Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hometowns


As a child the concept of a “hometown” was lost on me. My family moved around way too much for it to make sense. It’s an idea that is also lost on my children. My son, Wonder Boy, said the other day that on campus when people talk about their hometown he just can’t grasp the concept of how people can be so devoted to one place. I’d have to say I agree with him.

Years ago, when my family moved to a new city and we were visiting churches, I had a particular Sunday school teacher ask me “Where is your hometown?” I didn’t understand the question. I thought she meant to ask my birthplace, so I answered with the name of the city where I was born. It was that “hometown” label that threw me since at that point I had already lived in four other cities. Certainly, from my point of view, she should have asked where I lived, which was in the city where the church was located.

Of course, always moving did mean we were often the new kids. I really never found it to be a problem at school (until we moved to the small town where I went to high school.) Often it was being the new kid at whatever church we decided to attend that caused the most problems. You’d think that wouldn’t be the case, but there it is. For example a Bible was given to all 6th graders from one church. In mine they spelled my last name wrong. That was a wee bit hurtful. In the Bible I can see my correction inked in boldly. Sometimes I felt like the church kids were the cruelest kids. Sometimes it was because they were jealous that we had lived other places. Since my husband also experienced this as a child moving from Southern California to the upper Midwest, we have always been hypersensitive to how our kids feel and are treated in a church. Just because it’s good for the adults doesn’t mean the kids just need to adjust.

Now my mother (who has a hometown) has always said that the town we were living in when I graduated from high school would consider themselves my hometown. I refuse to allow those people to claim me since I don’t particularly like them. (See the information on my last reunion.) Living in that town was never a good idea. It was even bad when, married, we moved back to the area with our kids. Now they have bad memories of that same town.

A certain national news anchor used to call this same town his hometown although apparently he had also moved around and lived in even smaller, less impressive places. As far as I can tell, as his career was progressing he had to claim it or some place worse. When I was in high school the town was all abuzz because he was going to have a news crew come film at the high school and the town would be mentioned on a national program. The sad truth was that in the nationally televised program he made fun of the town and it’s people. He no longer wanted to be reminded of the roots he once claimed. I think now that he’s older he has made his peace with it.

Just Me, my daughter, thinks that sometimes when people have been born and always lived in one place it can potentially make them rather ethnocentric and narrow minded. They also usually think that where they live is the greatest place upon the face of the planet. As a family when we discuss our moving around we always have viewed it as a positive. I think it has made us more open to seeing different customs and cultural influences and as a result has made us more accepting of different people. It’s also help us notice some of the odd little local or regional words and word usage. For example “spaghetti” as in “bring spaghetti for a spaghetti dinner” means bring any kind of pasta in one area. A “tavern” is a sloppy joe in another. (In a church cookbook from that area the humor I find in the title of the recipe “taverns for 50” is lost on them.)

My current town is not where I’ll be living for much longer. We simple rented a house in this rather centrally located place to give us time to decide where we want to buy a house. It’s an OK place to live. The neighborhood is safe and there are plenty of places to walk the dogs. It has very hard water though, and the yard isn’t fenced so we have to always walk the dogs. I know I don’t want to buy a house in this town. I’d rather either move into a city or out in the country. I guess I’m easy to please in some ways.

I’m not entirely sure if our footloose attitude is healthy or not. Certainly I would say we are grounded. We know who we are and what we believe. We also tend to see positives and negatives in every place we’ve live. In some ways moving to different cities as a family, along with homeschooling, has kept us tight as a family. It’s also very likely encouraged us to view wherever we are living as a specimen - something to observe and dissect but not necessarily embrace whole-heartedly.

2 comments:

Think Pink Dana said...

Personally, I think home is where you make it. It can be one place or many. My birthtown is Detroit. My home town (where I grew up for 20 years) is Nashville, Tn. I love both places dearly, but really not for the places but because there are still pockets of family, and memories there. And both are places I visit regularly and that I miss when I am away from...but without the family tie to them, I wouldn't feel the same. I don't think either is intrinsically the best place in the world..I don't feel that way about where I live now (and for the last 15 years), what makes a place home is the ties that bind us there. I have strong ties to all three places, but without the tie the place loses the magic. And now I have blogged in your comments :)

Lori L said...

Honestly, I consider a whole area of the country to be my hometown or at least my "homestate" in that area, but never an individual city.