I rarely go into the nearby city where I was born and raised. I haven’t lived there since 1988, and even though I only moved approximately 15 miles from there, it feels like another world.
For the past 20 or so years if I needed something in the city, it was only on the very outskirts, not in the middle of the town. But today I had to go into the city and realized the city I left has become a shadow of it’s former self.
I guess I should explain why I left. It really didn’t have any thing to do with the city. I was attending college and hated the commute with my small children. Once I moved I realized I fit better in a small town than I did a small city.
Today my son asked me to drive him in to complete a required class to finish the process of purchasing his first home, since I know the area and my way around far better than he does.
We don’t have much need to go in to the city, so while we are very much aware of the crime that is out-of-control there, we haven’t seen the effects….until today. My home town used to be filled with the sounds of life, neighbors visiting on the front porch or side yards, children playing, even dogs barking wanting to join in with the people about.
What we found were broken down buildings. Smashed windows even on the second floor, Metal grates and bars on the windows and no one out and about. And most surprisingly, to me, the air smelled of turpentine or some other chemical yet I couldn’t find any reason for the smell.
People were either in cars or indoors. I never feared for my life in any part of my hometown before I left, but the people today are afraid.
Even seeing the destruction and abandoned buildings, even seeing empty neighborhoods where people and children used to play all day, even with the failing economy…I could see the potential that used to be my hometown and wished with everything in me that someone would show the way back to the life people should be able to have.
Cleaning up some of the businesses around the area, having the owners reclaim the living spaces above their storefronts, which used to be the norm, would help to reclaim the neighborhoods.
Seeing lots overgrown with weeds behind abandoned buildings I could see the potential for community gardens and a way to reconnect with the community which would make it safer.
One empty building could be reclaimed for a neighborhood art or learning center with the lot behind it used for gardens. People could share their knowledge in how to garden, knit, a place to sign up for help. It could become a resource to the area instead of a boarded up building.
The contrast only 20 miles away is striking.
I came home tonight feeling a sense of loss for the wonderful city I used to know. I, like many others, left and abandoned the city leaving it less than it used to be. We all had our reasons, some financial, some not.
Sure I’ve found a new home, one I love. Yes, this was the right place for me and my family and yes, I am happy my grandchildren get to grow up safer where they are.
But I look at what has been created in my backyard. The Little Cove and the community garden that has sprung up. I am still living the life I knew where I can freely go about my business without fear. I still stop or am stopped by others out and about to say hello, or ask for directions. I have a sense of loss that I didn’t stick around and create something like this there. That no one thought to save the city and keep it from falling into a wasteland of failed dreams.
Do you ever look back at where you grew up and wish it hadn’t changed so?