Sometimes I think of my hometown, remembering the happiest years of my childhood, and I want to cry. These are specific, time-encapsulated vignettes never to be reproduced or repeated, and remembering makes me nostalgic for that time and place and the senses I experienced therein.
The memories of Kingsport, Tennessee that return to me again and again are mostly ones involving family and friends and summer. During the summer months I practically lived at my grandparents’ house—swimming in the pool until my fingers shriveled and my stomach growled with hunger. My cousin and I would watch my grandparents’ balcony for the signal from my grandmother—a double-armed wave—meaning it was time to come in and eat lunch. Summer also meant boating with my dad and step-mom on Boone Lake. When I was very small, my dad would put me on the front of his water skis and hold onto me as we skimmed across the water. All kinds of dangerous? Yes, but it’s one of my best memories, and I was never hurt.
I rode horses with my mom several times a week, and on Saturdays we stopped by 7-11 for a king-sized bar of Hershey’s chocolate and a Coke—that was our breakfast. Staying at the barn all day meant mucking stalls, grooming horses, and riding until we were hot and hungry and sick of flies. Afterwards, we stopped by McDonald’s for cheeseburgers and happy meals.
Kingsport’s annual summer Fun Fest brought two weeks of daily activities in the town. My cousin and I participated in scavenger hunts, watched balloon races, and attended concerts at the high school stadium. Unfortunately, that usually signaled the end of the summer and a return to school, but that also meant seeing friends and shopping at Parks Belk’s and Millers for new clothes, and Kmart and Roses for school supplies.
I visit Kingsport several times a year now, as my family still lives there. There is sentimentality to the visits, as I realize that those sweet memories are just that—memories. Many things are the same, but so much has changed in the thirty years since I moved away. Sometimes I walk the dogs down to the pool where I used to swim with my cousin and friends; my maternal grandparents are dead, but I can still envision my grandmother standing on her balcony waving her arms. It makes me smile, but it also makes me yearn for that time and place when everything seemed so perfect in the world.