They say you can’t go home again.
The familiar saying is usually true. When you go to a place you remember from your past, it is seldom the way you remember it. But if your home town is in the middle of nowhere and stuck in time, you can find yourself transported to your youth.
This happened to me a couple of weeks ago, when I returned to my hometown for a funeral.
Most people have never heard of the town where I spent the earliest years of my life: Cedarville, California. According to Citydata.com, the town’s population in 2010 was 514, and I suspect the number has only declined in the last nine years. Like everywhere else, the big is consuming the small, and the small fights for its existence.
This was evident throughout the tiny town, where vehicles still park perpendicularly on main street. Old businesses were shut down, and many that remain are now owned by the same family. The grade school no longer has enough students to justify the use of a building. Classes from kindergarten through 12th grade are currently held in the high school. The county no longer has enough money to offer a carnival at the annual fair. The list goes on.
However, many things remain the same. Drivers still wave at each other as they pass on the road. Businesses are likely to be referred to by who owns them, rather than their actual name or address. No one is in a hurry. The landscape remains beautiful, the quiet and stillness palpable.
My heart ached with memories. The motel we stayed at was across from the shop my dad once owned. I remembered when I was 12-years-old and he let my cousin and I drive his race car up the hill behind the shop, and with our minimal driving skills, we ended up damaging the car. Fields with wheel-line irrigation systems reminded me of days spent with my dad at his irrigation shop or in his truck while he worked. The burgeoning limbs of apricot trees took me back to being four-years-old and picking my favorite fruit and savoring its sweetness on hot, late summer days.
Experiencing my young daughter’s enthusiasm with the town amplified my reverie. At the vacant grade school, she played on the same monkey bars I once twirled on. She stared with amazement at the old bell in front of the school and wanted to ring it. For the first time in her life, I let her ride in a vehicle on paved roads without a safety belt. While playing in the town’s only park with her cousins she sang, “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” – a song I didn’t even realize she knew.
I realized that even though Cedarville was my official residence for only a fraction of my life, it is still a part of me. The essence of it comes through in my fiction writing, mainly in my characters. The quiet smallness of it shows up in my preferences: I live in a “small” town, attend a small church. I need the peace and quiet found in nature, under a vast blue sky. Perhaps a part of it has even passed down to my children, a kind of geographic DNA.
As the weekend came to an end, my sister and I talked about buying a vacation home together in our old hometown. Our husbands looked at us like we were crazy. Maybe we are. I guess that’s what happens when you go home again and your heart longs to stay a bit longer, but life calls you back to jobs and traffic and a never-ending list of things to do.
Have you experienced the feeling of a place bringing you back to a time in your life? I’d love to hear about!
Readers will get to travel to this one-of-a-kind town in my upcoming novel One Way Home. In the meantime, you can read the first book in my Whispers of Grace series by ordering it here: One Woman Falling
Learn more about this remote place at the links below. Scroll down for more pictures!