It’s thee childhood, not the town, we miss

For anyone who has ever gone back to their hometown after an extended amount of time, there are some hard-hitting truths that come to bear as you return. As I have already written in my first article for Musings & Monologues, I am from the small town of Jacksonville, Illinois -- nestled snugly between the cornfields and soybean fields of west central Illinois. As I write this article, I sit looking out the window onto the main drag of my hometown. It's the typical main thoroughfare showcased by every town with less than 20,000 people: a McDonald's and Domino's Pizza, a pharmacy on every corner, banks as far as the eye can see and many closed shops and buildings sitting idle.

The first truth that stared me down is the simple fact that life goes on. For some reason, there is a part of us that thinks when we move away from a place that time will magically freeze, and things will be the same as when we left them. That's just not the way it is. Shockingly, people have moved on with their lives. To even type that phrase seems ludicrous. There is something in the deep recesses of our brain that makes us think that life is like watching a movie. We've all watched a movie, but had to stop it and resume it at a later date. When we come back to the movie, we pick up right where we left off -- but not so when one moves away. People get older, kids grow up and people that were once a huge part of our lives have learned to soldier on without us. Going back to your hometown can be a very humbling experience -- healthy, but humbling.

The next thing that hit me square in the face is the fact that things can't stay the same. Things change -- it's an inevitability. Even walking into my childhood home, the home that I lived in from 1978 until 2003, has changed. The doors, cabinets, paint and floors have all been changed or upgraded, but the memories from all the years living there still all came flooding back the moment I walked in the front door. That's the crazy thing about memories, though. Even when things change, memories remain the same. They anchor us to a place, they give us a sense of roots even after moving away.

Author Sam Ewing wrote, "When you finally go back to your old hometown, you find it wasn't the old home you missed but your childhood." Mr. Ewing is exactly right. I don't miss my hometown, I miss my childhood. I miss the carefree days of baseball cards, wiffle ball and best friends. I miss the days of no bills, no deadlines and the most stressful part of the week being the spelling test on Friday at school.

I enjoyed my little trip back to my hometown, but a lot has been learned. It caused me to be thankful for what I had always taken for granted: an idyllic childhood, a great family, wonderful memories and a hometown that, while it isn't my home anymore, gives me a place of grounding. It reminds me of where I come from, and that it's important to bring that with me to my new home in Northwest Arkansas.

As we close out this year and this final column for the year along with it, I want to thank you for your kind words of encouragement. I have received some really great feedback these last three months, and I am happy to bring you a musing or monologue each week that you are able to read and hopefully make a connection. Here's to a fantastic 2024, and I look forward to more musings with you in the years to come. Thanks for reading each week, and I sincerely thank you for sharing the articles with others you think might get a kick out of them. I'm a writer because you read, and I am indebted to you.

Listen: "Small Town" by John Mellencamp.

Jeremy DeGroot is Lead Pastor at FBC Siloam Springs, a husband, daddy, and musician. You can contact him via email at [email protected] or reach out on Facebook.