When I was growing up, I could hardly wait to blow past the city limit sign and watch my small hometown grow smaller in my rear-view mirror. I was not alone. Most of us were drawn to the bright lights of Houston or Dallas. Or somewhere exotic like LA or The Big Apple. A few truly adventuresome friends dreamed of heading to Paris or London. We had such a yearning to taste life, maybe even walk on the wild side.
For sure, we wanted to escape the confines of “Hooterville,” our nickname for our hometown, population 11,999 (not counting the convicts incarcerated inside the Huntsville prison). We wanted to go to real nightclubs instead of sneaking around to the bootlegger’s house on Gospel Hill or the country honky-tonks in Trinity and in the backwoods between Willis and Conroe. We wanted to see live theatre with paid actors who were seasoned in their craft rather than school plays and band concerts.
We wanted to sit in candle-lit restaurants and drink imported French wine in delicate crystal stemmed glassware that chefs paired with their signature cuisine delivered on fine bone china dishes. We were so tired of sweet tea and chicken fried steak at the Texan Cafe.
We wanted to vacation on the beaches of Hawaii or the mountains in Colorado instead of shared cabins in Garner State Park. We wanted to shop Nordstrom’s and Macy’s instead of Kerr’s and Penny’s.
We wanted our own apartment and our own money, and most of all, we wanted to live somewhere, anywhere else. Our little hometown was too small, too settled, too confining for our young ambitious selves.
So we escaped.
And got as far away as we could to find the excitement we craved to feed our creativity, our ambitions, our curiosity.
Now as we ease into the late afternoon of our lives, I’ve noticed we are circling back. Many of my high school friends have returned to Huntsville or a similar smaller community in Texas. Ronnie and I, for example, are making our home in Navasota, population 7,049. We’ve come back to our roots, sinking back into the simple life, focusing on civic engagement and community preservation. We’ve joined the Two River Historical Society. I’ve been invited to join the Robert Raines chapter of the D.A.R. and I’m om the citizen advisory board of the Examiner, our town’s weekly newspaper. There’s a book club in nearby Plantersville that I’m interested in joining. Ronnie is on the board of directors of the Navasota Theatre Alliance and the Navasota airport advisory committee, and he’s joining the Volunteer Fire Department and the Grimes Country Crime Stoppers. We’ve attended church with the Catholics, the Methodists, the Baptists and the Presbyterians, and I think we may have found a church home. Occasionally we go dancing at the Western Club or drop by the Dizzy Llama to listen to our friend Mitch White and his band Brickyard Kane. But normally we’re in bed after the 10 o’clock news… sometimes earlier.
When we were young, we hated living where everyone knew our business. We longed for the promised anonymity in a big city. But now we’ve come full circle to a more intimate place. We are in a house that feels like home, living in a town where everyone knows our name, integrating into the fabric of community life, and we love it. Yes, finally, we understand why our parents chose a small town as their permanent address.