The Hometown Precedent (I’m Baaaaaaack!)

I’m back again from hometown, a 7-hour drive that leaves me ample time for thought—and I’ve done it twice in the past month.  I pretty much have only family left in the town.  Most of my classmates have flown the Illinois coop on a big glacial moraine, one that looms over the corn and soybean desert.  Only two of my nine cousins still live there, but my dad and his four brothers have never left the town for long.  They were the reason for this visit.  My dad and his doctor brother were co-winners of an essay contest that earned them the honor of being parade marshals, for a celebration of undoing the Urban Renewal of the 70s (funded partly by the American Investment and Recovery Act–such delicious irony) and returning The Square to a square (it’s required that every “ville” in Illinois has one of these).

My hometown has streets lined with sprawling old wooden houses, streets shaded by large trees that bloom in the springtime and drop piles of large, crispy leaves in the fall, lots of heat and humidity in the summer, and the air is filled with the unmistakable smell of corn—and maybe soybeans, though I could never quite isolate that.  It’s not as neat as towns farther north, and it has some clearly dangerous areas where I dared not ride my bike as a little girl.  The summer heat tends to bake concrete sidewalks into a dangerous crumble that trips up bicyclists (I have the scars and broken teeth to prove that), but it bubbles up the tar in the streets into tidy, irresistible, finger-sized bubbles that are extremely satisfying to push back to their origins.  It was a fun, messy childhood!

I often try to understand the difference between the life I expected to have as I grew up and the life I lead now.  Are the differences a matter of a child’s perspective versus the reality of adulthood?  There is a huge difference between that life and my present one, and I don’t think it’s a case of childhood expectations.  It’s something very real and valuable that has been lost, and I’m seeking to regain it.

I’ve never felt afraid to work, especially for a good cause or advancement.  That was the example I witnessed growing up in the 1970s.  However, the pace was slower then, and it seems to remain somewhat slower in my hometown now—and I’m not saying that in a judgmental way, as if people there are lazy.  There was more time for family, less time spent toiling and striving.  Time was scheduled to be unscheduled.  Visits were welcome.  Time for unrushed thinking was valued.   Visits and careful thought are considered impediments to work now.  An obvious example in my life is that I make time to tend the garden, but I allow myself no time to linger and appreciate it.  Time always seems to be consumed by items on the to-do list, which is entirely my fault.

The long drive also allowed some serious stewing on the outcome of my college adventure.  Taking two classes while working a full-time job was very hard.  Some people might not think so, but I have so many things I love to do, I felt unfulfilled—and very, very sleepy.   I HATE losing sleep night after night, getting adequate sleep only on the weekends.  BAH!  We have choices to make, and I manage one hell of a lot better with a functional brain.  Gradewise, all was well—I can still play the game.  My geography professor wrote to congratulate me on being the first ever to get a perfect score on his final exam (and I never scored less than 100 on his labs or other exams).  Despite my frequent biffs with the Community Health class (not submitting my work properly because I didn’t understand the program—OOPS—and my comical misunderstanding of changed due dates the last week of class), I got a solid A.  Yahoo!  But then…so freakin’ what?!!  I got good grades in the past, and I guess I’ve shown I am still able to learn, but really, how exactly does that transfer into a fulfilling job with good pay?  I haven’t found the key to that yet, but I know it has nothing to do with good grades.  I’m definitely shortchanging myself somewhere.  This is the real $2,000 lesson I learned in college: If I can learn this well in class, I can learn on my own to do something that will give me a better life.  Somehow, I’ve also come to fully appreciate that there are many ways to live a life.  Forty hours at a company is not the standard by which life is judged, if it is judged at all.

So I’m on to Plan C.  I’m skipping Plan B for now (get a yoga certification and get on with life) and shooting for something a little bigger, a little of a tangent—more in the consultancy line.  It’s a step in, well, another direction.  Without enough time to pursue Plans A or B, I’m stuck.  That’s the defining mark of Plan C—gaining time, and maybe more fulfillment as a result.

But the picture that remains in my mind is that of two men in their eighties, sitting on the back of a convertible like beauty queens, being paraded around an Illinois square in the 90-degree heat.  They have lived full lives, not without adversity, but filled with the love of close family, strong ties to the community, and a true desire to give back the support they have been given.  Every boy in their family is a veteran.  They experienced fears I have never known, and as a consequence, they became happy with jobs and situations in which no one was shooting at them (well, there was a little more than that, but their generation sure hit fulfillment a lot quicker than my bunch of whiners).  My dad and his brother set an example I can only dream of following, and I pray I can also do justice to the great family from where I came.  I am blessed.

Beauty Queens inside and out, in my opinion

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~ by rebuildingholly on May 23, 2012.

6 Responses to “The Hometown Precedent (I’m Baaaaaaack!)”

  1. What a great post on many levels.. While we may travel far from our hometown roots, I think pieces of us stay behind.. You have some good role models and your wanting to pursue your dreams is really what living is all about!!

    • Thanks. I think most of us leave our hometowns–it’s the American way! (and as my kids tell me, it’s the economy…) My dad and his four brothers were unique in staying in theirs and thriving. Seeing them helps me dig up the good stuff from the past and (I hope) apply it today.

  2. My parents grew up on farms in South Dakota – freezing winters, milking twice a day wearing cotton long johns and denim overalls, no lightweight waterproof stuff, plowing fields, putting up veggies – I so loved going back there in the summers. It was a simpler life, a brighter outdoor life, a softer, quieter life. You were right: there was time to just sit and visit. People would just ‘stop by’ at any time, and it was always not only OK, but invited. I remember coming home refreshed and renewed — and almost immediately run over by the truck of urban living… ;-O

    • Being run over by the truck of urban living is a great way to put it–the truck of modern living, too. The oldsters have a better attitude about life, and they’ve always had it! Sometimes I’m sure it’s that being-shot-at war thing that affected them so, and the whole war experience–not that I am EVER going to volunteer this generation for war–but it did make them much more appreciative of everyday life. Striving and artificial overwork were not part of their equation.

      What part of South Dakota is your family from? We’ve traveled through there quite a bit. I love the high plains west of the Missouri! We’ve also met some of our nastiest storms in SD.

      • They grew up near Watertown, SD and Aberdeen, SD, in the northeast corner of SD. I think part of it, too, was the Depression. They didn’t have a sense of entitlement, or the feeling there was something they needed to obtain to be happy. Boy they do have some storms. One time there was a hail storm and when it was done my brother found hailstones the size of a coffee cup. It pelted chunks of skin off the cattle in the field (who hid under a treerow but still got nailed) and lightning struck the neighbor’s tractor, causing it to START and jump forward, plowing a huge hole in the ground and ending up against the barn!

  3. Ah ha! Yes, the Depression would have played a big part. Just another thing I’d never choose to experience, but it sure shaped that generation!

    I’ve never been to that part of SD. We’ve always been nearer to I-90 and inevitably running away from storms.

    We had one of those megahailstorms here a couple years ago. The town looked as if bombs had exploded everywhere–I never heard about livestock injuries, but they must have happened! (How nasty…chunks of skin?) The strangest thing was the sound I heard BEFORE the hail hit. The kids and I were in the garage watching the storm (that’s what all sensible people do when there is a high probability of dangerous weather), and this steady, loud, whooshing sound started up. I did something very uncharacteristic of me during bad weather, and I hustled those kids to the basement.

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