Friday, November 28, 2008

lost barn

Every school day for five years, from grades 8 through 12, I drove past this barn twice a day:


I don't really have any stories about it or anything. I've never been inside it, or even been closer to it than that picture from my summer trip this year, but it's a landmark for me. I get lost very easily and am a visual driver, so when I head to my parents' house there's kind of a mental checklist I follow whether I need it or not, and that barn is on there.

I noticed the other day that the barn is gone. It's been torn down, and there is only a small pile of wreckage. I made this observation disproportionately loudly, and rather than rolling her eyes my mom, who is used to her strange child, explained that whoever took it down had been very careful to remove all the aged, distressed wood and to salvage anything within. I guess I'm not the only one who noticed the barn.

My town changes. It seems odd to make that observation in light of what I wrote the other day, but it's true. New buildings go up, houses are painted a different color, somebody landscapes the park in the summer, but I only feel weirdly unsettled when things are taken down. It's probably a sign of my realization of my own mortality, or some such psychological crap, but when my landscape is different my brain worries at it like your tongue poking into the spot where a missing tooth used to be. The mental checklist now has a gap, a dead spot, and instead of driving past that barn I drive past the spot where that barn used to be. It's not an important difference, but it feels like it is.

I get the same feeling when people from high school or earlier contact me on facebook and myspace. All of the people I know and all of the places I know are pretty much frozen in the head since I last saw them, so now I find myself constantly caught off guard by missing barns and eighth grade classmates with four children. Someone wrote to me that I've changed completely, and I couldn't believe that was true. I know I've gotten fatter and I used to have hair but other than that I have trouble pointing to any aspect of myself now and thinking, "That part of me was totally different ten years ago."

I realize that some things are different, but I've lived with them for so long that they don't register. They're no more surprising to me than the absence of a barn that was torn down three months ago is to mom, but that's because I lack the outside perspective. It's weird to think that I'm someone else's missing barn, but it seems to be true.


stanford said...

I remember that barn. Great post.

JMBower said...

whoa...that barn is gone?

I agree re: facebook. There are a couple folks I'm happy to be in touch with. But there's a reassuring opacity that comes with the space and time that separates us from days o' yore. To have that suddenly swept aside and the past brought into close proximity with the present...never fails to weird me out.