I love going back to my hometown of Xenia. Even though it has changed a lot over the years and is very different from Cary, NC where I live now. Cary is a town of 112,000, basically a bedroom community for the Research Triangle and Raleigh. It is tony, mostly upscale, safe, quiet and slightly snooty. Xenia is a town of around 28,000, that used to be a center of agriculture, is the county seat and is not mostly upscale. As a matter of fact, the devastating tornado in 1974 changed the demographics of Xenia drastically.
People who owned their homes, particularly nice homes, found themselves with insurance checks in hand ( remember the insurance adjusters writing checks in the backs of semis they were using as temporary offices?) and offers of 4% interest loans from FEMA. Why should they wait to rebuild when they could take the money and run to Beavercreek or Centerville? As a result much of the wealth and many of the professional level workers left Xenia never to return.
The median annual income in Cary is $98,360. The median annual income in Xenia is $19,490, at least it was in 2009, the latest figure I could find.
So my two hometowns are drastically different. In Cary, which fairly routinely places in the ten best places to live in the country, there is plenty to do, plenty of shopping, too many restaurants to count, a thriving school system, although the school system has taken some lumps recently since some anti-public education loons managed to pack the School Board, but no worries they were voted out this year.
My husband loves Cary. He walks in the mall in the morning and chats up other retirees, he enjoys the variety of people–Cary is one of the most diverse towns in NC, and he enjoys the mostly gorgeous weather.
I, on the other hand, miss Xenia and Wilberforce. Yes, it is mainly poor, yes, it is often rainy and/or cold, but it is home.
Nothing brought this home to me more than our recent 45th class reunion. Seeing my old classmates ( and we really are getting to be old classmates!) and talking about growing up in Xenia and the high school and our teachers, most of whom have joined the choir invisible of course, made me even more nostalgic for Xenia. The people in Cary are transients . Hardly any of them are from NC. Some of them love NC and have adopted the state, but a lot of them are here for work ( we had 15% job growth in the area in the last couple of years) and for sun. They have no roots here.
My mother is from NC, but not from Cary. I have no roots here. I miss my garden in Wilberforce. I miss hearing the chimes at Galloway Hall on CSU’s campus. I miss the cold weather believe it or not, coming outside in January and having the mucus freeze in your nose. Watching snow fall and hoping you have enough milk and bread to make it until the road is clear again, hoping your century old furnace still has another winter in her. I miss it all!
I miss the people most of all. Regular people, down to earth people, people who are not living their lives trying to impress other people. People like most of my classmates.
I do not think my longing for X-town is due to any fault of Cary. I am simply not at home here. I am a visitor. I am a fortunate visitor. I have a good job and I live well, but I would rather be back in Wilberforce living less well than in Cary living in, as we say here, high cotton!
So classmates if I survive the next couple of years ( physically and mentally and do not go off on anyone because of their lack of understanding of social justice) I will be moving back to Wilberforce.
I enjoyed seeing all of you last weekend. Sorry to have missed a few who did not come and very mournful for the few who could not come because they are no longer with us. Hopefully I will be back living in the area like some of our classmates who wandered away, but are back now.
Those of you who know what I am talking about come on back too! The Class of 66 can still make a difference in our hometown!
Hugs to all!