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My hometown is heaven...

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

"my hometown is heaven... i've left parts of my heart all over the place..."

-Rachel Ella

I grew up in a land of tall pines and crickets and frogs singing all night long... hot, humid days with barely a whisper of a breeze to make the pine trees sing. I was raised where people truly do have a southern drawl and call you sweetie in Walmart; and you're taught to mind your manners and say "yes ma'am" and "no sir."

And let me tell you about my neighbors.

First of all there's a lot of them. I was an only child until I was 7 so I was so jealous of these friend who had 5 brothers and sisters!

Second, they're kinda loud. And their house is small, which makes it all the more exciting over there, cuz someone is probably gonna be on their high horse about something, and you can join in and be loud with them - cuz goodness knows I love to do that. And have I ever discussed someone's conduct at a youth deal or made fun of their clothes with these neighbors? I'll leave you to guess.

You also need to know about their mom. She will make you bread when you are sick (or even if you're healthy and she just thinks you look like you need bread). She will give you cucumbers if you walk by and she's in her garden working, and she buys food in bulk, so you can always borrow from her. The problem is she will hardly let you return what you borrowed, and I know at least once she returned something to our fridge when we were gone because she told me I didn't have to pay her back and I tried to anyway.

They have a woods behind their house with an actual creek and let me tell you it's the best woods for playing Indians. You can make houses and paths by raking pine straw into little lanes and make bow and arrows with sticks and strings.

For a long time they had goats. These neighbors are extremely inventive, and so for awhile the game was to tie a rope on to the wagon which was then attached to the goat. Then one child shook a can of feed in front to try to coax the goat forward in order to transport other children who had by this time climbed onto the wagon. Yes, I know you wish you had neighbors like mine.

Sometimes things could get a little risky. Like on their trampoline. They would pull it up close to the house and jump off their low porch roof on to it, which I never totally enjoyed, even though I participated a few times. I broke my arm on that trampoline once, so maybe that's why. They had a perfect tree to climb by the swing set in the front yard, and we made up this complicated game called "Monkeys in the Peanut Field." I don't really even remember most of the rules.

There was a little ditch between my house and theirs that was the boundary line of the property. Unfortunately my mom didn't share my opinion that I should spend most of my waking hours playing at neighbors, so we would make our sneaky little plans, "I'll meet you down at the ditch." There we would set up little stores with plywood tables and all kinds of empty boxes and containers from the trash. Later we went through an Indian village phase, with boards leaned up against the trees closest to the boundary, and sheets draped over them. Kind of ruined the landscaping, I suppose.

I had a playhouse, so sometimes they came to my house and we hosted family reunions that involved hundreds of mud cakes and cookies and the smelly purple berries that grew behind the playhouse. When my parents bought a little blue stock tank and later a slightly bigger pool, we spent hours swimming together.

They carpooled to school with us, and we memorized dozens of songs on the way to school. And once we rocked back and forth in the backseat of their Astro van for so long that their mom was convinced they had a flat tire and drove 55 mph the rest of the way home. They rode bike with me to school a lot too during the crisp, fall days... those were the best mornings.

They were my wheels to youth in the little silver Honda Accord before I got my driver's license. They were who I picked to sing with me in front of church if the need arose. They were the ones who shared the belief that some of our youth group was boring and needed to have things stirred up (a big apology to anyone who had to put up with my 17 year old self). They would go on a meandering walk in the evening if you wanted, and they always called to let you know if the moon was extra beautiful so you could share the moment.

My life has taken me away from the land of the pines... I see palm trees and mountains now from my porch. I pick bougainvillea instead of black-eyed-susans and blackberries, and sing songs in front of church in a whole other language. I still mind my manners, or try to, tho, and I'm still pretty loud and maybe do more stirring up than I should. And these people here on Wren Road are still in my heart. Sometimes I still want to tell all of you to go out and look at the moon when it is extra beautiful.

I want to be like you, Rachel, and remember that my real hometown is heaven.

And like you, I want to scatter my heart all over the place. I want to remember people's birthdays, walk into people's houses any old time and talk, and be up for adventures with anyone. I want to be the kind of girl that takes their friend out for Chinese food and makes friends with the owner of the restaurant. I want to work hard all day, and then take a long walk and look at the moon. And I want to exclaim about how beautiful the world is until others stop and notice too.

Happy Birthday Rachel! I'll see you in our true hometown.

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