If I could I would go back to the bus stop where I met a feisty, fiery girl who helped me adjust to this new suburban city life known as Hampton Roads. She pushed me, tearing down my shyness, pulling out the girl in me, and stood tall for me when I couldn’t stand the bullies. I used those lessons to protect my second best friend, when I grew apart from the fiery one. She was so much smaller than me I felt I had to be her defender. We laughed, wore matching outfits, and exchanged gossip like stocks on Wall Street. If I could I would go back to that line of duplexes next to the park. That’s where she lived. I can see us walking back to her house after band camp, planning a weekend of girlie sleep overs. Times, boyfriends, rifts, and backstabbing tore us apart. If I could I’d stand on the sidewalk and go back to that moment I knew I had to walk away. It would not be the last time I would have to do this. So much of my hometown reminds me of the reunion, the fights, and the realization that we couldn’t be sisters anymore. We couldn’t be the way we once were. This is my hometown.
While I’m lingering in my past adolescence, I’d walk past my old middle school. I went to my first dance there, tried to shed my Tomboy ways there, and crushed hard for boys who didn’t notice me there. Realized growing up was hard there. My high school is not far from here. The entrance to the school is a long paved road leading to large parking lot. Back in time I’d stand in that parking lot and wish that my adolescence self knew half of what I know now. I’d take a deep breath, and inhale the pleasures and the pains of my teen life. The marching band practices, the dances, the boys, the first kiss, and the first heart ache. The football field and track is locked, keeping my memories of the football games, marching band performances, and girlfriend secrets under the bleachers. This is my hometown.
I like to remember sitting outside our first brown town home, fresh from Mississippi, bright eyed and naïve. I wondered what this place called Virginia Beach had in store for us. I’d get asked out to a dance for the first time in front of that brown house, fight with my friend over the same boy, and escape the vicious teeth of a pit bull that chased me on top of a car. I like to drive through all the old neighborhoods we lived in. We lived in so many houses. Places that contained my dreams, my hurt, my family, and housed the bitter divorce battle that almost consumed us. This is my hometown.
These sidewalks lead me home then lead me away to my adulthood. These roads know the map of my adolescence, the miles I logged to be near love, the sadness I felt when my dreams didn’t true out right. All the interstates, tunnels, and roads I traveled when I had to leave you to discover the world and become me. Tears cover those paths. Whenever I left to go to another job, another love, another city, another town I never stopped thinking about you. Those tunnels used to scare me so much, made me feel boxed in, trapped, and worried. I know now I ached most because I was leaving you. It was as if rough hands gripped my heart, and squeezed it until it burned. This is my love for my hometown.
That old ranch house is where I thought I’d spend my last days with my mom. She confessed to us cancer was invading her body, and our lives. The words cracked into me, leaving me with excruciating shock. I remember running to the street that night so she couldn’t see me cracking, tearing, ripping, and falling apart. A boyfriend I no longer call my own held me as I wept. Friends brought casseroles, pies, cakes, and so much love our house seemed to radiate warmth. Her hair fell out, surgeons took her breast, but God gave brought her back to me. There in that same rancher where I thought we’d lose it all, God restored us in a way I never knew possible. We are a family, healed, reunited, and conquering the past. This is my hometown. Then I drive back to the new home where we became a family again, and hurt became a distant memory.
As I return to you, I am different now and so are you. I am braver, stronger, and more accepting of the roads I had to travel to get back to you. You have changed with your new restaurants, developments, and people. But I know underneath we still know other. At any moment we can go back to those childhood beginnings here, the ripping, numbing discomfort of those growing pains, and the release of being breaking free from those bondages. Now I get to carve out a new chapter with you, in a new home of my own, and a new way. There is no saying where this path will end, but I am so overjoyed we have another chance to write a turn a new page in our story. This is my love for my hometown.
Inspired by Adele 19 ‘Hometown Glory