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Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

Gray Matters: Goin' Home

Friday, September 26, 2008

Not long ago I asked two of our area's most loyal expatriates, both of whom are talented writers, to tell us why author Thomas Wolfe was dead wrong when he claimed "You Can't Go Home Again."

Julia Meylor Simpson of Rhode Island delighted us with her observations while Bob Reed's reply was delayed. Some health problems had slowed him down a bit. But now, we are happy to report, our favorite Floridian is recovering and has sent this very special essay which I am so pleased to share with you today.

"Sure, you can go home again. I do it as often as I can. Home is the little town of Marcus, nestled in the rolling hills of Cherokee County, in northwest Iowa.

I've lived all over the country and traveled all over the world. But I return to my hometown to refresh my soul.

I spent my first seventeen years there in the 1930s and '40s. It was a town small enough for the Masons and the Knights of Columbus to know one another's secrets. And, as they say, it took a village to raise a child.

In an environment of hot summer days and cold winter nights, the librarian wouldn't let me check out the sexy novels I wanted to read and the malt shop owner gave me a shake even though I was short a nickel. My mother knew about any mischief I had been involved in before I got home.

Now I go back to find the familiar and strange. I wander the streets, metaphorically shaking hands with people and places that no longer exist. I gaze at the older houses and remember the names of the folks who inhabited them. But those family owners are now two generations removed and the house is known by a different name these days.

And I run into old acquaintances that I scarcely recognize and young ladies who have scarcely changed at all because they turn out to be the daughters or granddaughters of the young ladies I grew up with.

I go back to reflect and rejoice in the changes. They are like the shadows of a high-flying cloud moving over the landscape on a summer day.

The remaining constant is the gentle, wonderful folk who inhabit my Shangri La. They are honest, ethical, kind and resourceful, helpful and compassionate. And when called upon, they occasionally exhibit that legendary Iowa stubbornness.

These civic-minded citizens work diligently to plan, raise funds, and volunteer hundreds of hours to keep the community vibrant and alive. They refurbish the Community Center, establish the new Marcus Junction, manage the remarkable annual Fair, and maintain an award-winning school system where every kid is given an equal opportunity to be unequal.

And they recently founded the new Marcus Historical Society to honor our past. These are progressive and lively people, truly living the town's motto, "Pride in the Past, Faith in the Future."

My hometown has played a significant role in my life's journey. So I go home as often as I can, so I can once again boast to my cosmopolitan friends that I'm not from Marcus, I am of Marcus."