Yestertown September 2, 2022

{Photo by Leah Stark for Scopio}

Recently I sold a soul-cottage I built in 2007 on the cusp of Oregon, 15 minutes’ drive from the beach, and bought a small house in a town I vacated in 2004, vowing never to return. Yet return, I have. Health and allergies eventually drove me from my coastal-rainforest refuge. But why return to Yestertown—as I’ve come to think of the new old town? So much history trails me in this place. That may be the point, I suppose: homecoming—at a time when I’ve relearned home and its value; how to build something new in an old place. My aging parents live in Yestertown, as do my closest nieces and nephews. Perhaps most importantly, my husband has ties to the place and wishes to live there whenever we leave the farm we reside on now, 20 minutes from Yestertown. And in myriad ways, the place has become more interesting over time.

When I came to Yestertown, I was 17, a college freshman with an overzealous sense of adventure and a penchant for falling head-long into toxic love. Nutshell rendition finds me married at 18 in an abusive relationship that, in time, left me thinking I was stronger-through-adversity when in fact I’d stashed trauma in parts of my body that manifested chronic illness undiagnosed for years. Birthed daughter at 21; first divorce at 23. After leaving that relationship, I resided in Yestertown another decade before vacating. Yestertown is where I was broken and where I started putting myself back together. But all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not reconstruct my spirit. For that, I needed refuge; and for many years, I found it in a coastal woods.

The other day as I listened to Spotify, a recent song addition came on that I may have sampled once before adding—but a song I’d not heard for decades. Howard Jones (a favorite artist of 1986-7), “Hide and Seek.” For me, music is visceral, clutching to memory like a steady fist, and such is true, apparently, of this song. When the chorus came on, I started to weep! Tears completely unbidden and surprising. I lay on the couch working on my computer when suddenly I couldn’t see the screen and reached for a tissue to wipe my eyes. It was like my 17-year-old heart was re-hearing that song, and every ounce of her longing, hopes and dreams came flooding back, but in their wake, realization of the devastation visited on her life later that year, 1987, and for six years to come, with a slaying of her spirit and the quickening encroachment of illness.

Hide and Seek, by Howard Jones

{CHORUS} Hope you find it in everything, everything that you see
Hope you find it in everything, everything that you see
Hope you find it, hope you find it; Hope you find me in you

{VERSE 2} So she had built her elaborate home with it’s ups and it’s downs,
its rain and its sun. She decided that her work was done, time to have fun;
and she found a game to play

Then as part of the game, she completely forgot where she’d hidden herself
And she spent the rest of her time trying to find the parts

{CHORUS} Hope you find it in everything, everything that you see
Hope you find it in everything, everything that you see
Hope you find it, hope you find it; Hope you find me in you

How telling, those tears! How much I lost in Yestertown! Am I returning to Yestertown as a more mature (and emotionally whole) person to find and reclaim what was lost? Those who know me from this column or who know me in fact, know I have a soft spot for returning to the old. Ancient ways. Traditions. Old ties. I may not agree with the old ideas, but I still want to walk the old pathways, because doing so unites us with others in ways we need to be united and connected. Moving back to the town of my family, the history of my younger-adult self, is weighty. It is a way of bridging separateness, of reclaiming all of me, including the parts that were broken, to integrate them back into the me that puts her middle-aged feet down on once abandoned but still familiar streets. It is a way of being close to family at a time they might need me and I might need them. My family is not perfect. Various family members disagree on many things. But we are a family. When we jettison our places of connection as modern people do, as I did when I moved to the coast—as we sometimes absolutely need to do for reasons emotional or economic, we do sever ties. Part of my return to Yestertown involves willingness to repair those ties.

To the 17-year-old in me moving back to Yestertown, I say: I hope you find it. I hope you find the parts of yourself you hid out of shame—under beds, behind bushes along well-worn paths, along streets and in buildings still haunted. I hope you find the broken threads and repair them, or at least tie onto them filaments that are stronger and more established, so the threads can carry you on from here.


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