Monday, July 4, 2011

Going Home?

Earlier in the week, a longtime friend that I'd grown up with (actually, best friend of my sister) had listed Gardena, CA as her hometown on Facebook. In typical fashion, I commented "ha!, not me baby, no way", after which she went on to remind me that "Yes, You did grow up there. I saw it myself."

Thus began a bit of an 'off the wall' exchange concerning 'hometown', how it's defined, and what qualifies. After some thought, I have come to the conclusion that I have yet to come to a conclusion on the matter.

I was 3 years old when my family relocated from Chicago and settled in Gardena. So, yeah, while I am technically from Chicago (Cicero, to be precise) it's not something that I claim on any personal level. I'm not part of the culture there, nor have I shared in the Chicago-dwellers experience... ergo..there is no way I can claim Chicago as a hometown unless I was to be joking about it. Or lying.

Gardena was my city of residence until I was 24. I grew up there. I know it like the back of my hand after having spent my youth and younger adulthood roaming the streets and back alleys. I know all of it's secrets and treasures, where the bodies are buried, what blocks to avoid, and where the good eats can be found.
I knew most of the city council as well as those gang members whose friendship mattered. My mom still lives there, in the same house I grew up in. She is the only reason why I still end up in the old 'hood once a month because if I had my option, I'd just as soon forget as remember that I'd ever lived there.

It's not that I think Gardena was/is a bad place. I'd put it about in the middle when compared to neighboring cities within the concrete jungle of Los Angeles.
I can't deny that much of what I am and what I know was formed while living within it's embrace. At the same time, I don't get those warm feelings of familiarity whenever I 'return home' as some would call it. It's not home. I don't feel that way towards it. For every sweet happy memory of growing up, there is a bitter angry one to temper it.
How can a place like that be Home? It's not home.
It is history.
And nothing more.

That said... if you feel like chiming in, tell me what you think a 'hometown' should be.


Mr. D said...

I think your hometown is where you grew up. Some people never really have one, especially if their parents are in the military or corporate execs who get moved around, but most of us do. My hometown is Appleton, Wisconsin and although I haven't lived there for nearly 25 years, it's still home.

Bike Bubba said...

What Mr. D. says. You can flee a place for good reason--like some people I know from Serbia, Vietnam, and Somalia--but it's still home at a certain level.

Even if your hometown features a store that does lingerie rentals. Back in the 1990s, there was a store along either Prairie or Hawthorne that advertised that, right near the 405. Ewww....

W.B. Picklesworth said...

To push back against Mark and Bubba, is the hometown set in stone your whole life long? Say that you grew up in Bismark, ND. At the age of 18 you moved to Cape Girardeau, MO and lived there for the rest of your life, raising your family there, marrying and burying there. I'm not so sure Bismark remains "hometown."

It's an interesting question and I find myself wanting to argue both sides of it.

Brian said...

Let's see, I lived in:

--Morrow/Jonesboro, GA (just south of Atlanta), ages 0-18
--Atlanta, 18-21
--Tucson, 21-28
--Durham, NC, 28-32
--Seattle, 32-present

I'd say the place I feel least at home is the first, and like Gino, if it weren't for my parents being there, I'd probably never set foot in it again.

I probably feel the most at home in Durham, but it's hard to explain why. I'm sure it has more to do with the relationships forged with individuals there than with the community as a whole.

Home is where you are connected.

Gino said...

bubba: wasnt that near National Armory (big gun store)? Maybe it was gone for you by then, but yes, that would be on Hawthorne. National got looted during the Rodney King riots. i'm not sure if they reopened again.
the town got a little dumpier right there @405/Hawthorne. fewer mexicans, but more white trash.

Brian: i was thinking much the same, and i have a post in my head about it.

my name is Amanda said...

I definitely agree with the sentiments being offered about home being a matter of how you feel.

I was born in Little Rock, AR, but as a baby, I lived in Columbus, GA (and of course have no memory of that). Then Hot Springs, AR, and then Tulsa, OK for a couple years. Back to HS from age 4 to age 10. When we moved to South Dakota, I felt very much like HS was my hometown (and I was quite angry to leave it), but now HS doesn't feel that way to me at all. I haven't visited since I left (I had no family there once we moved, until a cousin randomly moved to Little Rock a couple years ago - I have have been itching to visit recently, but other trips have taken priority). Now I feel like our town/farm in SD is the hometown of my adolescence, and Minneapolis is the hometown of my adulthood. Afterall, I lived in Minnesota longer than I've lived in any other place (18-30), but I have family and a ton of family history in SD. Both places will always be special to me. We may even move back to MN or (MAYBE) SD sometime after MB leaves the military, but we have several years to think about that one.

Night Writer said...

I was born in Fort Worth but I wouldn't consider myself a Texan. Unless Texas secedes, that is, and then I'm definitely claiming my rights.

Lived in Indianapolis from first grade until early in my junior year, and lived in my parents' home town for two years before college and career sent me out into the world, and I've lived in various parts of the Twin Cities for 31 years.

If I were to claim a hometown (or let one claim me), however, I suppose it would be the little Missouri town where my folks grew up, where their parents and relations stayed on, where they themselves returned and stayed - even though I mostly hated my time there. It is where our family history is written in the newspaper archives, church bulletins and on the tombstones and it's the place I've faithfully traipsed back to over the years for visits, marryings and buryings (and far too many buryings of late). Family is the homestone for me, and that's where my family is and where my culture is rooted, so I suppose that makes it my "home" town.

Bike Bubba said...

Gino, I was in the area for the summers of 1994/5. I don't remember the armory, but the hideous thought of renting lingerie stuck in my mind.

I'll grant that my hometown doesn't feel as much like home as it used to--more or less, as the steel industry declined and NW Indiana started becoming a haven for gambling, strip clubs and fireworks stores, it just isn't the same.

But at least Chesterton does NOT, as far as I know, have a shop with lingerie rentals.

Gino said...

that shop was in Lawndale, not Gardena. Gardena can claim more class than Lawndale, i'll give it that much credit.

like i told my mom last month... Lawndale is where everybdody round here gets their first aparment.