Astrologers claim that time and place of birth are so important because a baby emerging from the womb opens its eyes to the universe from a very precise vantage point. So too do newly arrived, upwardly or laterally mobile émigrés lock in their coordinates at the first sighting of their next new world.

That first sense of welcoming place anchors the impressionable newcomer eager to fit in and settle down. The lost, abandoned or rejected old world- too cold, hot, open ended or closed minded- is locked as well, somewhere between embarrassment and nostalgia. Regret comes later, if it comes at all. The older world will beckon from time to time- weddings, reunions, deaths- but it is the new place that now holds all that the stars promise of love, career and prosperity. All hopes of belonging grow from that first view of town, for that is the particular town that that particular newcomer discovered and chose. It is the lasting image of here at last.

Local history is significant then only to the degree that it justifies the metes and bounds of that town at that moment, only if it proves the inevitability of that place as the best place in which to live and prosper. History has a supporting role in validating the choice; it is there to prove that all roads led to that town. It is there to prove that the newcomer’s arrival completed the town.

For the newcomer, change is the villain, a shifting of time and place away from that anchoring first impression. Change recalculates the original conclusion, casting doubt on the finality of first impressions. History may explain how the cow path grew into the four-lane blacktop that the newcomer arrived on, but post-arrival history cannot be trusted. It is a history that grows to include the newcomer’s comings and goings, implicating him as both cause and affect- accessory and agent- of change. When history observes that traffic has grown to six lanes, history is pointing a finger at the newcomer.

And so newcomers argue incessantly, decade after decade- each trying to control the telling, recording and remembering of history- to both substantiate their first impressions and to prove what seems so perfectly obvious to themselves, that they were already here when they first arrived.