Hometowns are like magnets, and their populations like piles of familiar paperclips. This week, I did the impossible. I ventured out from my geographic center of gravity without any hoopla or ceremonial “farewell” parties. The sincere eye to eye “good luck’s” and “God bless you’s,” followed by handshakes and firm anaconda squeezes said enough.
“Who says you can’t go home?” is the question posed by a popular Bon Jovi song. The answer? I say so – at least for now. I’m not leaving Jackson, MI behind. I’ll be back to visit friends and family maybe a little too frequently, and the hodge podge of generous faces that I met while selling my cd’s last year won’t be forgotten. But a few things are worth lamenting and celebrating with a nostalgic smile and a glazed over stare as floods of memories replace the objects my eyes randomly focus on. I’ll never again “visit” my parents in their big white farm house for a few months at a time. Most of the guys in my wedding will no longer live within a 15 minute maze of familiar streets. And I’ll never be able to use the currency of being a former local high school basketball star or the hometown boy.
I love Jackson, MI, but a few months ago, I told my soon-to-be best man Gabe that a substantial change would come with the harsh winter winds. It involved a move. God told me in a prayer time. I didn’t know the details. I just knew I was moving.
Change usually isn’t a big deal to me. I quit a job to bike across America. I left for Martha’s Vineyard to write songs for three months. I rode to Kansas City last year before New Years without knowing how I’d get back. Over the last few years, I’ve left footprints on most of the states in the Union, but I never let Jackson slip from its “home base” status.
For those of you who never have visited Jackson, MI. It’s a city/town of about 60,000. 75% of Jacksonian teenagers complain that “there’s nothing to do on a Friday,” when really there’s two movie theatres, a plethora of restaurants, golf courses, a skate park, and a variety of other attractions. It’s the town where you can’t go to Applebee’s without spotting a friendly face from the present or the not too distant past. It’s a little nippy in the winter, like any Michigan city, but it’s a spectacular place to raise a family, even though some of it’s residents lovingly refer to it as “Prison City.” In short, it’s a small town with a lot of people who think they’re “big city” folks- kinda like any “not so metropolitan” city in America, and I love it.
Jackson, this year I need to pay tribute. I refuse to be the guy that forgets the place and the people that laid my life’s foundation. I’m not gonna wait until a national awards ceremony or a retirement party to go through my “thankyou list”… Next week, I’ll be starting a blog called Envelopes. In it, I’ll write about the somebodies who made or make a difference in my life. I’m convinced that no matter how much I write, I’ll never get through this life-changing list, but I’ll try. I don’t care if everyone or no one reads the new blog. All I know is that I need to say, “Thankyou.”
To my friends and my family in Jackson- “I love you. I miss you. And most importantly- Thankyou for investing in me. Come visit JoAnna and I at our sweet new trailer in Wabash, IN. And before then, we hope to see many of you at our wedding.”