My Father told me a long time ago that when you go back to where you grew up, you can never go back to what you remember. Especially when it’s been several years since you’ve left. He was right. He was right in the sense that you can’t go back to what was and expect it to be the same. For me, it’s not about going back to relive my childhood. For me, it’s about going back to a simple life in a simple town with simple people.
I have lived in Southern California much longer than I lived in Indiana. We arrived in Reddington from Thailand in 1976 where we lived with my Uncle until we moved to Columbus. The Spring of 1984 was when my dad got the offer from his company, Cummins, to relocate to either South Carolina or Southern California. Dad had come out to California when he was about 17 years old so there really wasn’t much thought or debate to where he was going to move us. November of 1984 brought us a brand new car, a Station Wagon, and the reality of the move. We packed up in December and headed West.
New Year’s Eve was spent in Las Vegas with Dad’s childhood friend, Darwin, and his family. We arrived in Riverside, California on January 3rd, 1985. Unfortunately, my heart never came with me. Since plane tickets were fairly cheap back then, I did get to go back a couple of times a year and each time I left another piece of me.
Many of my cousins and their families have lived in small towns all of their lives. A part of me is very envious of them and I miss them. They are definitely one reason I want to go back but they are not the only reason.
Growing up in a small, rural town means seeing stars on a cloudless night; listening to crickets chirp and frogs croaking. I want to back to fireflies in the summer and fishing in the creek that runs through your backyard. I miss seeing a flash of lightning then counting the seconds until you heard thunder. There is no better aroma than that of earthly fragrances after a hard summer rain. I want to go back to where the colors of Autumn are in your front yard, not miles away. And when those colors begin to show, you knew it was time to prepare for the first snowfall of winter. Going to sleep just to wake up with the ground painted white.
I don’t want to go back to relive my childhood, I want to go back to a somewhat uncomplicated life and almost everyone you meet becomes your friend. I want to get stuck in traffic because a farmer has to drive his tractor on a two-lane highway to get to his fields. And while I’m on that two-lane road, I want to wave to a total stranger because that’s what a small town does.
No, I cannot go back to my childhood. But I can go back to a place that holds almost every innocent memory of my childhood. I can, and I will go back to my Small Town. I can, and I will go back to Columbus, Indiana.