You can’t go home again

Lori Cameron

Guest Columnist

My father was an industrial engineer by trade, but the mills were closing down all over the United States and things were getting kind of lean in his profession. The mill in the town we lived in closed down and his job evaporated with it, again. We moved about once a year. I thought that was normal. I would make friends, then we would move. I thought that was normal. I thought it was weird when people talked about their uncle who lived in town. I thought families were supposed to be scattered.

One of those places really sticks out in my mind. My father was desperate for a job, so he moved us to the only place he could find work. It was in the sticks. We were moving at Christmas this time. Last time it was my birthday, so I got to pick my room first. We moved just in time to really mess up the holiday, plus we hated the place where we were moving. It was terrible. It was out in the middle of nowhere and there was too much dirt. We used to eat out about once a week, and there was nowhere to go in these boondocks.

It was every kid’s nightmare. There was nowhere to go because this little podunk town had nothing in it. There was a square and a little grocery store, but that was it. There was nothing to do. We couldn’t skateboard or ride bikes because the road wasn’t paved. Plus, we had no cable. I was miserable. I was mad. Oh, y’all, if I could show you this place, you would just shake your head and smile. The only thing remotely near us was a gas station and a little chain restaurant. When my sister and I would get really bored, we would put on our tennis shoes and haul ourselves 3.5 miles to the gas station.

When you walk down a road with absolutely nothing to see, except maybe a horse or two behind a fence and fields of cotton or some other crop, then you know that’s where the bugs hang out. We were city girls. We didn’t do bugs but it was worth it to get to the civilization of a gas station. It was a nice road to do a lot of talking on, I guess. I did a lot of crying back then.

The only thing I could say nice about the gas station was it was a “cool” one with a lot of stuff inside, so it was worth the haul. We had a routine. Go in, enjoy the air conditioner, grab a Coke and whichever candy bar we wanted that day. Wander around at the intersection of Nowhere, USA, then go back the way we came. Sometimes I would pick a boll of cotton to play with on the way home. That’s about as exciting as it got for us.

We were so far out in the boonies, we didn’t even see stray dogs and cats. Even they knew better than to come here. What was wrong with my parents? We came from a city that had its own TV station with the news and cable to this little town that wasn’t even on any maps, forget about the news.

Before, we had been able to go just about anywhere a teenager wanted to be. It was all close. Now, in this little hick town we weren’t going anywhere. Oh, you want to go to the movies? It’s about 30 minutes that way. Wal-Mart was 30 minutes the other way. Unless you counted going to church as entertainment, you were out of luck.

The one thing I really liked was going outside at night and listening to those night sounds you don’t hear in a city, and looking up at the stars. The sky was so pitch black, if you laid on the grass it seemed that you could reach out and pluck one. I loved those stars.

As an adult, if I could live there again, I would. I would take back my stars. I can’t see them because of the lights of the city.

Actually, I lived there just before I moved to Locust Grove. Welcome to McDonough, Ga, 1992. I miss my stars.

Lori raises three children during the day and moonlights as a columnist.