Tell us about the home where you lived when you were twelve. Which town, city, or country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?
I grew up in a small town in Illinois. The house we lived in, my parents bought for $5,000 back in 1962, before I was officially a toddler. It’s an old house that had plaster walls, a cellar door, the kind you lift up, a chimney, but I never remember a fireplace, and a fairly steep staircase with skinny steps to the second floor. I didn’t think of them as steep or small, when I was a kid, but now, I walk up and down them VERY carefully. This house celebrated it’s 100th anniversary in 2012. My dad still lives there.
We were on the far north edge of town. There was only one more street before you left town. A field was across the street and down the street, pretty much corn, sometimes wheat or beans.
Across the field was old old route 66, that’s what we called it, next to that, railroad tracks. I remember going into that field in the spring to fly kites, if it wasn’t too muddy, never more than halfway across, never made it to the highway, which seemed so far, but now, I see it’s really only a couple blocks. In late summer, when the corn was high, it was fun to get lost in the corn, a good place to hide or just have a quiet moment. I remember, specifically, sitting out in the yard the night Nixon announced his resignation, looking out into that field, facing west, I think it was beans that year, the stars in the sky, listening to Vincent on the portable transistor radio, watching a train go by – and wondering, how sad is this? – as I heard the train whistle. What is this country coming to? I was almost 13 and just starting to become aware of the world. A President of the United States had NEVER resigned before.
It’s gone now, the field. They built some homes there and a community park. I can’t sit in the yard and look out across the field to the railroad tracks, really have to go further out into the country to look up into the sky to see all stars you can see.
Our town has a claim to fame. I kind of figured I’d be telling this story sooner or later, but Mother Mary Jones final resting place is the Union Miners Cemetery in my home town. She was an organizer for the Knights of Labor and United Mine Workers. I could give you a link, but you can Google it. She was at one time, known as “the most dangerous woman in America” for her success in organizing unions.
When I was in high school, our U.S. History teacher insisted on teaching one month of Mount Olive history. We all moaned and groaned, naturally. This past weekend was the town “Homecoming” picnic. I saw him, and stopped him. “Mr. K,” I said, “I just wanted to say thank you for teaching us Mount Olive history in class. I really do appreciate it now.” Next year, the town celebrates its sesquicentennial, that’s 150 years, a paltry amount considering other ancient places.
Still, there’s something about growing up in a small town rich in your ancestor’s history. Of course, as a teenager, all I could think of was getting the heck out of there. I’ve been to San Antonio, New Orleans, Boston, and Dallas, now back in central Illinois. I’m glad I did leave, sometimes. I had a lot of wonderful experiences and got to try out other cultures. But, I also missed staying connected as much to those who did stay. Still, I know this may sound strange and I NEVER thought I would EVER say this , but after this past weekend, I could actually see myself moving back to my little home town.
I thought at first, this is kind of choppy, but then decided, to fit into the quilting theme, it kind of fits the Meandering that you do as you free-motion quilt. I know it’s all rather maudlin. As a teenager, I loved the word, “maudlin.” Hence, I know, you never hear that word anymore, “hence”, or “maudlin”, either, I changed my tagline to “Free-motion quilting and meanderings.” Meanderings aren’t just about quilting, though. Some people call them (btw, another great 70’s song), “Reminiscing”.
BTW: this post has the most tags ever.