I used to climb this hill every day, but today it’s alien to me. When I regularly walked up here, it seemed constant. I didn’t notice the gradual changes: the paths becoming overgrown, the fresh landslips, the reroutes because the farmer has moved the bull. It’s only now, coming back after months away, that I realise how much the route changes.
I was away for too long. And now that I’m back, I feel an adventurer exploring my own home town.
How did it end up being so long? As my feet followed the familiar-yet-strange path, I tried to think back. When I first left home I had sworn I would come back regularly. Every other weekend. But after the first fortnight I didn’t feel like going — I hadn’t been away all that long. I said I’d be home to see my friends at Hallowe’en, but then there was a campus event on that I didn’t want to miss. They got it, a lot of them were in the same situation. And my dad’s birthday … well, he never does much to celebrate it anyway, and he said he didn’t mind.
I pass by a side path that leads back down towards town. I know it pretty well: it comes out by my old school. You could get through to it by pushing through the fence from the school field. We snuck out that way a couple of times. I think of my old friends, laughing as I got stuck trying to climb over. I haven’t spoken to half of them since I left.
Sam has been saying I should spend Easter at his parents house. Which will be lovely, of course, and I want to spend the holidays with him; but it means even less time at home, even less time with my friends and family.
I haven’t met his parents yet, but he’s met mine. They called in at the university, about halfway through term. They were “just passing by”, in the sense of the phrase that involves going half an hour out of their way. They took Sam and me out to dinner. Made a big fuss out of meeting him, and made a big fuss out of getting to see me. I rolled my eyes at dad saying I looked tired, mum asking if I was eating properly. I’m glad they came.
I keep on higher through the trees, until I reach a clearing on top of the hill. For a long time I stand there, looking down. I can see the town spread out in the valley. I can see my old school, and the house that I grew up in. There are a few things in the view that have changed since I was last here: a few houses more houses have gone up in the building site on the edge of town. But the town is mostly the same as it was when I was a child. When I walk back down the hill and go back to the house, it’ll still be warm and cosy; my parents will still be there, still happy to see me.
I’m starting to feel cold on the hilltop, so I start to retrace my steps back towards the path that I came up by. I’m thinking about the Easter holidays. Maybe I will go to stay with Sam after all. In exchange, perhaps he’ll come to stay with my parents this summer. It’ll be good for both of us to spend some time with my parents, I think. He can meet my old schoolfriends, too; and maybe one afternoon I’ll show him the hill I used to climb when I was a child.
Perhaps I’ve been thinking about this wrong. The world will change, and there’s nothing I can do about that. But the fact that they change doesn’t mean that they go away. My parents won’t always treat me like a child, but they’ll always treat me like their child. Relationships change, but that doesn’t mean they break. And as the old changes to new, we explore the new together.