One thing was certain, the first chance I got I was getting out. I had grown tired of tobacco crops, hay hauling, and bean picking. I didn’t want to know everybody anymore and I didn’t want to eat at the same restaurants where everybody knew me. I had gotten too big and that small square town to small and I started having visions of grandeur.
There was something in my makeup that said I was meant for bigger places. Everybody in the family knew our small town wouldn’t hold me forever. And as early as I can remember they’d say I was going to leave and never come back. I was a city boy trapped in a small southern town.
I went to college three hours from my home, far enough that I had an excuse not to be home every weekend but close enough I could get a good meal and laundry done when money ran short. But even that wasn’t big enough. Graduation meant I had to move back with the parents for a total of 33 days, it was some of the longest in my life. After getting used to all that freedom, unexpectedness, and control I was shot back into that same town square life I was so desperately trying to get away from and it was killing me.
But on day thirty-four I finally made my break and, as predicted, I left and never came back. As we unpacked my last box and the family left me, my new apartment, and the new job that got me out behind I knew I was finally rid of that little town for good.
In the past two decades I have done big city living with its congestion, racket, and locked car doors and I have drunk in that life I so hopelessly longed for as a kid. I’ve sipped the culture and fast pace with its traffic jams, malls, and cookie-cutter neighborhoods, but now I’m starting to feel the hangover kick it.
Living in Atlanta for 15 years means I’m a native. The city is a microcosm of relocation and I can think of only a handful of friends who were actually born here. All of this unfamiliarity lends itself to making people a bit uneasy. Most don’t get out and meet their neighbors; once the car pulls into the garage and the door goes down they’re not seen from until the next morning. And the saddest part in all of it is I’ve become one of them. The last vestige of my small town roots, being a good neighbor, has apparently vanished.
I think I’m way to young to blame my longing for the old days on my age. My yearning for simpler things is much more than just the weariness of the rat race. I thirst for a sense of peace that just can’t be found among all of this concrete. I know how I feel when I find myself in some other small town square and I don’t feel that way in the city. There I can suddenly breath easier and I begin thinking back to the days of my youth.
There’s something inside that’s telling me I need to get out, that all the bright lights and traffic aren’t living up to what the brochure promised. The fickleness of people and friendships that disappear in the blink of an eye make for a life that is becoming much too orchestrated and rehearsed. I’m growing tired of this subdivision existence where house colors and lawns must match somebody else’s standards. I’m agitated at having to listen to neighbors’ cars as they leave for work in the morning and I’m fatigued by the noise and cramped spaces.
I’m ready for a front porch I can drive a truck on. I want to sit out on that porch in a swing and watch the cars drive by like my parents did. I want to walk out in my back yard and hear crickets instead of a chorus of air conditioners. I want to see the stars and breathe in air not warmed by brick, asphalt, and exhaust. I miss sitting under the shade of large oak trees.
I want a long driveway lined with trees that ends in the front of a house that doesn’t need a fence for privacy. Where I can turn off the car leave the keys in it and not worry if it will still be there when I return. I think I’m ready to live life in black and white instead of high definition.
I need something less glamorous.
I want a garden; I want the sweat on my brow to be there through hard work instead of working out. I want to get my hands dirty. I want my kids to play outside without worrying about the white van slowly passing by.
Growing up all I wanted to do was get away, now it seems, I just want to come back.
Wherever back is, I think I want to go home.
Even if you hate country music, this song (which prompted the post) has become a favorite. The message in the lyrics is priceless and worth a listen.