No Place for Happiness

I had a few cocktails with a hometown friend over the holiday. We met in a dark fancy bar as respite from family obligations and caught up a bit. This past year has been horrible and my depression has been unusually oppressive lately so it was a relief to see someone who knows me well. We could clear the cobwebs off of old stories, review them for a more historical perspective and recalibrate our memories accordingly.

Over the years, we have collectively met a wide variety of people so very different from the mostly working class yet still waspy folks we were raised around. I was remarking that my husband is so naturally sunny and I can’t help but think that it has something to do with his upbringing in the Southwest. When I wished out loud that I could be so optimistic my friend reminded me “You never will be. Ohioans don’t have time for that.”

If Don Draper taught us nothing else it’s that you can’t escape your past. You may look like you have, but it gets you in flashbacks and paybacks like it or not. It’s an itchy sweater type of trauma being from the Midwest; no one else can see it but you can feel it.

In many ways, my suburban hometown has changed so much since I was born there in the late 1960’s but really not more than the country has probably changed. I only really know the streets and strip malls and schools of my old hometown, everything else is just something that I saw on that week’s 60 minutes.

The tract home I grew up is almost the same. The lot hasn’t changed much except for the three different sugar maple trees that are no longer there. Two remain. There is the white stone Virgin Mary that my brother once painted with Gene Simmons eyes. The driveway gets a new coat of blacktop every other year.

I remember so vaguely hearing the Watergate hearings on a black and white TV in the same TV room that exists in 2017 with a 48” flat screen.  My dad watched in mostly silent meditation after he took a bus home. He always changed out of his suit the second he got home. My mom just made dinner “…tomorrow is another day, Scarlett.”

I hate my thick Midwestern body, my love of creamed food, my high alcohol tolerance. I want to be a cool west coaster with a happy disposition and perfect skin.  I want to see the possibilities.

When I was growing up, my hometown used to call itself “City of Pride”.  I guess the endless apartments and trashcans overflowing with crunchy Cheeto wrappers got the best of them and they changed the town motto to “Opportunity is Here”. See? We’re not all dead and some of us can work….oh screw it. Just notice our empty lots and build something, ok?

It’s actually nice to see the new distribution center and a few new buildings.

Suburban homes aren’t estates. They aren’t designed to be passed down. They are utilitarian structures, just like the suburbs themselves. People spend too much time dwelling in their pasts, putting the shine of memory on their experiences and pretending that they were happy. Only those of us gifted with depression are able to see that not everything was so great many years ago.

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