They say you can't go home again. But I'm going to try. For most of my childhood and my early adult life I was homesick for North Platte. That's North Platte Nebraska, slightly west of the center of the state. Sitting on the High Plains 3000 feet above sea level on what was once the undulating floor of an ancient ocean, bisected by the Union Pacific mainline, it's home to about 25,000 people. It was once home to Buffalo Bill Cody. It was also my home from my first birthday until one day in late September, 1957, when our '49 Chevy pulled away from 310 South Willow and headed east on Highway 30. We were headed to a new home and a new life in the New Jersey suburbs of New York City. I think of it as moving from the Little House on the Prairie to Mad Men; the culture shock was awful. For the next few years, I would lie in my bed in my darkened bedroom and cry, praying fervently that when I woke up it would be a dream like in the Wizard of Oz and I would be back in North Platte with all my friends. It never happened.
When I was 12, we moved again, to Connecticut. Another small town and once again, the new kid in school. Living there, but never really at home. I fantasized about going to Midland College in Fremont, Nebraska where I was born while my father had gone to school on the G.I. Bill. But instead, I went to Syracuse University, fell in love, and lived my life, year-by-year, moving from upstate New York, to Rhode Island, and finally Maryland. This has been my home for forty years, yet when people ask, I still say I am from Nebraska.
Is been 59 years since I left North Platte. The eight-year-old has grown up and is growing older. I am wondering what would have it been like to stay in North Platte? Who would I be? What part of me really comes from there?
So on Tuesday, I fly halfway across the country, rent a pick up a rental car in Denver, and drive home to North Platte. Not home forever, but home for 3 1/2 weeks. I have no idea what I'll find...or who. Stay tuned.