LexPatriate Heather C. Watson Moves Back to Lex (p18)

LexPatriate Heather C. Watson Moves Back to Lex (p18)

[Page 18 of the July 2 issue of Ace, on stands now.]
Lexpatriate Moves Back
by Heather C. Watson

We moved back to Lexington last weekend, after nearly six years away. My fiancé and I always knew that we’d come home, but were never sure what circumstances or time frame would finally bring us here. As we waited for the perfect scenario, we built up a halcyon image of the perfect Chevy Chase house, one in which our Labrador would skip across the yard with our friends’ children on our surprisingly frequent days off from our respective power jobs. While the exact details of our homecoming aren’t quite so idyllic, we were still pretty excited when an opportunity presented itself. We were thrilled to be
closer to our family and friends, and loved the idea of finally coming home.

It’s an odd feeling, moving home. To speak in an utter cliché, everything is the same, only it’s totally different. Over the weekend, we attempted to navigate the side streets we once knew so well; we were more than a little dismayed to find that we didn’t remember these routes straight away. Wilson-Downing runs into Tates Creek Center pretty quickly, we were forced to recall, and the Reynolds Road turnabout is even more of a deathtrap than ever. We even did the annoying “old-timer” thing of referring to places by their previous names; the store now known as Macy’s may have been called both Lazarus and Shillito’s in the midst of our animated conversations.

On Saturday, we managed to cram both a lunch at Ramsey’s and dinner at Joe Bologna’s into the same day, an act we justified by noting the intense rate of calories burned by unpacking. We stopped ourselves from hitting the complex-carb trifecta that would have resulted from a Graeter’s dessert, but it is next on the list, along with Pazzo’s, Joseph-Beth and the Junior League Horse Show. As we ran our errands, we pointed out sites that stirred memories of friends and classmates. We remembered favorite dive Chinese restaurants with Proustian attention to detail. We discussed minute details of long-ago fraternity formals and football games. We fondly remembered the Lexington of the mid-nineties. It was as though the ’98 Championship party at Lynagh’s, the Tim Couch era and fun nights at Blues on Broadway were all just around the corner. Once the sheen of youthful memory and the carbohydrate-induced coma wore off, I looked around to see that a lot of things had changed since those days. Hamburg City, it seems, now has its own area code. The downtown
area now boasts an entire new row of bars and restaurants that cater to the “new Courthouse” crowd. Pretty new condo buildings are everywhere. There are far more cosmopolitan lounge-style restaurants and a Malone’s on every corner. And there’s a curious hole where Buster’s and Joe Rosenberg’s used to be.
Lexington has changed, and so have I.

One of my most treasured keepsakes is a photograph of myself at age sixteen, striking a touristy “view of New York” pose on the Observation Deck of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. A second, similarly beloved, photo sits close by, this one depicting my twenty-something self wearing an
elaborate Halloween costume and sitting on the patio at the old Mia’s, where that curious downtown sinkhole now resides. Even though the very sight of these pictures makes me cringe — the former is all mall bangs and hot pink leggings, while the latter exhibits painstakingly researched 1920s-style makeup guaranteed to render me the most realistic Flapper at the party — these photos provide a striking visual reminder that you can never truly go back to your past. This sentiment is particularly true of moving back home. Just because I moved back to a town where I used to live, things won’t necessarily be the way I remember them.

As soon as my name went on my new mailbox, I ceased being a dreamy tourist and once again became a Lexingtonian. In order to be professionally viable and personally satisfied within my new old hometown, I need to consider the city’s current reality instead of the pretty memories I’ve created. Lexington is shifting every day in ways large and small.

There is a strong trend toward greater government transparency, as more Council Members and mayoral hopefuls communicate
with the populace every day via Facebook and Twitter. There is a strong sense that the city and state government must explore more dynamic and creative means for generating revenue in the light of the nation’s current economic climate. It is a time when, more than ever, I feel that I have the
means and opportunity to make my voice heard. There is strong evidence that the city’s economy needs to move beyond our beloved
thoroughbred industry, augmenting that tradition with a signature industry for the twenty- first century. It is both an exhilarating and terrifying time to move home. Have I moved back to the sleepy, conservative hamlet of my youth or a town on the verge of an industrial breakthrough? I’m not sure yet. But I’m excited to find out. â–

Ace writer Heather C. Watson holds degrees from Transylvania University and UK. She recently moved back to Lexington with her fiancé, Bob
and their black lab, Max. They could use some help unpacking.