I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my hometown, though calling it a town at all is a stretch. With less than a thousand people, most of whom live outside the official “city limits”, Casar is more of a hamlet than a town. But having a love-hate relationship with Casar is hardly unusual in my neck of the woods; many people in my county do as well.
Ask anyone and they’ll say the residents of Casar are the rednecks, the white trash, the hicks—and if you asked the man who used to pastor the family church the same question thirty years ago, he’d tell you that Casar was filled with a bunch of devil-worshiping drug addicts and sinners (he seemed to forget the fact that there was a Baptist or a Methodist church on nearly every road).
I’d always dreamed of “getting out” just like so many young people do when they grow up in small rural towns. I wanted to grow up and get out, go to college, travel the world—you know, LIVE. My eyes were always seeking the horizon, wondering what interesting lives and adventures waited around the bend in the road or over the mountains.
One of the things I daydreamed about as a kid was filling a bag full of food and clothes, grabbing my bicycle, picking a direction, and just going. Just to see what I could find.
This was before the internet, you have to understand. For me, the only other things in the world were what I could see on television or read in books. I was a big fan of the Discover channel, nature documentaries, forensic file shows, NOVA specials, and history shows. I used to read the dictionary and the encyclopedias for fun, picking a random entry and following references, terminology, and chance through the twenty-six letters of the alphabet.
I was in love with Japan (thanks to James Clavell and his book, Shogun). I wanted to see Ireland (thanks to the creators of the movie, The Secret of Roan Inish). I wanted to be a model, an actress, a paleontologist, a writer…anything and everything possible that might allow me to travel, learn, see exotic places, and do all the amazing things that just couldn’t be done in my little backwoods corner of the South.
I never felt like I belonged here and honestly, I didn’t want to belong. I wanted to do and be so many things that just didn’t seem possible here. And most of it, I’m sad to say, I still haven’t done. You see, leaving Casar turned out to be harder than I thought it would be.
The Trade Towers and the Pentagon were hit on September 11th, 2001 when I was in 9th grade. In Drama class that morning, I watched the news along with my classmates and our teacher as they both came crashing down. I was in high school when the first school shootings started happening—Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, and later the shooting at Fort Bragg.
When I was eighteen and graduating from high school in 2005, the world seemed like a dark and dangerous place, and I realized I was afraid to go to college.
I didn’t want to live on campus with a bunch of strangers, possibly in a state I’d never been to before. I didn’t want to leave behind my Aikido school and start over somewhere else. But most of all, I didn’t want to leave my loved ones behind, or my high school sweetheart.
We’ve always had a saying in my family—if you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us. We were taught to always have each other’s back and to always back each other up. The idea of leaving that kind of unconditional backup was scary. I didn’t want to be hours away from family if something bad were to happen.
The only local four-year school I could’ve attended and still lived at home was almost twenty-thousand dollars a year—far too much for a working-class family like mine. I started going to the local community college instead, but it wasn’t quite the same and it didn’t make me happy.
But what does all that have to do with anything, right? Why am I giving you—a probable stranger on the internet—a rundown of my life’s history?
Well, the truth is…the last two or three years have really made me think about my life and what I really want out of it. Life’s thrown a lot of lemons my way and I’ve got the scars and bruises on my spirit and my heart to show it.
I’ve gone back to school several times for many things, but I’m finally finished with a two-year degree in Business Administration. I had a turbulent marriage with my high school sweetheart, though we really loved each other and had a son together.
When we found out that our son was autistic, I had to make the choice to stay at home with him, forgoing more financial stability for family responsibility. But when my husband passed away unexpectedly at work in October, my world fell apart in many ways.
My life isn’t turning out remotely how I dreamed it would when I was a kid, or even as a teenager, but the lessons I’ve learned over the years have made me who I am. They’ve turned me into a strong, capable woman – who makes plans and then does her damnedest to see them through.
I still have a love-hate relationship with my hometown. Now more than ever. I look around Casar and see a place covered in memories and regrets from one end to the other.
It doesn’t help that who I am and what I’ve come to believe about the world and our place in it differs from the status quo, but my family is still here and the life I must build will continue to develop here.
Maybe one day I will leave, and head towards that horizon with my son, and discover wonderous things…but for now, I’ll have to be content to seek out wonderous things where I am. Here in my own backyard in this little backwoods corner of the South…
1 thought on “My Little Backwoods Corner”
Wow! Just wow! This was a wonderful read, it caught me in my feels. I can so relate to that feeling of wanting to leave the old hometown and seeing the “world”. I was also scared to leave, but now, I am glad I didn’t. There are places out there I would still like to see, but just maybe on vacation.
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