In early summer the kids and I rode bikes down roads I know so well in the town where we spend our summers. It was fun and freeing after a long, hard winter. We smiled, laughed and enjoyed.I felt at home and at peace.
But then something happened. Maybe it was the poison ivy that spread all over my body. Maybe it was not being able to ride bikes for more than 10 days. Maybe it was just a mid-summer thing. But the contented happiness of early summer gave way to wondering if I would ever feel at home in the place where I live again.
That town where we spend summers will always be home, but what about where we live for the rest of the year? Will that ever be home?
When I was in high school, my family moved from the populous area where I was born to a tiny town at the outskirts of our county. It was charming, the kind of place that has a Main Street lined with shops and little eateries. When we were deciding to move there, my mom and I had lunch in one of those eateries and it just seemed so nice.
Still, nothing had ever prepared me for life in such a small town. Everyone knew everyone. When you went into a store, you were guaranteed to run into someone you knew. My high school classmates rang us out at the grocery store and prepared gallons of paint for us at the hardware store. They were the ones who filled bakery boxes at the town’s one bakery and responded to 911 calls (the ones who were over 18, of course).
It was truly small town living. Heck, half the town was related to each other in some way. As much as I enjoyed high school there, I just wasn’t as at home in that town as others who’d been there for much longer. I didn’t share their memories of elementary school together. I didn’t know about the cool places to hang out (were there any?) or who’d left the school for private ones. Before I came, friends had come and gone. Lives had been lived. And I was just the new girl in town.
Over the summer, I discovered a Facebook group honoring that town. Like many others in the “You know you are from xx if…” vein, people flocked to it to reminisce about times past and how things used to be. At first, it was so sweet reading through the posts and seeing all the history the town’s residents share. Many still live there. A few have moved away.
But then it got to me a little — Though that’s where I learned to drive, discovered journalism, tasted freedom, had my first kiss and lived through my first break-up, there is so much that I don’t know about the place. I lived there, but I was never from there and aside from moving back there for good, I never will be. That made me sad.
Moving didn’t bother me when I was young. It was a grand adventure that took me first to new streets then to a new town. Every move brought a new place to explore and learn about. But somehow I stopped desiring that change and exploration. Now, I have lived in the same house for seven years … but I know this isn’t the destination I wanted. I know that this house was meant to be a stop in the road, somewhere to spend a few years. Seven is way more than I ever expected.
But with my kids getting older, I also wonder what moving will be like for them? Will it rob them of a sense of place? Leave them longing for that comfort of growing up in one town and knowing it inside and out? Does any of this matter?
The town we live in now is a bigger than the one where I graduated from high school, though still small. Lots of people know each other. It’s rare that I go to the grocery store without seeing someone I know. Sometimes, that someone is from my own family since several of us live here. The farmers market draws people far and near, but I also see the same people I know — the farmers, the neighbors, the friends, my family.
I like where I am. It’s a picturesque rural town – the kind where you see cows grazing and live down the street from your neighbors. We have family here. But I am not sure this is the place where I want to settle forever. I am not sure this is the place where I want my kids to have that sense of home. I just don’t know.
Category: Writing Exercises