I’d been away from home before, but not like this – not with three years and four children between visits.
In fact, let’s back up for a second. Jamestown, N.D., is not my home anymore since I haven’t lived there on anything resembling a full-time basis in 15 years; rather it’s my hometown. And going back over the weekend with my wife and kids to celebrate the baptism of my newest niece was … nostalgic.
Plenty has changed. There are coffee shops now – yes, plural. The newspaper where I got my start in journalism moved a block. The high school is now the middle school and has a patch of synthetic turf where the parking lot used to be.
Plenty more hasn’t. The cement buffalo atop the hill remains the world’s largest. The baseball field remains green and vibrant. And the kids still yearn to leave.
Is it safe to say that your hometown never really gets a fair shake? Rebelling against it is among the safest forms of teenage angst. Plus, it’s pretty easy to to trash something you know inside and out.
Sure, there’s not a lot to do in this town of 15,000 compared to its North Dakota neighbors of Fargo-Bismarck let alone when stacked up against legit large cities of the world. Opportunities are harder to come by and/or have lower ceilings. But there remains room for appreciation.
My parents have a great house in the deepest part of a cul de sac – large and interesting and spread over four staggered levels. We moved there from four blocks away before my freshman year of high school. The backyard features an oversized, shaded deck that overlooks a gully bordering a public golf course. On a warm summer day, it’s one of the most peaceful places on the planet.
I was especially struck by the trees in the yard and the surrounding area – so many types and shapes and sizes. There’s almost no way I noticed that before.
It felt nice to sit and read the paper, the breeze threatening to carry it away. Normally a treadmill turkey, I opted to go for a run outside in the afternoon, zipping by familiar homes with unknown owners, turning near a lawn I used to mow and continuing past the golf course, the soccer park, the softball fields. I was surprised to find memories at every spot – they weren’t all good, of course. But this time they felt more like bygones than open sores.
Meanwhile, my oldest daughter made fast friends with a neighbor, another 9-year-old fond of neon colors. They cut flowers and swung on swings and invented a game using the seeds from the whirly birds that fell from the trees. It was the most classic kid stuff I’ve ever seen her do.
For those couple of days, things seemed slower, smaller, simpler. It’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever move back, but it felt good to be able to see the old place through different eyes.