Wednesday, August 06, 2008

My Hometowns

I realized that the other day I referred to “one of my hometowns” in a post. Perhaps that is a bit confusing to some people as they can’t imagine having anything but one hometown, the town in which they were born and raised. Well, when you’re someone like me who moved from town to town (and no I wasn’t a military brat; we didn’t move quite that often) you kind of adopt various places as hometowns, not all the towns in which I lived but some, the ones that kind of feel more like “home” than anywhere else.

When I was born my parents lived in Tiny Village 1 (TV1), and I was born in the hospital several miles away in Small Town 1 (ST1). When I was a toddler we moved to Tiny Village 2 (TV2) and lived there a couple of years, after which we moved back to TV1. I started school in TV1, in first grade because they didn’t offer kindergarten at that school being a poor rural school district. (I believe laws have changed so that all public schools now offer kindergarten probably because everything people need to know they learned in kindergarten, at least according to one author.) Just before entering second grade, we moved again, to Tiny Village 3 (TV3). We stayed there a long time, all the way through seventh grade. The summer before eighth grade (and for God’s sake if you love your children please don’t make them move in the middle of junior high, trust me on this one) we moved to Small Town 2 (ST2), although to me, given my background, ST2 at a population of 16,000 and possessing their very own McDonald’s seemed like a gigantic city. No longer did we have to drive several miles to the grocery store. No longer did we have to make the occasional one hour trek to the big 100,000 population city to go shopping for clothes and school supplies and the like. Holy cow! I thought we’d hit the big time! ST2 remained home for us throughout my high school years and right on through until I moved out on my own after college.

ST1, although my legal birthplace and the town where my grandparents moved once they sold their farm, is no more a hometown to me than any other small town in the world. TV1 is definitely a hometown to me, not so much because that’s where I lived in infancy, but because we moved back there after TV2, and it’s the first real hometown I remember well. TV2 is just a vague memory in the back of my head, and I wouldn’t recognize anything if I drove through there even if there were things that hadn’t changed much in 45 years. TV3 is where I did most of my elementary school growing up and is definitely one of my hometowns. Six years is a long time when you’re only 13, my age when we moved away from there. I also count ST2 as a hometown because that’s where I graduated high school, and I’ve always counted high school as some of the best years of my life.

So here are my hometowns:
TV1 where I lived from age 0 to 2 years and 4 to 7 years,
TV3 where I lived from age 7 to 13 years, and
ST2 where I lived from age 13 to 23 years (except the 4½ years I was away at the U of I, but I still considered ST2 home then)

Nope, I just can’t pick one and call it my hometown. There are three, and they very distinctly all feel like hometowns to me. The funny thing is, I’ll bet that the people I knew in any of those three places wouldn’t consider their town to be my hometown. I was just somebody who passed through, a nomad of sorts. There aren’t a lot of things I envy but one big one that I do is the ability that some people have of having lifelong friends, friends who have been friends since kindergarten or before. I have no friendships like that because as a nomad I moved on and although I tried to stay in touch it was never the same. Maybe these days, in the days of emails, cell phones, Facebook and MySpace, that is a little bit different. But maybe not. Maybe a nomad can never quite feel solid ground beneath her.

In some ways I feel bad for N because I have started his life in a similar fashion. In his almost 10 years of life he has lived in three different places, but unlike me where all my moves stayed within one state his have been three different states spanning half the country. I hope to not displace him again, or if I do to at least do it at a “break” in schooling like the summer between elementary and middle school or between middle school and high school.

All this being said, I do want to add one more thing. I know there are people with whom I grew up in TV3, population <1,000, who were born there (well most were born in hospitals some 10-40 miles away), raised there, married there, and still live there. As much as I sometimes feel rootless, I can’t help but think of those people as being root bound rather than rooted. What a small world it must be for them. Maybe there’s somewhere in between my life and theirs that would be better. But maybe not. Maybe it’s all good, in its own way. Maybe I just need to appreciate the breadth of experiences my nomadic life has afforded and allow them to appreciate the comfort their familiar surroundings afford them. Maybe it’s not good or bad, but it just is. And maybe that’s just fine.


Desmond Jones said...

We moved a lot when I was a kid - I can think of four houses we lived in before I was 7, mostly in the Detroit 'burbs. When I was 7, we moved Up North, and stayed there (altho we had three different houses while my parents divorced, and Dad remarried) until just before I graduated HS - about 10 years. And that's the place I count as my Hometown. We moved to the Chicago 'burbs 2 months before I graduated (I'm not meaning to play 'Can You Top This?', but that was a purely AWFUL time to move; I managed to get my credits transferred so I could graduate with my class Up North, but there was a definite feeling of having been screwed over by it all. . .) Of course I always went 'home' to Chicago for school breaks, but I've never counted it as my 'home'; just where my parents live. . .

And if I hadn't qualified as In-State at SpartySchool, I'd probably be a fellow-alum of yours. . .

Fusion said...

I grew up in one house from the age or 6 months till I moved out. My kids didn't fare as well though, we moved ten times in ten years, although in that time we stayed put for 5 years. After moving to Idaho, by the time my son entered 9th grade and daughter 6th, we stayed, and I still own the same home today. We had wanted to be settled for the high school years for them.

Trueself said...

Des - Wow! You may not have tried to top it, but you did. Two months before graduation?!?!? Yikes! I would've died.

Fuse - Good for you for settling by the time they got to high school.

Val said...

That's probably part of the reason I've had such a struggle getting over my divorce... If I couldn't provide Z w/the "typical" 2-parent household experience, at least I could hold onto the farm & provide a stable homestead for him.
[Myself, I was born/raised/attended school in the same small segment of the Metroplex, extremely insular]