Everyone must come to grips with the place in which he or she grew up. To not do so relegates one to a lifetime of wandering. This is because home, regardless of your wishes, does much to define you. This is for many a hard fact to accept. I like many a youth struggled to come to some sort of peace with my hometown.
I grew up in the small town of Wheelersburg in Southern Ohio. The Wheelersburg I grew up in still held many of the traits some only now know from Frank Capra films. A 1950s feel permeated the area. Everyone knew everyone else and life seemed to revolve around the high school sports teams. I recall working Friday nights at the local family grocery store during football season. A half-hour before the game began the store would be deserted. Everyone had gone to the game. We even listened to the contests on the radio in the back room of the store. In Wheelersburg most people were categorized by family name. Just the mention of a person’s surname would evoke predictable responses. “He must play football”, “I’d stay away from her”, “That family’s always had money” and on and on. A piece of gossip originating on one side of town spread with electric-like celerity all the way to the other.
As for myself, my body may have resided in Wheelersburg, but my mind always seemed elsewhere. I resented my area for its seeming backwardness and close-mindedness. It was to me a place devoid of opportunity and culture. I remember many a vow to “shake the dust of this town off my feet” and make for greener pastures. I visited places like Washington D.C. and New York and marveled at these wonderful cities. They seemed to brim with action and purpose. To me it was only in such places that the true American Dream could be lived out. Home, on the other hand, was a dead end to be steered away from at all costs. Yet, as my departure morphed from a distant dream to a fast approaching reality, I could not help but reexamine my prior notions concerning home. Upon graduating high school I began to look at things from an altered perspective. Why exactly this happened at that particular time is unclear to me. Maybe it was because I realized that I would soon leave. Maybe I had finally grown up. Regardless, I developed a respect, I would dare say even an admiration for my former object of scorn.
Exactly how were my fiercely held conceptions modified? As I earlier mentioned I worked at a family grocery store through most of high school. The store was called Deemer’s and four generations of the Deemer family had worked there. The place seemed the near epitome of Americana, with its clean cut “bag boys” (including myself) dressed in shirts and ties helping to take groceries to customers’ cars. There everything felt familiar, everyone was a friend. In my three years of employment I had the pleasure of getting to know many people, most of whom had been both customers of the store and residents of the area for decades. It is somewhat odd to see how people will open up to someone who is merely carrying their groceries to their car. By such I learned of band camps, vacations, engagements, break-ups, grandchildren, carnivals, even receiving copious amounts of unsolicited marriage advice from disgruntled husbands. I believe I heard the weather report at least thirty times a day, always dreading the inevitable rush accompanying every forecast of snow. It was here, though, that I saw face to face the backbone of America. Here I met the hardworking folks who get up everyday and strive to make their community, children, and selves better. I spoke with the survivors of a depression and the veterans of wars on fascism and communism. Their strength of will and greatness of character did much to force the sea change in my ignorant view. For, much as I wanted to accuse them of being such, it was I, in fact, who was ignorant. I had through the years attempted to familiarize myself with the mind of America and the principles of liberty and self-government. I for years had studied the history of our nation, being able to easily reel off names and dates. Yet, in all of this, I had failed to comprehend the heart and soul of America. I had failed to see that those high-minded ideals formulated and espoused by brilliant men and women throughout our history were nothing if not defended with the blood, sweat, and tears of these supposedly “simple-minded” commoners. They are the true America, the legitimate sons and daughters of ‘76. They were the ones who reshaped my erroneous view of home.
It took me nineteen years to truly appreciate the beauty of southern Ohio. At the same time I finally realized my great fortune at having grown up there. As much as I might have previously loathed to admit it, that place will always be a part of home. In it reside good people who want nothing more than a good job to work hard at and a descent home to raise a family in. Yet, when fate necessitates it, they have proven themselves capable of the most extraordinary feats. They do not seek praise, yet their actions can illicit no other response. To me that is part of what is so great about America and the people who call it home. I hold no illusions as to the depressed economic state of the area and fully comprehend the necessity of my departure. However, I will take leave of my hometown not bursting with the joy of an escaped captive, but with a thankful yet heavy heart and a small but genuine tear.
Adam Carrington is a freshman from Wheelersburg, Ohio, majoring in Political Science and Communications.