Saturday, August 30, 2008

A little town in the Midwest

There is a little town that sits precisely in the middle of Illinois. It is surrounded on all sides by corn fields, and John Deere tractors with triangular orange caution signs hanging on the back rumble up and down the streets during planting and harvest time. There are four churches. One tiny library. A post office where people stop in and pick up their daily mail from their assigned mail slot. It is the epitome of small-town Midwestern life, a place where everyone in the entire town knows everyone else and their business.

For the first 15 years of my life, this was home to me.

I haven't been back in 13 years. When my grandpa died in 1995, we went for his funeral. Then a few years passed, I left home and moved several states away, and that was the last time that I've been back.

Thinking about it brings waves of nostalgia. Some things I remember perfectly, like the huge evergreen tree in our backyard that would bend its mighty branches as the wind whipped through it. I would pretend I was Heidi, living in the Alps...I always thought it was so dreamy and romantic when she described the roaring of the wind through the mountain pine trees.

Other things are hazy in my memory; I cannot recall the names of certain streets or how to get to some of the surrounding towns. Funny how living in several cities between then and now can get your brain all befuddled.

The town only has 2000 people, so its claim to fame is limited. But...if it is famous for anything, at least within, oh, say, a 20-mile radius, it would be the Turkey Festival. Every year in June, the entire town turns out for a weekend of roasted turkey legs, mounds of homemade strawberry shortcake, and rickety carnival rides. And you cannot forget the bed races...are ya'll familiar with this? Picture a cot on wheels, many cots on wheels, actually. Four guys to push, one to ride. They line up in the middle of Main Street, and then race to a center line, where they leap off and circle the cot in some sort of Chinese fire drill fashion. Then with whoops and hollers they careen towards the finish line.

Good times.

The weekend ends with a bang, pretty much the highlight of the entire 3 days...the parade. I don't care how many big-city parades I go to in my life, nothing will compare to the feeling of standing on the edge of the curb, clutching a bag, and hearing the first strains of a marching band coming around the corner. Pure excitement; you know the little homemade floats and the cars and fire engines will be coming by any second, and that loads of candy will by flung into your eager little hands. The Macy's Day Parade has nothing on this when you are 8 years old.

These are my memories, my roots. And sometime this week, for just a day, I am returning. My sister and I, and possibly a brother or two, are making the 3 1/2 hour-drive from Indy to visit our little Illinois town. I am a bit unsure of how I will feel once I arrive; I think it is always hard to return to a place you once called home, because it will never be exactly the same as you remember it. Things change, you change, and the ideals you held on to as a child look completely different when viewed through grown-up eyes. I know it will be a pensive trip as we reminisce about the way things once were, all the while knowing that you can never really go back to that exact place in time.

But still, for just a day, it will be good to be home.



19 comments:

jennifer said...

I love reading your blog.

I used to pretend to be Heidi when I was little too!

I just thought I'd take a minute to thank you so much for always commenting on my blog posts. It makes MY heart happy! You are my first real bloggy friend! :-)

Cheri said...

I too, lived in a small Midwestern town growing up so I understand exactly what you're saying.

My parents still live there so I get to visit every couple years and watch the changes as they take place. It isn't always easy.

Enjoy your visit - enjoy what's changed and what remains the same.

Tracey said...

Came from a VERY small town myself...love to go home...I makes me happy! ENJOY!

The Sullivan Sitcom said...

OMG! I'm totally 5 minutes away! I'm not kidding at all! I'm in the nearby town know for their pumpkins! I haven't even finished reading your post...I just had to hurry and write this. CRAZY!

Chel's Leaving a Legacy said...

You are such a gem. Thanks for sharing your home with us.

I agree with you, too; I love a small town parade. But the bed races were a new one on me. :-)

Have fun...and keep in touch when you can!

mamachristina said...

I hope you enjoy going back, it is sometimes sad to go back and visit but a trip down memory lane is always heartfelt.

Gretchen said...

Sweet, sweet words. I won't tell you to enjoy yourself, because it's clear that you already savor each bit. Good for you. Oh, heck...enjoy yourself. :)

The Bayou Belles and Their Beau said...

Small towns are the best.

We're home. Thanks for your prayers.

Lizz @ Yes, and So is My Heart said...

I hope you have a nice visit. The nostalgia thing gets me every time.

Wendi said...

I experienced very similar feelings while my trip 'back home'. I hope you have so much fun Jackie!! I just love your posts. :)

SarahHub said...

I lived in a small Southern town growing up, and I know exactly what you are feeling. I haven't been back since my grandfather's funeral 10 years ago. I wonder what it's like now...

Have a great visit!

FromThe Creek said...

I grew up down around Indy too and recently went back for the Fourth of July. It is bittersweet to return sometimes...especially after loved ones have passed away.

Now I live in the northern end of the state and rarely get back home.

Have fun!
Christy

Marci @Finding Joy in the Journey said...

I'm laughing cause I see that Traci already posted, but she, Nicole over at life in progress and I are all a stone's throw from where you are headed! What an amazing small world!! If you happen to stop by Walmart or the DQ and see some familiar faces, know you're among friends!!

Carolina Mama said...

Love this. What a great post! And thanks for the reminder. I love Heidi! Watched it a lot and have a niece Heidi! Aren't you too young ... ;)

Enjoy!

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

You painted a lovely word picture. My town is much like that, a little bigger, but many of the dynamics the same. Don't you love home-made, small-town, homecoming floats?!

mamajil said...

Great Post!! I hope you are having a wonderful time!! Hey check out my blog when you can...I left you an award :)

Amanda said...

definitely understand the not being able to go back to that exact place in time. AND wondering if you are still in indiana...because from what you are saying you are SO close to my stompin' grounds...

Life In Progress said...

Of course, I LOVED this post. I wish I had know you were going to be in the area - we could have met for coffee!

Jodie said...

This gives me chills Jackie. Very, very well said.