Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In my hometown...

"From my hometown, memories are fresh
From my hometown, the people I've met
Are the wonders of my world"
Hometown Glory, Adele

Today I was in traffic trying to get home on our 2 lane highway and decided to take a shortcut through the one-stoplight town where I grew up and spent most of my childhood. I'm not the best descriptive writer, but when I think of that little town, I remember it in summer...

The summers of my youth were filled with bicycling from my parents' old farmhouse to my grandparents' house. My grandfather was good friends with the man who owned the local general-type store that would later become more of a convenience store/gas station. I would hop on my pink huffy bicycle and pedal through the field that ran from the back of our house to the back of "the store" as we called it. My grandfather had already given my brother and me 2 dollars each: one for a drink and one for a snack. We would pedal as furiously as we could, trying to reach the store as quickly as possible, taking care to have enough momentum to cross the railroad tracks without having to push the bicycle.

The store itself was a place where old men would play checkers, and at one time there was a Pac-Man machine. I would beg my grandmother for 2 quarters just so I could lose in the first round. We drank glass-bottle Cokes and sort our M&Ms by color, knowing full well they would all taste the same in the end. The man who owned the store knew us by name, and always took our $2, even if it wasn't enough to cover what we placed on the counter. He kept a tab for my grandfather instead. The place was larger than life to me in those years, and I cherish that memory to this day.

Today, I drove by that store and was disappointed to see it closed down and looking dilapidated. I didn't realize until today how long ago those summer days were, how long my grandparents have been resting in the cemetery across town. But just one look and I'm back in that store, losing at Pac-Man, pedaling that pink bicycle with every ounce of energy I had.

Those days are long gone, but the memories will be with me forever. In a classic small-town manner, the construction of a new section of highway completely bypassed my hometown, causing its economic death. All that remains are two churches, one gas station (the one we were never allowed to be in when we were young), and the post office. Everything else that I remember being so big to me is run down and closed. This town was not cared for as I had hoped, and through no fault of its own (because who would move there given the current condition) has declined so fiercely that it brings tears to my eyes just to think of it.

The drive today was bittersweet. I will never forget the people of that store, the people of that town. Many of them are no longer with us but their kindness lives on through me, through my brother, through the stories we will tell our children. How lucky I was to have that time in my life.

1 comment:

Becky said...

You described your home town in present and past with such emotion. A wonderful piece.