Greener Grass

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It’s easy to find that old road home. Sometimes it can be automatic and effortless finding your way here and other times it can be a road no one wants to travel. Why is it easy to find the road home when the road out-of-town is so difficult to locate? It can’t be those roots around your feet holding you down as so many before you have proven it possible to cut loose and make a run for it. Look around – there are plenty of family and friends who have broken free and found the escape route from their hometowns to find greener and brighter places to reside. There must be a brick for every one of those who left, making up the cobblestone four blocks of our main street. Countless bricks – a quiet reminder that it is possible to call somewhere else home.

Why is it easy to find the road home when the road out-of-town is so difficult to locate?

Not everyone wants to stay behind. The quiet of a small town can make your ears bleed, and it’s often the invisible expectations we place upon ourselves which keep the porch light on at night. Is it a fear of the unknown or the lack of confidence in myself that keeps me here? Is the grass under my feet greener than that which grows down the road? Or is it me that makes the grass greener wherever I’m standing… Great questions with answers yet to be determined.

I know for some it’s a race to get beyond the railroad tracks. Life begins when the cake is cut at the high school after-graduation party, and then it’s off to who knows where to start who knows what. We’re young and excited and we want to see what we’re capable of. We want to make our mark in this world and this small town is standing in our way! The grip of any one-horse town is no match to college, work and distant dreams and besides, who’s going to notice when I’m gone?

We go about our business of living while planting our own roots so the family we raise has a place to call home. We water the grass to keep it green thinking that’s all it takes to keep them here, only to have them hatch the same escape plan we had when it’s time to leave the nest. Some leave the small town life and come back while others leave and never look back. There are those that never leave but always wish they had and there are a few that are completely content to living their life on gravel. There is a reason the end of the rainbow is always off in the distance. That elusive pot of gold which lies at the other end is actually our family and friends who have had the courage to move away. But remember, there are always two ends to a rainbow, even though you may not always see it. Does that mean there are two pots of gold?

So whether you are running from your past, chasing fame and fortune or love, one thing is for sure – you will either be leaving the comfort of your hometown in your pursuits or you will be coming back to a porch light left on. The direction you travel is dependent upon where your grass was planted or where this rainbow ends.

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Old Friends and Home

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I can still hear the laughter from my friends as we hung out on main street in White City. Standing in front of the pool hall watching the same cars pass by, as we talked about what we should be doing or where we should be going. Back and forth, cruising the four blocks of that red brick street, making endless U-turns and unconscious waves to the cars we passed in opposite directions. That was our independence. The football field lights still shining bright after a home game and everyone is uptown hanging out, happy for a win, or bummed from a loss. We all knew each other, and growing up together in a small town was what you did. Voices still echo from those sidewalks as cars pass by, heading nowhere, waiting for the clock on the City building to let me know I was going to be late getting her home.

Those years can be looked upon as “the good times” and even though they were good times, we had no idea that the best years of our lives were yet to come. You could see all four blocks of that street and you knew that a U-turn was going to bring you right back. Those that had the courage to not turn around at the locker plant knew how it felt to return on those special occasions to find the front yard beneath their feet was still there, reassuring them they were home. Walking past the boot scraper, up those concrete steps and into the kitchen, remembering the smells that somehow still linger as the door opens to rooms full of memories. Photos are taken, hugs are given and small talk is made, then it’s back to the world that pulled them away.

I still hear the laughter of those friends, but now it’s through the words they type in texts or emails – I swear I can hear their voice in the words I read. Their smiles are the same and their laughs haven’t changed at all. Even though kids don’t turn around on the main drag in town anymore, it doesn’t mean the world stopped turning around. Friends that left still come back for graduations, weddings, reunions and funerals, so we get a quick word, a handshake or hug and then it’s goodbye…for now, only to return another day.

There are a lot of miles on that old main street, and there are a lot of miles between old friends and home. I miss those days when we were close enough to say it in person, even if it was just a two finger wave from your hand on the steering wheel. Maybe someday I’ll know what it’s like to not turn around at the locker plant.

A Day in the Life

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Walking down the halls of either the White City grade school or high school brings back plenty of memories. Not only was the grade school big for a small town, there were plenty of steps to keep Mr. Otis or Mr. Haun happy with our physical fitness. A small gymnasium was the focal point of a lot of activities like recess when the weather was bad, basketball practice when the big gym in the high school was in use, but it also served as a lunch room, and a place for prom to be held each year. How many times did I sit there in class smelling the lunch that I was about to eat? Plenty. And what about a milk break in the morning? Why yes, thank you. We spent a big part of our lives going up and down those stairs, from class to recess to lunch and back. How many times and how many steps? We’ll figure that out someday in math class.

Worrell’s house on the corner, which by the way is no longer there, took up some of the play ground, and next to their house was a make-shift baseball diamond where I broke my ankle in sixth grade. School was almost out for the summer in 1974 and now I had a broken ankle. Who knew that in a month I would have my first motorcycle and no way to ride it? Bummer. I think it was Stan and Ron, or maybe it was Rusty and Steve that carried me from the East side of the school property, past the wind-break/walkway that separated the high school and grade school buildings to the office. My mother was called to take me to the hospital, while some of my classmates told me to quit showing off in front of the girls! Whether or not that’s what was said, that’s what I heard. If you know my mother, she drove the speed limit to Junction City getting me to the hospital, all the while, with my leg crossed and my foot dangling. Good times.

We often think about those days when school was anything but fun, but it is a compilation of the good times and bad that makes the experience what it was. Worrying about homework or a test the next day wasn’t very productive and as we all know as adults, worrying about the small stuff still isn’t productive, but it’s in our nature. When our kids are going through school, we often worry about homework, tests and grades more than they do. But we all got through it. Some better than others, but that doesn’t take away anything from those that received less from the experience than some. We all have our own personal experiences and memories of those days and it takes getting older to put it all in perspective. Maybe that should be a class; “Perspectivism: A guide to putting it all together to figure it out.”

If you sit and think about all the bus trips, field trips, games (home and away), and where Mr. Albrecht took us in band, and how it all comes together with so many students and teachers trying to achieve the same goals, it’s amazing we accomplished it at all. Being an average student, using humor to mask a lot of insecurities deep inside that full head of hair I had at the time, I look back and wish that the guy I am today could have told the kid I was back then to relax and be yourself. Comparing now to back-then isn’t fair for me but that is how it is. We grow up and realize who we are and even though we feel we haven’t changed, we did – even if just a little. We find that strength inside and we become who we really are, even though it was there all along.

What seemed like an eternity to get through school, I look back and realize, just like today, the years fly by. Thanks to all of those that had a hand in my education and helping a small town kid realize those insecurities were all in my head. While humor will get you pretty far in life, it helps to have a few friends that are willing to carry you when you need help!