Hometown. You spend the entirety of your childhood waiting for the day to leave this god-forsaken place just knowing there must be a bigger, better world out there awaiting you. And there possibly is. But what you don’t realize at the time is you will come to miss what your hometown has truly manifested in your heart of hearts. It won’t be a sense of success or money that you seek, but the first time you come back home after a long period of being gone, your heart will see what really mattered all along…A sense of comfort and belonging and stillness and peace. And most importantly, love.
It’s not much of a secret to anyone how much I miss home. But I was ready to leave for a while when I did a few years back. Ready for a change. I was one of the few of my graduating class that stayed. I didn’t seek out grand college ideas, even though I wanted to be a large animal vet. I didn’t mind bar tending and waiting tables and working odd jobs just to get by, because I always had my family and the ranch. I had what I needed to feel fulfilled out my backdoor. And then life changed. Family came along and bills needed paid, and it was evident that I had to do something about it, so moving happened. And I embraced every part of it. I had to. Adventure and change finally awaited me, and there was no sense not meeting that change with arms wide open and a freshened heart ready to beat strongly.
And life went on in my hometown. Without me. And I thought, “I don’t miss it. It is always there to come back to.” I still tell myself those things. And with every drive back home, the “I don’t miss it” turns into “I miss some things about it”. And then phone calls come about people passing, family and friends and high school pals, and the “I miss some things about it” turns into “I miss home. Every damn day.”
When I walked through the doors of my favorite church this Christmas for service, I had a difficult time managing my tears and swallowing the lump in my throat. It was joy and peace and love I felt. The friendly faces, the “it’s so great to see yous”, the warm embraces, the “we miss yous” and kind words. Life went on, and some things changed, but the one constant was the goodness of what I always loved about my hometown hadn’t… the love of good people and their hometown hearts.
And I am forever grateful for my hometown. For the county lines that bring a smile to my face when I drive that familiar drive west. I remember fondly the first kisses that happened here, the football field full of black and gold, and the smell of peanut butter and paste that greets my senses in the schools I grew up in. I am grateful for those church pews and the warm and welcoming faces that don’t forget me.
I love the scent of pine that greets my nose, the mountains and the valleys that I intimately know; the back roads I drive to get lost on and with every little, winding mile I find another piece of me. With every visit, I come back to life here. I realize that in leaving my hometown, this crazy, hectic world has given me sanctuary here. A place to come back to, to right the wrongs, to remember my roots, and a place to just be me again. A place to anchor in the storms of life. A place that continuously welcomes me no matter the time that lapses.
Hometown hearts, they are the love that makes a place home. And I am proud of the place I call home. Always and forever will be…