Growing up, I was always fascinated by my grandma’s recollections of our hometown. Her blue eyes would shine as we drove. She’d recite the street names, often knowing their namesake families and sharing stories of their school days together. She would look wistfully out the window as she said, “This was all farmland.”
My grandma lived in this town for her entire life. Almost one hundred years. Today, I’m living in the house where she was raised, where she later raised her own family. And while I may not be one hundred, I’ve spent most of my life here, too. That’s long enough to remember some changes, myself.
I remember when we didn’t have banks on every corner. There were family diners, instead. There was no McDonald’s, and it seemed like all we had were hair salons and Italian restaurants. I remember thinking it took forever to get across town. We would drive slowly past the lakefront homes, in awe of their extravagant Christmas displays.
There used to be a patch of woods on my way to school. It was home to coyotes and deer. Right outside Detroit, can you believe that? There were pheasants and foxes and rabbits, too. We still have horses grazing in the middle of town, but there have been fewer and fewer since the fire. I knew all the families on my street, and even some on my grandma’s and cousins’ streets, too.
Sure, the layout has changed. The land has changed. The city is expanding, and I’ve realized just how small this town really is, even though it used to be my entire world. I think the thing that’s changed the most is our culture. And I think that’s a reflection of how the world is changing. We used to get outside, ride our bikes, shoot hoops, go swimming. See, we didn’t have cell phones, or computers, or wifi, especially not in the early days.
Even in high school, when technology was beginning to be introduced in the classroom, we were still skeptical. When we were required to make Twitter accounts for an assignment, many of us deleted them after the assignment was completed. But today, that kind of assignment seems to be the norm, and I haven’t even been out of high school for five years. I had college classes so entirely online that I wouldn’t recognize my classmates or professors if I bumped into them on the street.
Most of the changes I’ve witnessed over my lifetime have been brought about by technological advances, but I think technology creates a feeling of closeness to others, while actually pushing us to a disconnection. And I think there’s some value in being the last generation to grow up with and without it. Maybe I’m jaded. Maybe I’m an old soul, maybe that’s why I am the way I am. But I’d rather eat dinner around the table than around the TV. I’d rather play a board game than a video game. I’d rather chat over coffee than Snapchat. I’d rather watch the stars than watch Netflix.
I certainly see the benefit of technology, and take advantage of it, too. It’s been amazing to be able to stay in touch with family and friends for the weeks, or months, or sometimes even years in between visits. I love seeing pictures of places across the country or across the globe, and trying to find a way to see them myself. And I enjoy creating community and business through social media. Yet I often wish technology was avoidable. I wish we could get back to the honest, meaningful connections we once had.
We understand most situations only after we’ve had time to process them in hindsight. All of these changes make me wonder – how else will everyday life have changed when I get to be my grandma’s age? This town went from farmland to upscale suburbia in less than a hundred years. In my twenty-some years, I’ve seen vast changes, as well. Even in the three years since my grandma passed away (in which I split time between Detroit and Colorado), I’ve seen changes here that I know she wouldn’t have ever imagined. I can sit here all day and imagine how different things will be when I’m old, and I know that what actually happens will be far beyond my imagination’s reach. And I guess that’s the beauty in it – we’ll never know what will happen until it happens. I just know that somehow, my hometown will know how to tell the tale.
“But don’t you forget it, as big as we’re getting, this town’s too small to be mean.” – This Town, Kacey Musgraves
I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Bing Crosby (I love Bing’s Christmas music. A lot.)