Once upon a time, when I was visiting Berlin, a woman remarked upon the Oregon acreage I used to call home. She had also seen it, and she said that it reminded her “of East Germany before the wall came down.” People staying in the same spot and doing the same things with a sort of pastoral un-commercialism that was at least mildly baffling, I think she meant. I considered her comparison a stretch, until this last weekend.

Then my sister and two of my brothers and I went back to our old haunts, or old church. We sat in the sanctuary and watched the friends of our youth walk in with their own children. Our old neighbors, four blonde girls, had grown up (moved to Romania and back) and were still, in their twenties, sitting all in a row together. The same lady (Mrs. Rogers) played the piano. The same fellow (Guy) was running youth group. The last pew on the right-hand side was filled with the same old parishioners. One (Gaillord) was having his 91st birthday, and we ate cake in the fellowship hall after church to celebrate. They claimed that I had not changed, either: “you’re still as skinny as a rail,” remarked a friend I had not seen in 7 years. But yes, I have changed in 7 years. I forget sometimes, until I re-visit my childhood.