Tonight I started thinking about this Texas town God set my family down in seventeen-some-odd years ago.
I thought about how little it is. How everybody knows everybody. How we take care of our own and make sure everyone else knows it. How set in its ways this little country town is.
But most of all, I thought about how good this town gets at convincing us that nothing has changed. That time has left us untouched. That we haven’t swum in waters much bigger and wilder than any the city water tower ever held.
And yet… Although you can’t tell it when you drive down the highway through the center of it all, even the county line which held alcohol at bay for what seemed like forever couldn’t keep change out.
I can tell you this with certainty because I’m one of the ones who stayed. When we flipped our tassels over to the left and everyone packed for college and took the quickest exit out, I stayed. You can call it fear or you can call it courage, but it was my choice to make and so I made it, and I know now that it was just right for me. Because although Tyler, TX still feels somehow just like coming home for me, and pieces of my heart are littered on Austin sidewalks which run along graffiti covered walls and hold up music filled air, I love this town. I love the way it looks after 11 pm when all the businesses are closed and the red lights don’t run anymore, and how the old men sit on the bench outside the gas station around 8 am, and how going to Wal-Mart feels like a reunion. And I think that no matter where God takes or sends me, I will always love it.
This town, as old-fashioned and strange and small as it is, gave me roots. Solid ground. Familiarity.
And I guess maybe it gave that to all of us.
Because I saw your Mama tonight and she told me you were coming home again tomorrow.
And I remember so clearly how you sounded all those years ago when you told me that all you wanted was to get out of here. This little town with its little people and little thoughts never was quite big enough for little ol’ you. So you went, and you saw, and I think it surprised you what a big space such a little town and such little people took up in your heart.
I think we were all surprised. By what this town meant to us when we got in our cars and drove away. Whether we left for good like you, or just to see the world and breathe in the air of other places like me, I think we all felt it.
And maybe that’s a part of growing up. Gaining perspective. Getting wisdom.
Maybe we have to realize that all the roads that lead us out of here are just as lovely when they’re leading us back. Back to our home. To our old stomping grounds. To memories shared with each other. To this little town, filled with big hearts, and wide dreams; deep roots, and strong wings.
-Jessi Sanders 2013