“Awww, do we really have to leave the day after Aunt Ti made that delicious banana bread??!” my son asked.
And on the morning we were to leave, Grandpa went back to work in the wee hours of the morning to work cattle, and my toddler said to him, “But PawPaw, we have cows by our house, you come with us and bring them snacks.”
It’s so cut and dry for kids, isn’t it? For two weeks, they got to play with all of their cousins and spend time with their aunts, uncles, and grandparents in small town Kansas. And just when they get used to being surrounded by lots of family, it’s time to leave.
We were on a two-week summer road trip to my small hometown where much of my family still lives, and I always feel like such a jerk when it’s time to pack up and go back home. We live 14 hours away where we have no family at all.
As a freelance writer, I can do what I do from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection, but my husband works in TV production for a hot rod show, and there is very little opportunity for what he does in a small market close to where we grew up.
We are keeping our eyes peeled for opportunities to get closer to home, but until then these long summer trips home are the lifeline I need to function so far away on my own.
It’s so funny how it happens. When you grow up in a small town, you can’t wait to leave and see the bright lights, big city. There’s so much world out there to see and explore and lots of places to potentially find yourself.
My husband and I found great jobs and moved to Nashville, Tennessee as our big adventure soon after we were married. And then the kids came along. There are a great many things we love about where we live, but the biggest part of our kids growing up is missing: our families.
I’m not saying there aren’t benefits to living far away from family, but I feel like I’m robbing my kids of what I had when I was growing up. I’m part of a large, crazy Mexican family. I grew up with about a hundred cousins. Life wasn’t perfect and there were conflicts, but we were always together and that’s what matters.
After living in a major city, there are a lot of appealing things about living in a small town that I miss. Though I know the world isn’t exactly the same anymore, there are a lot of things I remember about my small town life.
Growing up, I spent my summers playing rec center softball with my cousins and friends and using my season pass to the swimming pool. I rode my bike everywhere, and even on a bike, it was a small commute.
We walked to school. It wasn’t a mile through snowstorms or searing heat, but those four or five blocks we walked were fun with our neighborhood friends. My grandma lived just down the street. If help was needed, it was there in a flash.
There were very few restaurants in town, and a big attraction was the Godfather’s pizza truck that came to visit our town on Friday nights loaded up with pizzas. It was first come first served, and was a fun treat to look forward to.
Housing in a small town is so much cheaper. You never have to pay for parking, and you can run errands in minutes. When we were visiting my sister’s house, my mom forgot something at her house and said she’d be right back, and she truly was right back.
There are always small town politics and gossip in a small town, but I’d imagine those kinds of people are everywhere and I don’t think there is anywhere you can go to avoid that one.
Things aren’t exactly the same as they once were. That became clear as I drove around town. It reminded me of that scene in the Pixar movie Cars when the town’s businesses in Radiator Springs slowly started to disappear.
It gave a whole new meaning to the words “buy local” for me. I took my sons to get haircuts at the little barber shop in town, we ordered lunch from the little sandwich shop, and I got gas in town. I met friends for dinner at one of the only restaurants in town. We made quick visits to family members where they worked, and we stopped to see the town fountain in the square. Small towns are in trouble. My hometown just lost its little grocery store and it made me sad.
Small town life isn’t perfect, but I really do yearn to move back home. I want my kids to know what I knew growing up. The simple birthday parties of numerous cousins. Grandparent hugs. Getting dirty and running around town barefoot. Going to all of our cousins’ programs and ball games. Long summers at the pool and Brown’s park. Recreation center after-school skates.
And knowing their relatives by their hearts and voices and touch instead of needing to be reminded who their family is through pictures or Skype.
I have several classmates that moved back to settle down and there’s a reason so much of my family still lives there after all these years.
I really yearn to be back home where we belong, and we will actively search for ways to get there. I want to give my kids the family presence I grew up with. And yes, Aunt Ti really does make delicious banana bread.More On