Monday, July 18, 2022

There's no place like your hometown

I don’t have a hometown. Sure, I have a place of birth (Ft. Worth), places where I learned to swim and ride a bicycle (Garland), my high school alma mater (Grand Prairie), my college days (Commerce) – but not one of them do I consider my “hometown.”

“But we’ve lived in this house longer than we’ve lived anywhere else. Surely, that makes THIS your hometown.”

Well, I disagree, and don’t call me Shirley.

The Webster dictionary describes a hometown as the place of your birth or where you grew up. The Collins dictionary defines it as the town where you live or where you come from (which seems pretty vague). Siri agreed with both definitions, but then got a bit sassy when I asked where SHE was from: “I think I first arrived as a burst of inspiration during a good long walk.”

The friends I had during elementary school are just old class photos to me now. The trees that I climbed in Garland were cut down years ago. I’ve never been to a class reunion because I didn’t really know those people in the first place. The places I lived are just that – places I’ve lived. Nothing magical. Nothing to write a sappy song about.

My wife, on the other hand, lived in the same house from the time she was a toddler until she graduated high school and went off to college. Ft. Worth is, without doubt, her hometown. She knows all the proper nouns – people, places and things – and has a sense of belonging. Me? I’ve always felt like a ship without a port, a car in search of a road, a road trip without a destination. 

“Country roads, take me home / to the place I belong, / West Virginia, mountain mama / take me home country roads.” John Denver

I drove down a country road once. I got hit by a tractor. 

“Sounds to me like you’re having a pity party and are keeping our last two bottles of whine all to yourself. Worse, I think you watched that movie again. Please tell me you didn’t.”

It’s all Will Ferrell’s fault. Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams, and a heartwarming movie called “Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga.” It’s a story about two small-town Icelandic singers who chase pop-star glory. I won’t ruin the ending for you, but if you are, like me, one of those “I don’t have a hometown” folk and you just so happen to be listening to the “sappy song” at the end of the movie while you’re on your lunchbreak at work, you might want to hurry up and swallow because ugly crying with your mouth full is just plain disgusting.

“You didn’t.”

I did.

“Look, just name this place, right here where we’re standing and breathing – name this place your hometown and let’s be done with it. Please?”

But I haven’t even planted a tree here.

“Then go outside and plant one.”

We’ve been living on this little patch of Earth, in this small-town community, for almost 30 years now. It’s not as long as the people who were actually born and raised here, but it’s much longer than any other place we’ve ever lived. To be honest, we didn’t think we’d be here this long. We felt like we were just biding our time until we moved. But we never did.

I must admit it's not a bad place to settle down. It’s not perfect, no place is, but it’s been good enough to make friends in, to earn a living in, and a good place to raise our three children – a place they’ve always claimed as their hometown. And it’s funny, but I’ve noticed that after I’ve spent time in the “big city,” it always feels good to be back home.

I guess it’s time I started planting some trees.

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