Posted by: Amanda | January 26, 2011

Dumping the past

Breaking up is hard to do. Probably we’ve all done it in some way. It often goes something like this:

Jane: I think we should be friends.
Dick: Friends with benefits?

Jane is ready to move on. She doesn’t really want to be friends. She’s just saying that she does to soften the blow a bit, to take the edge off of “I don’t like you,” but we all know that. Probably, even Dick knows that. But, he wants to hang on to the past a little while longer. Even if he can’t have Jane exclusively, he wants to have some parts of her, the friendship and mostly the benefits.

I fell for the friends-with-benefits trap one time. My heart broke as I told a guy the classic, “Let’s still be friends.” His heart thumped, I’m sure, as I became a friend with benefits.

But, it became a tangled mess quickly. Because what I’ve learned about breaking up is that if you don’t do it right the first time, you have to do it again. And perhaps again. And maybe one more time.

There’s been some activity recently among some of my Facebook friends who hail from the same hometown as I. I’m getting lots of messages in my Facebook inbox about restoring this speck of a place on Highway 72 to its “golden years” state. When I lived there, roughly from 1979 until 2000, the place certainly wasn’t in its golden years. My parents grew up there, too, and told some stories of fun times like going to a drive-in theater or having root beer floats at a soda fountain. This place did not have those things when I was there.

Part of a homecoming parade in my old hometown.

Let me offer a few disclaimers before I launch into a slightly provocative discussion. First, do I have happy memories of my hometown? Yes, definitely. Second, do I want this town to disappear and never be seen again? No. Third, are there really great, awesome, fun people in this town? Yes. Her name is Lauren. Just kidding. There are many good, honest people in this town that I love.

What I feel about lingering too long in the past is kind of like lingering too long in a friends-with-benefits state. It doesn’t help anyone get over the bad and on with the good. If you try to take something that happened in a different time with different people and recreate it, you can quickly get a very deflated vibe. It’s also like hanging on to something that doesn’t exist anymore, a time and place that will never be again.

We can learn from the past. For instance, if Dick was never on time and that really bothered Jane, she should look for more punctual pals. But, if she always loved the way Dick made a big deal about her birthday, she should notice whether a new guy does or does not take notice. The same can go with trying to revive a town. If a soda fountain worked in 1972, would it work in 2010? What’s something kind of like a soda shop that might work today? If the town had issues with keeping litter off the street in the past, it could be time to form some stronger clean-up committees.

But, to try to constantly remember everything about the history of a place, to dwell on it, will create a feeling of loss and hopelessness because no one can get it back. And visitors will sense that desperation and recoil. And what people love most about the past are not the places but the people they had then, the people they loved. And, we can’t get those people back. What’s more important: the best milkshake ever or one more meal with the great grandmother who cooked everything you loved (and everything everyone else in the family loved) every time you came over to her warm house?

Should this town be great? Of course! Should people dedicate time to making it a better place to live? Yes, I think they should. But, I worry that too much focus on the past will only leave this place there, in the past.



  1. A. Dude, I didn’t know you were blogging again. B. That’s cool. I’m a fan of Martian Queen’s writing. C. Can I link to your blog? D. I’m with you on breaking up/moving on. But it’s sure tough when there’s 20-plus years of history. E. Awesome parade picture. Looks like a crazy party.

    • Yeah. I kind of started this one up again. How did you find it? I had never shared this blog before, so I spent some time deleting all the old posts and getting it presentable. You can link to me.

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