Returning Home

Jane - Marietta, Georgia
Entered on March 10, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: place

I believe a fresh blanket of snow can cover all the ugliness in the world. I grew up in a dying city. You can see evidence of the slow death in every dive bar, faded hockey jersey, and tired face that speckle my hometown. As a child I never saw any of that. But, at age nine my parents had had enough of the grime. One week after I finished fourth grade my parents announced we were moving, and one month after that my family was driving to the sunny, optimistic South.

I was angry. Afraid to leave the only house I had ever lived in and the only life I had ever known. Yet like many other privileged middle class kids living comfortably over the poverty line, my life in the South was fine, great even. By the time I headed back up North, my blood had thinned and my face soaked up a respectable tan. When I walked out of the airport, I barely recognized the place I landed. My hometown, which sat in my memory as a beautiful and resilient place, was broken. The waterfront was crumbling, homes were boarded up, and the streets were lined with dirty sludge. As I drove pass the house I grew up in, I cringed at the sight of the muddy clapboard slumping drunkenly towards the sidewalk. It was tiny. All of the magic I remembered had disappeared with my childhood.

Driving to my grandparent’s house a soft snow began falling. It didn’t stick right away but melted on the hood of my dirty rental car. I remember a twinge of irritation as I turned on my wipers and punched the cracked heater with my knuckle. Halfway there I stopped for gas, cursing the cold as I climbed out of my car and shuffled to the gas pump. It was then, shivering next to a sketchy gas station that I noticed the snow.

A perfect white blanket had settled over the graffitied streets in the ten minutes it had taken me to get off the highway. It was on this pure, unblemished canvas that I was able to see the ghost of the place I grew up. No longer defeated and ugly, but clean and peaceful. For the first time since I landed I felt like I was home. The snow took away the dirt that had piled up and made an ugly city beautiful again. This dirt is stretching across our country, in the forms of violence, apathy, and negligence. We need to reach out to our hometowns and preserve them for the next generations so that they too and can find magic in the place they grow up. This I believe.