Monday, January 28, 2008

You Can't Go Home Again

"You can't go home again."
~ Thomas Wolfe

Well, you can, but it won't be the same. Romie and I drove a short distance away to my hometown Sunday afternoon. We did this to see just how much of it was still the way I remembered from when I grew up there. Sadly, not much. But by the time we left for home, I counted it as a good experience anyway.

When I was born, my parents owned a grocery store, custom butchering and locker service, and a beauty shop. They were all contained within a large stone block building that had an apartment on the second (top) floor. That's where we lived. A couple of years ago, the building was torn down and now it's an empty lot.

Across the street, there was another grocery store and it's been torn down, too. The post office is still there and has changed very little from the time I used to go in and open the combination lock to get our mail from Box 15.The one-room building is beige now; it was light green then.

A few blocks away, there was what we called "The Old School." Both of my parents graduated from this school, which closed in the late 1950s, the year before I was born. It was a great place to play, even though it was kept locked and we weren't supposed to go in there. Leave it to us kids to find a way to get in through a basement window. Imagine having the run of a three-story school building with a full-size gymnasium!

After the school was closed in 1956, the building was rented out for various activities, one of which was Vacation Bible School. There were two churches in town, the Methodist and the Baptist, and the two combined to do VBS every summer. The Baptist church has since been torn down, and so has The Old School. Our family attended the Methodist church, which is still there and holds services every Sunday.

When I was three years old, my parents built a new house three blocks away from the store and Mom's beauty shop was relocated to that house. I had the best of both worlds - a mom that worked so we could have some of those 'extras,' yet she was home and always available to me. I lived there until I got married.

That new house is now nearly fifty years old (!) and still there, although it's changed due to an addition the current owners built several years ago. Grandma lived next to us in a house she built in 1969 after my Grandpa died. That house looks pretty much the same as it did when she lived there.

A block away, the ball diamond still is in place, though it doesn't look like it's used like it was when I played softball there. There aren't even any bleachers for sitting to watch games. I learned to drive on that ball field when Dad let me drive his red "three on the tree" truck around the outfield.

You may have guessed by now that my hometown is quite small and you would be correct. There's only one road in and out and no stop lights. It's one of those "don't blink or you'll miss it" kind of towns. When I lived there, the only stop signs were for Main Street. The other intersections all had yield signs, which have since been replaced with stop signs.

There used to be a railroad that went through town and my next-door neighbor, Kelly, and I used to walk it, picking wild strawberries which grew along the tracks. We even made maps of the location of the strawberry patches. The railroad was taken out some years ago and in most places you can't even see where it used to be. But just to the south of the clay pond, once used by the clay tile factory that now produces plastic drainage tile, evidence of the former train tracks is still there.

Romie and I got out of the car and walked the path between the small trees and brush and it was here that we got the most enjoyment from our visit. We saw many birds enjoying the seeds hanging from the brown and dried plants along the path. There were many blue jays and cardinals and while I didn't actually see any woodpeckers, we did hear them as they pecked away in the trees.

What once were tracks used by trains now has tracks made by small residents of this area that Mother Nature has begun to reclaim.

Strawberries still grow here!

There are many wild roses clambering all over the place with beautiful little rose hips providing a spot of red color in the midst of the winter browns.

Praying mantis cases were found among the roses, too.

We saw Trumpet Vine seed pods, some still loaded with seeds.

Other unknown seed pods were seen, too. These very slender ones were about six inches long and about a quarter-inch in diameter. Anyone know what these might be?

These unknown wildflowers were plentiful and beautiful, wearing their winter suits.

Someone who loved B.T. had been here before us. I wonder if they still love B.T.?

Doesn't this look a bit like Lamb's Ear? It felt like it, too.

As we walked back to the car, I realized that even though much is gone from this little village of less than 200 residents, loss was not the only change we saw. A large business occupies the property next to the drainage tile factory and wasn't there in "my day." Several streets have been extended to accomodate newer houses that have been built. There are two public parks that weren't there before.

The hometown I knew lives only in my mind, but I don't look the same as I did back then, either.


Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a nice post. It looks as if you had a good day in your home town. I bet everything seemed larger when you lived there.

Mamma Sarah said...

Great story about your hometown. :-)

Nancy J. Bond said...

Trips like this are always so bittersweet. :) The small village where I grew up and lived for most of my life has seen many changes as well. But as you pointed out -- so have I! :)

Anonymous said...

The seeds look like they might be a catalpa tree
but I would normally expect the tree to be larger before it had seed pods.

Rusty in Miami said...

Great post, it made me nostalgic of my home town in the island of Cuba

Kylee Baumle said...

Lisa ~ Actually, nothing seems smaller now. The clay pond looks bigger than I remember it!

Mamma Sarah ~ Thanks! It was a pretty fun way to spend the afternoon.

Nancy ~ We still live close to my hometown, so I knew most of these changes had taken place over the years. I'd just never gone through town and looked at it through my "little girl glasses" before.

Planting Oaks ~ I think you could be right. They're common around here.

Shady Gardener said...

Beautiful post. Sometimes I drive by the hometown, too. Our family may have a little reunion there next year. Same type of story... 3 story school is gone, 2 of the three(!) churches are gone, the variety store, the locker, etc. are gone. And my home is gone. But, there's still the church we attended, my gardening aunt, and memories. :-) Thank you.

PLUS, you found a praying mantis egg sac! I'm impressed.

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

How nice to see the little village you grew up in. Less than 200 residents, sounds great to me. ;-)

Thanks for this trip down memory lane Kylee and you don't look all that different to me; still darn cute, I'd say. ;-)

Unknown said...

Welcome to my world... I feel that same sense of not-quite-familiarness every time I go home, it seems. Something always changes...

Those felty leaves are verbascum, I think.

Connie said...

Wow, about nostalgia!
This reminds me of my own small hometown in N. Dak. which I just drove through earlier this month when I was there to visit my Dad on the farm. So many vacant buildings and our former school is now closed as well.
The plant that reminded you of Lamb's Ears is Mullien, a useful herb for respiratory aliments. (I've also heard it called "farmer's helper" as it's softness lends to it's use in pinch as toilet paper.) :-)

Anonymous said...

Nothing like going back to where you grew up, especially when the memories are good ones. Makes me want to take a drive to my home town.

Kylee Baumle said...

Rusty ~ Welcome to Our Little Acre! I've never been to Cuba, but I have flown over it.

Shady Gardener ~ I go by or through my hometown at least once a week, because it's so nearby, but rarely do I do a proper visit, so I thought it was time!
We find praying mantis egg sacs all the time. We've got many at Our Little Acre.

Yolanda Elizabet ~ Awww, thanks, YE. That's one of my favorite photos of myself as a little girl. It was taken at my grandparents' farm, where I spent a LOT of time and was the location of my very first garden. (I must do a post on that soon!) Their farm was just outside my hometown, too.

Kim ~ It actually does seem familiar to me in a way, because I live near it still and I run into people that still live in town that lived there when I did. I was kind of shocked when we drove through town and took stock of all the changes as a whole.
Verbascum/Mullein - I think you're right!

Connie ~ You know, I wouldn't trade my midwestern small town upbringing for anything anywhere. I had a wonderful childhood.
Oh goodness - Farmer's helper. LOL! I can see that, though. Nature's Cottonelle!

vonlafin ~ Do it! It was a fun way to spend the afternoon. It makes you think of things you hadn't thought of for years.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Actually, I think your hometown has fared much better than others. So many small towns around here have been "suburbanized," the cornfields turned to cookie-cutter subdivisions and stripmalls with big box stores. (Like the Pretender's song about Ohio.) Thanks for the trip down your memory lane.

joey said...

Besides dental hygiene, we have something else in common, Kylee. Enjoyed my visit to your hometown, which looks much like mine and about the same size, 200 residents (summer more with migrant workers and cottagers on the bay).

We lived behind a drugstore/ barbershop where all hung out gossiping & guzzling coffee at the counter. I'm sure you spent as many hours walking the train tracks as I did! Ah ... sweet memories!

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