After living for five years in somewhat rural Northwest Arkansas in the 1980s, trying to see if we could make a go of living on rural land, we left, and moved back to New York State. We never returned.
In the meantime, time passed, both for us and for Northwest Arkansas.
In upstate New York, we grew older, I gave birth to, and we raised, a son, and my hair turned grey. (I like to think that having my son had something to do with the grey hair- only kidding.)
Meanwhile, in Arkansas, time did not stand still, although my memories did.
Wal-Mart,headquartered in Northwest Arkansas, became hugely successful, as did other Northwest Arkansas businesses such as J.B. Hunt (trucking) and Tyson (chicken). Populations doubled and even tripled. An interstate was built.
And, about five years ago, I started wanting to go back to Arkansas, just to see what had happened, what had changed, what had gotten better, what had gotten worse.
Tonight, I returned.
Be careful of what you ask for. I knew intellectually what progress had done. I had not seen it though, through my eyes and my heart, not until tonight.
Have you ever heard the song "My City Was Gone" by the Pretenders?
Years ago, I returned to Orlando, FL after 30 years and had seen a sleepy city replaced by tall buildings and superhighways. But I had never lived there and my heart hadn't been invested in it.
Arkansas is different. Right now, I am in shock, and even a little bit in tears. I'll explain more later this week.
I know tomorrow will be different. I will just pretend, perhaps, that I was never here, ever before.....and I will have to accept the change. Not like, no. But accept. Yes, I have no choice.