On June 19, 2001 I was born in High Wycombe, England. However, my dreams of being the sixth member of One Direction were shattered when my family moved me to Grand Blanc, Michigan at just over three months old. Grand Blanc is a smallish town just a few minutes south of Flint. With a population of just over 30,000 and a non-existent center, I learned quite early on that community is a connection to the outside world. I have fond memories of growing up in Grand Blanc – both in terms of spending time with my friends and finding things to do within my community.
In 2014, just after my thirteenth birthday, I moved again, this time to Charlotte, North Carolina. I abolished small towns and was also one of the few brown men in my school. I traded in my Pistons jersey for a Hornets shirt, and I traded my experiences of living in Grand Blanc for living in the US’s 16th largest city and attending a crowded high school in a growing city. Moving in the middle of your childhood always defines your childhood, but I adapted quickly. Yet the memory of Grand Blanc never faded. I’ve never forgotten my Michigander roots, and shortly after my move I always made it a point to bring up how much better the North was. Even today when I’m faced with North Carolina snow, I love making vile comments about how I’m “built differently” because the North raised me. I always remember my ties to Grand Blanc.
However, I’ve never been there. The drive from Charlotte to Grand Blanc takes nearly 11 hours and plane tickets were out of reach before I ever started making my own money. So I just decided to move on. Sure, I tried to keep in touch with my old friends, but correspondence becomes quite difficult to maintain over time, so we lost touch. That’s why I was surprised when my childhood best friend sent me a DM on Instagram asking if I wanted to go to Grand Blanc for a weekend. I immediately booked my plane tickets to Flint Bishop Airport.
Flying to Flint abruptly is probably one of the most spontaneous things I’ve ever done, but I literally dreamed of reuniting with my childhood friends, flipping through old elementary school yearbooks and reviving old memories – and that’s exactly what we ended up doing. did . My friends and I picked up where we left off, as if there hadn’t been eight years since we last spoke.
My buddy then offered to drive me around the Grand Blanc to show me all the relics of my childhood where I took him. From the passenger seat, I then had firsthand how my hometown had changed over the past decade. It was strange to see what I remembered and what had changed. The blockbuster I spent my Fridays in was long gone. They built new hangout spots for kids to hang out in, where I certainly would have spent most of my time had I never moved.
As we drove past my childhood home, it dawned on me that all I had left of the Grand Blanc were faded memories of a life I hadn’t parted from for a long time. The new inhabitants of my old house had made it their own, but for me it was still mine House. This was the ramp where I first learned to ride a bike, where I learned to skateboard, where I had endless snowball fights with my brother. When I drove around after that, it finally coped with the fact that life went on after I left. Then we went to our old primary school, but I couldn’t shake the feeling. The playground looked exactly as I had left it, but it was no longer mine.
Grand Blanc had moved on without me, and I finally realized it. However, it gave me the closure I definitely needed. Grand Blanc continued, and so did I. As spontaneous as it was, I’m glad I made the trip. Chilling with my childhood friends was such an amazing experience, and hey, now I don’t feel the urge to look up my old house on Google Earth. Grand Blanc is no longer mine, but I’m happy to leave it in good hands.
— Rhys Banerjee, music beat writer