I just spent the weekend in what I consider my hometown of Columbia, Maryland, staying at the home of my best friend from high school. I was there on my book tour for Red Goddess Rising, squashing three Baltimore area events into less than three days. And I was bringing Greg with me for the first time in eight years. He had already survived my 20th high school reunion, so I knew he liked my best friend, but what was I going to do with him for a whole weekend where all he had in common with anyone was… me? I began to worry that he would hate it, and that after he heard enough stories about my teen years as a rebel and a generally selfish person, that he would hate me, too.

Driving down the back roads of Columbia, some of them still mercifully undeveloped farmlands, I thought about my favorite experiences as a child in this town, how it shaped me into the person I am today. The Bicentennial Celebration next to the evocative statue lovingly referred to as the people tree. Winning a special prize in a local dollhouse contest because I was the youngest entrant, and the surprised look from the author who recognized that she had written the book I had taken my designs from. The Passover and Seder dinners at the home of our next-door neighbors, who attempted to ground me in the Jewish religion to counteract my father’s atheism. The drive to and from school past the big old white Victorian home that made me want to own my own special house when I grew up.

Deer in the Yard © Charles Wilgren, Flickr

On Sunday, pulling out of a little culdesac, a buck deer ran right past the front door and around the corner of a house. I watched as its strong, fast legs paced our car and thought about the power of this single creature and our ability to move from one place to another, both physically and in our minds. I can see the deer as a nuisance and a danger, or I can see him as magnificent.

I can see myself as who I was, and continue to beat myself up for it, or I can see myself as who I am today, or better yet, who I want to be. For us as humans, we alone seem to have the ability to evolve past the instinct we are born with into something greater.

Being back in Columbia made me realize that I have truly grown up. The friends I still have there have evolved with me – the others long fallen by the wayside. As easily as that deer ran down the lawn, I have moved out of the old, selfish version of me and into a new one where I welcome love and understanding and try to give them back. Okay, I don’t succeed all the time – I am evolving, after all – but I can still strive for eventual perfection in this regard.

Greg had a wonderful time that weekend; he enjoyed my friends, even some of the old stories. And I learned that who I was informed who I am today, but it is no longer me. You can’t go home again… thank God.

PS. Thanks bunches to Dottie, Jules, and Daniel for putting up with me all these long years…I love you all dearly.