Revisiting a childhood home can be an emotional experience. After you get over the difference in scale (not as big as you remember it) you’re transported back in time to relive memories you thought were long gone. I recently got to visit my childhood home at 802 S. Lafayette Street in Macomb, Illinois, and I had not seen it since age 11 when we moved to Indiana.
There in splendid detail was:
– the window to my old bedroom
– the buckeye tree I used to climb
– the front sidewalk where I skinned my knee after falling off my clip-on steel roller skates
– the porch window where the Christmas tree sent a warm glow out onto the snow-covered evergreen bushes
– the white-painted front door that swung open the night my dad surprised us in his Santa suit
– the picture window I used to look out to see when my brother Jeff got home from Kindergarten
– and the sloping backyard that we used to roll down just for the fun of it.
I wanted to knock on the front door and get a tour of the inside, but it felt like a line I shouldn’t cross. As I stood in the front yard and took a picture of the house, it hit me… how much it had NOT changed. Other than some peeling peacock blue paint, it was mostly the same as we left it. Maybe this is just a small town phenomenon. In California, old stuff gets torn down and new stuff gets built on the lot.
Time had not really touched my old home, and it reminded me of the permanence of things. Not just the house, but the permanence of the values I learned growing up in Macomb in the 1960’s – be nice, help others and treat people the way you want to be treated. Simple rules, really. No matter what mask or game face I put on in my job today, I cannot escape that part of me…instilled by a loving family and a community that protected its own.
Life is not perfect in a small town. OK…sometimes it can be more Norman Bates than Norman Rockwell. But I choose to recall the best parts of my childhood and draw strength from them, including celebrations of happy times, lessons learned the hard way, and the importance of self-reliance and accountability.
As we drove out of town, we passed the brick courthouse and town square that looked remarkably like the one in the movie “Back to the Future.” That’s where I was headed alright, back to the future and my current life in the fast lane.
I love big cities and big city people, but some folks here on the coast jokingly call the heartland of America “flyover country.” If that’s the way they see it, then I hope they keep flying over and don’t stop. The permanence of the people there, their families and the way they treat each other is something to be celebrated… not mocked.
Growing up in a small town was an important cornerstone for who I am today. And knowing where I come from helps me stay on track for where I’m going. Have you revisited where you came from? What memories do you choose to hold on to?