My Hometown Essay

My Hometown is that little fork-in-the-road somewhere between Chicago and Denver, always reminiscent of a simpler time.

My Hometown is a bubble — it is timeless. Sure, the corn stands tall and the cattle graze freely each season, but the hills and valleys are forever the same age.

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In My Hometown, the sidewalks are cracked and the driveways crumbled. The ancient oaks and wise old maples reluctantly shed their leaves for each approaching winter, only to recover them the following spring.

On quiet summer evenings, My Hometown’s empty swimming pool still echoes with the joyful cries of children splashing in the once-present water. It is this swimming pool that costs too much to keep open and too much to replace, so it sits in silence as the years continue to pass slowly by.

In My Hometown, the seasons forever change, but My Neighbors do not. They are granite. They go to work, come home, take the trash out, eat dinner. Rarely thinking about the future, only remembering what used to be.

My Hometown is a dying town. Its proud residents are aging and its young people move away. Its streets are growing quieter and the businesses are closing doors.

The passing of a funeral procession only means there will be one fewer yard mowed next summer.

My Neighbors are all the same. My Neighbors all smile that same warm smile and wave at everyone who passes.

My Neighbors are all old. They listened to the moon landing on the local AM — the same station where they heard of, but never witnessed the Civil Rights movement in the 60’s.

My Neighbors have the same voices — one blends right into the next. Sure, they all have different stories to share, but they all sing the same old song.

At the bar uptown, one of My Neighbors sings a melody of the good ol’ days, a song which takes place in Beaver Cleaver America, where politicians and activists were but a distant thought, and Ronald Reagan posters still hang on the walls.

Across the street at the post office, another of My Neighbors whistles the tune of current events through the lens of their Fox News television set.

My Neighbors sing those same songs and whistle those same tunes day in and day out. The world around them shifts and changes, twists and turns, but in the bubble of My Hometown, My Neighbors do not.

In My Hometown, if you were to explain the changing times to one of My Neighbors, they would listen closely. But your words would be found as lost as the breath with which you spoke them.

My Neighbors would never be intentionally hurtful to an outsider. They would not be disrespectful nor rude. But they would know the instant when someone who looks different from them enters the city limits. These streets can sing too.

It is as if My Neighbors are afraid to ruin their one-dimensional, blank white canvas of a town. But I ask of you all: how can a picture be beautiful if the canvas has no color? Has no depth? Has no character?

And for My Neighbors, how is one of you supposed to stand out from another against the backdrop of a snow-covered corn field filled with monotony and dullness?

This is the landscape where I was born and raised. And it is with the songs of My Neighbors and the timelessness of My Hometown that I am forced to travel through my life.

This is both a burden and a blessing, a commendation and a curse. It is somewhere between this fantasy of a place and the rest of the real world where I truly reside — right at the edge of the bubble surrounding My Hometown.

My Neighbor’s songs beckon to me and My Hometown’s colorlessness is hypnotizing, yet against that nearly overpowering current I carry on. 

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