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There's No Place Like Home (updated)

This blog was originally posted on July 7th, 2019 and updated and reposted July 4th, 2023.

I love going home! As I said in my opening blog, my childhood was great and the neighborhood I grew up in was wonderful. My parents still live in the house I grew up in, complete with the heights of myself and my three older siblings on the door jam of the master bedroom. Every inch of that house holds with it some incredible memories of the laughter and tears of the six of us along with our pets and so many friends and family members. The house was and is still great, but it is also the neighborhood that made it such a fun childhood. I could walk to school 1st-5th grade. Many of our neighbors had children my age and we would play flashlight tag, soccer, capture the flag and so much more from morning till night. My parents’ only instruction when I left to play with my friends was, “Call when you change locations.” Our neighborhood had a summer swim team program that kept me busy almost all summer. And throughout the entire subdivision are sidewalks, perfect for riding your bike everywhere. I could go on and on about my slice of childhood heaven. It was a large part of the village that raised me and I will be forever thankful for it!

Brandon and I had not been dating long, when I realized he had a strong dislike of neighborhoods. Then I realized, most everyone who lives around Pomaria isn’t keen on neighborhoods. And of course, those with the strongest opinions, have never lived in one. Why do they dislike them so much? Well, they picture it like every movie that dramatized that annoying neighbor who turns you into the HOA because a leaf from one of your trees dropped on their side of the lawn – that is how they picture subdivision life. It’s this fear of not liking your neighbor and having to put up with them. Out here in the country, you may not like your neighbor, but usually you don’t live close enough for it to really matter. Often times I felt myself defending neighborhood life and trying to convince people it was wonderful.

I like to think that as Brandon has spent more and more time at my childhood home around my family and my lifelong neighbors, he’s started to come around to at least admit there are perks to neighborhood living. There are the neighbors who have told you where their hidden key is so you can use it anytime you are short an egg or a cup of flour. And maybe while you’re there, you grab a cookie too (shout out to Mrs. L for always having the junk food my mom refused to buy). There are the neighbors who when you go door to door for your first school fundraiser selling wrapping paper, but you think and tell everyone you’re selling wallpaper, they still buy from you. There are the neighbors whose houses you go to after school until your mom gets home and they help you with your spelling words. There are the neighbors who hire you to walk their dogs while they’re on vacation and you feel like such a big kid with a summer job (if only for 5 days). These neighbors were my second and third set of parents and now they’re Romney Ann’s extended family too!

This past weekend we headed home for the Fourth of July festivities, and I got to share some of what makes neighborhood life so great with Romney Ann! My home neighborhood has a parade on the morning of the fourth. Children decorate their bikes and scooters. Everyone dresses to the nines in their patriotic garb. And families turn their golf carts into rolling USA banners. (For the record, no one had golf carts when I was growing up – that’s a new thing.) The firetruck leads the parade and a police officer brings up the caboose. There are popsicles at the end of the route and contests for best decorated bike, golf cart, and child. People come out of their houses and sit on their porches or in their driveways to wave to everyone passing by. Romney Ann was much more consistent about waving to dogs along the route, including a golden retriever statue in front of a house that didn’t have anyone standing there, but regardless, she loved it!

Then, that evening, our family always goes to a backyard BBQ of a house that sits on one of the neighborhood lakes (ok ok, Brandon, it’s a pond). At the center of this lake pond is a small island, called Firecracker Island, that since before I was born, they have set off the Fourth of July fireworks from. My dad always goes early in the morning of the fourth to set out our chairs to assure we have a great spot for viewing. The fireworks show gets bigger and bigger each year, and this year was no different. It was 30 minutes of continuous, beautiful fireworks. My mom took RA back to the house before the fireworks began, but she was still able to enjoy the potluck, BBQ, and of course the dessert table. She also made friends with some other children sitting around us and danced to the music that was playing.

To complete my nostalgic trip with Romney Ann, on Saturday, before we headed home, Brandon came up and we took RA to the pool. This is the pool I swam countless laps in and spent so much of my childhood. This was her first time in a pool ever. She wasn’t too keen at first but eventually began to really enjoy splashing around. We didn’t stay long, we had a birthday party to get to, but this memory is something I won’t forget.

I love where I grew up! I always figured I’d live someplace like it or maybe even move back to the same neighborhood. I realize that’s not going to happen now, and that’s ok. I love the life Brandon and I have as well. When I think about the ways in which Romney Ann’s childhood will be so vastly different from mine, I am excited to know she and I can share in a family tradition like the Fourth of July. And, I am genuinely excited for the different opportunities that she will have – Romney Ann gets to pet and feed animals and not just when she visits the zoo or a friend has a petting zoo birthday party. She gets to ride across acres of land on a golf cart just exploring what is out there. She regularly sees deer in her backyard and has to wait for ducks to cross the driveway to continue home. It’s just all really cool. But I’m also so thankful we live close enough, just over an hour away, from my first home. Hopefully Romney Ann will see the beauty in all different kinds of places you can live, but of course, I hope, in thirty years, she’s most fond of her own childhood here on the farm.

Update: This year, RA sat through all of the fireworks and she rode her own bike in the parade while I walked briskly behind her and tried to keep up, but failed miserably. She got to ride alongside her cousins, who even though they don't live in the same neighborhood as my mom and dad, still come every year for the fireworks and parade as it is a beloved piece of their childhood as well.

Every year at these events, I run into someone I knew from high school that I haven't seen in years. They ask the general get to know you questions, "So what are you up to these days? Do you live around here still?"

I get to watch the look on their face when I say, "No, we actually live right at an hour away in Pomaria."

"Oh!" They begin excitedly, "I've seen that on signs on the interstate and always wondered about that town, and how you're supposed to say it."

"Yeah, we just live about ten minutes off the interstate and we own and operate a livestock farm."

The search for words and not sure exactly what to say after that is quite entertaining. This year I ran into someone I played soccer with in high school and really haven't seen her since our senior year of high school. She is married to someone I also went to high school with, with a child and another on the way, living the neighborhood life. Almost every time I run into someone, have some version of this conversation, I'm left with a similar internal conversation with myself. Similar to the angel and devil having conversations on your shoulder, but a little different. It's kind of like parts of my brain, the one who remembers the past me, and the one more connected to current me.

"Do you remember when that was the life YOU wanted?"

"Yeah, that's crazy! Its sounds awful now...Ya know, other than the convenience to Target and Publix."

It brings me so much joy to share with RA some of the greatest memories of my childhood that neighborhood life brought me, so much so I often feel my eyes welling with tears. Before we even had kids, I told Brandon that 4th of July and Halloween would always be spent at my childhood home. Farm life just can't compare to those. But at the same time, these trips home also make me so thankful for the life we have - the wide open space to explore and be, the quiet, even the hard work. I wouldn't change anything about my childhood, I loved it! I hope I can show RA a different perspective of neighborhood life than those she'll grow up around here, but also, I hope in thirty years she loves the childhood she is getting as well!


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