Our next guest blogger is known as FADKOG, which stands for For a Different Kind of Girl. I discovered FADKOG on Twitter and her tweets, as well as her blog are hilariously funny. Please welcome her!
When my family moved to the Iowa town I grew up in, my world was a three-block radius. It was the circle around which I'd ride my bike for hours, where neighborhood kids would meet to play kick ball until dark, and where, every Wednesday, I'd endure every feasible weather condition or barking dog to deliver the weekly advertising circular. Those three blocks represented the place I felt safest (despite the vicious dogs) and most welcomed. It was a short journey from my block - the filling in the neighborhood sandwich between the other two blocks - to school or the convenience store we'd visit on late summer afternoons to purchase orange snow cones, but it felt vast.
Aside from time spent in college and several years working as the editor of a community newspaper, I've never truly ventured very far from those three blocks. Today, I'm raising my own family a mere two minutes - though sometimes it can take three depending on the occasional confused motorist who pauses uncomfortably long at the five-way stop sign up the road - from the front door of my present home to that of my childhood home.
Unlike the other places I've lived, I've always felt at home where I now reside. Always. Although my hometown - which often dominates the top of any "Fastest Growing Communities in the Nation" lists - is vastly different from the place I remember growing up, when I say I'm from here, it feels familiar, and to me, familiar means comfortable. Three big-name grocery stores dot the landscape where, years ago, residents had a difficult time supporting even one small, family-owned market. The library, which once operated from a tiny room in the back of an equally tiny city hall building, now host programming in a large facility with a parking lot that is always full.
Today, more houses are cropping up on what was once sustainable farm land than actual crops, and just when I think developers can't possibly come up with any new names for a multi-dwelling subdivision, up pops a Painted Woods or Something That Always Ends With The Word 'Pointe With An E.' Trying to give directions to someone unfamiliar with my hometown is virtually impossible for me because there are so many new streets and so many new names for them that I'm almost as lost as they are. If it's not part of the "old part of town," (which is what the area I grew up in is referred to now), I'm sorry. Good luck on your journey!
Yet it still feels like home.
My youngest son is finishing his first grade year in the same building where I attended elementary school, and though countless revisions have been made to it, walking through it is like zapping through a time warp and there's the kindergarten classroom where we incubated chicken eggs in the spring. Except now it's the computer lab! My oldest son, a middle school student, plays basketball in the same gymnasium where I ran laps as a student, only when I was a student in that particular building, I was attending high school and preparing to graduate with a class of 62 students I'd been going to school with since kindergarten. When my sixth grader graduates in 2015, he'll be crossing the stage with more than 600 classmates who filter into our district from the surrounding suburbs. Very few of them will have known each other from the days when they were learning how to write their names and navigate the vast hallways of a new building.
This is home.
From time to time, I'll drive around my hometown, and in my mind, I can distinctly see the games we played on the streets I'm driving on. There's the house where my best friend and I sat on the front steps and talked about the boys who traveled in packs on mopeds and played basketball in the driveway over there each night after dinner. On this street is the house we'd all meet at when the sun went down and we'd sit outside on the patio, watching movies on a tiny television that had been dragged outside.
When I take my boys to the park, it's the same park where I barreled my orange Huffy 10-speed down the hills. When we get there, the boys will swing on the same set of squeaky swings my best friend and I used to cut through the air on. I'll sometimes mention these memories to my sons, both as a means of connecting my life with their respective childhoods, and perhaps planting the idea that it's important to remember where we came from. I don't know that their goals will keep them near me here, but I hope no matter where they go, no matter what fancy named subdivision they may one day live in, they feel the sense of home I'm struck by when they think of what is now our shared hometown.