Against the Grain

Slightly more than just jibba jabba

Returning Home

Posted by Patrick on 13 May 2007

Over this Mother’s Day weekend, I decided to pay a surprise visit to my mom and take a trip back to my hometown for a few days. After creating a bit of a stir by showing up completely unannounced, I began to take a look at the city I grew up in and possibly try to figure out why it doesn’t “feel” the same. Maybe it has changed; maybe I have changed; probably it’s a mix of both.

There’s something to be said for the tucked-away familiarity that you can only expose by returning to a place you once knew so well. In my case, this is the town of Columbus on the Georgia/Alabama border. It’s a military base host city as well as the world hq for AFLAC, and the last time I checked was about 120k people in size. For awhile it was the largest city in America that did not have a major interstate highway running through it, but the completion of I-185 remedied that little tidbit some years ago.

Growing up in a small, Southern town like this was both a privilege and a curse, I’ve come to learn upon my return here. Sure, it’s great to have been in a somewhat polite and a somewhat safe city for my formative years — I’m thankful for having grown up virtually unscathed — but it’s clear that this city is very, very much behind the times. I look at Columbus now as I used to look at the smaller, outlying towns which could only be classified as being in either “BFE” or in “the middle of absolutely nowhere”. Perhaps it’s the fact that I live in one of the most technologically advanced cities in America (that be Denver) that gives me this opinion. But I don’t think so, because in the past 48 hours I have people doing things they consider “normal” which I don’t even remember witnessing in the 80s and 90s.

Just today I saw a 1-armed lady in a grocery store and I swear to God himself that she had an open pack of Camels stuck in the hole where I assume her shoulder socket is — I watched this lady dislodge the pack, pack down the tobacco with her good hand but using her head, shuffle out a cigarette into her mouth and re-lodge the pack back in her socket before removing a lighter from her back pocket and starting a smokefest. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that, but holy ommfg was I so abruptly reminded that I’m not in a very sophisticated society now that I’m back in my hometown.

So, along the same lines, I’d like to solicit feedback. If you’re professionally employed away from your hometown, what are the things you notice (either good or bad) when you return home that make you either miss it or make you glad you aren’t living there anymore.

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