened; really he was still a crazy old northerner with a crusty exterior. But he seemed to really want me to come inside and see every nook and cranny of the house. So we did.
Memories. Waves of memories crashing against the levees of my mind. Anna’s birthday party. Spencer and the matches. The day dad had to put Buster down. The mice (or rats) living in my bedroom closet, and the time Jesse the cat caught one just as I was going to sleep. The time Jennifer busted the window banging on it and cut up her arm and we thought she was going to die. So many memories.
After thanking the nice crazy old northerner, we got in the car and left. I really was speechless. I kept trying to talk about it but it was like I had a big lump in my throat and I was on the verge of tears. I couldn’t have been with better people besides Micah and Blair to process all of this with. I couldn’t put my finger on what I was finding difficult about all of this. I think it was partly just a lot of dusty memory files all being accessed at the same time, for the first time in a long time.
But I think a big part of the difficulty is that I spend my entire life developing a summary view of myself which is largely selective. I subconsciously decide what memories to drop and how much of what memories to keep more at hand. This summation of myself is not really very accurate as I tend to highlight my strengths and downplay my weaknesses. I remember myself as being a good, responsible, respectful kid who loved Jesus, cared for others, obeyed his parents, and always wanted to lead worship. But suddenly being confronted with actual data really shook my categories for how I viewed myself. I started to realize I wasn’t nearly as innocent as I had always thought. What about the kid who was so disrespectful and mean to his mother that she had nearly given up? What about the kid that looked at porn? Or the kid that didn’t stand up for his sister and show her love? Or the kid who was always playing with fire when it came to physical relationships with girlfriends? Or the kid who didn’t bat an eye at some of the most vulgar conversations with friends that even now make me blush? This list could go on. Because the flood of memories didn’t contain only good memories. Spread throughout were memories I’d rather stay locked up. I have far more to be ashamed of than I realize, and far less to be proud of than I’d have you believe.
It was about a five hour trip back to Charlotte. So we sat in silence some, and we talked some about the past.
I don’t have an easy take away from this trip other than perhaps the realization that people are far more complicated, I am far more complicated than I realized. I like to figure things out, and I like to think that I can figure people out. But people are such a wealth of shaping experiences, you cannot just summarize them in a brief bio.
The good news of all of this is that none of it is any surprise to Jesus, and he died for all of it. Every single thing I’ve done, the things I remember and the things I’ve conveniently forgotten, every single thing is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, O my soul!
So who am I? I’m a son; a bastard; a brother; a friend; an enemy; a husband; a lover; a failure; a success; a sinner; a saint. I’m all of these and I’m none of these because my identity is in Christ. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.