Tuesday, November 5, 2013

There's No Place Like Home

This weekend, I'm going home. Home-home. Not Minnesota. Not Rockford. My little, wonderful, for better or worse, hometown, Winnebago.

Photo by Mary Kate Skaggs
You can laugh if you think it's the name of an RV. It's actually an Indian tribe. Or I guess nowadays they probably teach the kids to call it a Native American tribe. But we're still called the Indians, so there's that.

When my parents moved away almost ten years ago, I didn't really look back. I thought if I broke all my ties with the first 18 years of my life, I would somehow erase any mistakes of my past or bad memories associated with my formative years. In some ways, it did. I have been able to slowly forget some of those less than fond memories, but at some point I also started to forget how many good, great, awesome memories I had there.

This weekend, I'm going home. I'm going to take in the familiar sights and sounds of my youth. I'm going to grieve some losses of friends there, and grieve my losses of innocence too. But I'm also going to celebrate.

I'm going to bask in the greatness that is a public school district in which all the kids go through one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school, where there are no boundary line battles or property tax wars. We're one town, one school. Many teachers live in the town and have for generations. They are just as invested in the education of the students as the parents are. There is a sense of being held to a higher standard among students, parents, teachers, and everyone in the community. The arts are supported, and so are sports. I'm not sure there's another town this size in America that can compare to our triple threat of academics, athletics, and arts, especially music. Want to know the best part? We can still pray. I'm not sure how much it happens during the school day (of course, they say as long as teachers give tests, there will be students praying!), but we always have and still do pray before all our games.

Photo by Bekki Neal, 10.25.13, taken before their final regular season game to go 9-0.
It's not all roses (or rainbows or peaches). There are always some thorns. At times, it seemed cliquey. Occasionally, politics got ugly. There were some competitive undertones between families that had been there forever and those who came in and built the new cookie cutter subdivisions. Small towns gossip, and the gossip's not always nice or true. I made some bad choices there, and a lot of other kids did too, that we might not have made somewhere else. Or, we might have. Or, we might have made even worse mistakes. It wasn't perfect, and since, you know, I'm a perfectionist, I wanted to forget all that imperfection. The truth is, it can't be forgotten, and I wouldn't want to. There's too much good that I want to remember.

I've never felt at home anywhere but Winnebago. 18 years of fall, winter, spring, and summer were spent there. Christmas, Easter, birthdays, and graduations, all in the same house. All with the same neighbors, who became like family. Some of the same friends from kindergarten through senior year. Years and years of watching high school football on the same field, riding bikes around town on all the same old streets, ordering the same pizza that I can still taste today.

As the seasons came and went, I didn't realize what I was experiencing. We never really do as it's happening. But what I know now is that I'll never wish those memories away again. There's no place like home, and sometimes home is what we need. This weekend, I'm so glad to be going home.

The photos were taken by people who still live in Winnebago and posted these in a group I'm in. They made me cry!