Saturday, March 1, 2008

Going Home Again---A Perspective

What's that old saying "You can't go home again"? Well, you can, but be prepared for changes. I grew up in Sioux City, IA until I went to college. Then came marriage, moving around as the jobs or life-changing events dictated. Most of my adult life so far was spent in Arizona, but there were many visits "back home".

I guess I didn't really "see" the changes. Oh, I heard about when a new building went up, or an old one torn down. The new mall took business from downtown, then downtown was revitalized. Then came the 4-lane highway that took miles off the trek from Interstate 29 to east bound Highway 20; it also took a chunk from the view of uncut hills that we could see from Dad's grave in Memorial Park. With that 4-lane came big-box retail stores and rows of stores encircling the mall until it, too, disappeared.

During those visits "back home" I saw an old bridge over the Missouri River replaced by a wider, higher bridge. That not only moved motor traffic faster between Iowa and Nebraska, but also eased the passage tall river traffic. Soon another bridge was built just a few miles down river and made a great shortcut to Nebraska for other communities.

The "old" East High School, my alma mater, was demolished leaving a great big empty spot in the neighborhood. The "new" East High School is now 34 years old --- and the school newspaper is paperless. "Old" schools continue to come down and new ones are built. The Sioux City Art Center building is "new" and a work of art itself. I learned of a satellite program in design with Iowa State University. The technical college is adding dormitories for the first time in 25 years; I didn't know it even had dorms! Morningside College continues to add enhancements that provide an aesthetically functional environment for students and faculty.

So, those are some of the "facts of change" in my home town. As for a factual support to that adage that "You can't go home again", well, you can but you will need a map to get around.

What do all those changes mean to my perspective of "home"? That is what was so interesting this past weekend. Now that I live much closer to my home town, and my family there, we can make more frequent visits. My brother and his beautiful lady took us on a tour of the city that formed new mental picture of the town where I grew up.

While the mall and all the big boxes gulped up acres of rolling real estate, they provide jobs for many, and shopping for many towns around. The revitalized downtown is a haven for quaint shops, antique-hunting and pubs sporting themes of World War II tributes and, well, sports.

The addition of the down-river bridge may have strangled the flow of traffic through So. Sioux City, NE, yet provides the Nebraska side with the same convenient route to Iowa for jobs, education, and shopping. The 4-lane highway may have sliced through the view from Memorial Park, but the sound of traffic is not disturbing to the tranquility, as if an invisible sound wall separates the cemetery from the world outside.

Old schools are torn down and new schools are built --- as it should be. A beautiful new grade school, just 2 years old, for the inner city children provides a modern, colorful, and safe environment. Higher education institutions play major roles in the communities. The symphony orchestra is alive and well; the Municipal Auditorium has been enlarged and modernized for cultural functions of all kinds. The Art Center is bright with an eclectic array of exhibits. A photography display drew us to the Center on that day.

On Sunday we went to services at the church our family has been a part of for four generations, with the fifth coming up. The sanctuary now has large screens for parishioners in the back to get a better view; the wireless sound system is clear and allows for mobility of those speaking; and some of the liturgy has been musically modernized. However, as I looked at the cross above the altar, the eternal candle, and the communion rail, my mind went back to many other Sunday services there. Memories of weddings (including my own), baptisms, and funerals also floated through the sanctuary as though no time at all had passed. There was no doubt about it --- I was back home.

So, you can't go home again? Oh, yes, you certainly can. Buildings, streets and people will change, but the heart of the city, and your own, will always be in sync.

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