April 25, 2014 - 00:14
My Hometown
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Article Author: by Kate Stiles

It’s that time of year again. The outside decorations are up, most of my presents are purchased and wrapped… and for the first time in nearly 37 years, my cards went out before December 8th. For me... that‘s early. Typically, I am scrambling on the 21st or so trying to get it all done in one blast. This year I wanted to try things differently and see if it took off any of the holiday stress I “self create”. My biggest motivator is that I want to spend this week before Christmas baking. My oldest granddaughter is on college break for the next few weeks, and I have already lobbied for her help with putting up the tree and finishing up, so I can relax and enjoy the holiday.

But… that’s not what I am here to tell you about. I want to tell you about my hometown.

We moved to Polk County in 1987. We came down for a visit in March that year to see my in-laws, who are Polk County natives. We fell in love with this area… the quaintness of Benton and that wonderful small town USA feeling where everyone knows everyone. There is a great sense of community here. What was amusing to me is that everywhere I went, people already knew who I was and that I was “just visiting.” I loved it! It was a lot like where I am from, but on a smaller scale.

One thing I had been noticing about my home town was that it was beginning to grow a little too much for my taste. We were changing from being a rural community to what I call “suburban-lite.” New houses were being built and the population was slowly increasing, but that great sense of community pride held strong.

 My home town is well know for a few things… the huge flagpole in the middle of Main Street (what were they thinking) and for the historic homes that grace the village square. Bruce Jenner, the Olympic decathlon gold medalist (now a “Kardasian”) attended the high school in his sophomore through senior years and still is a good friend of my brothers.

Where I am from, there is a movie theater in the town hall where you can see a first run feature for $2! On Friday nights, the downstairs gymnasium came alive with our local rock and roll bands who held a dance for all us teens. Admission was $3 and we danced the night away from 8 -11 pm. I don’t think I ever missed one!

Next to the town hall, is the General Store. In its hay day, they sold the staples… flour, butter, eggs, milk, fabric, tools, etc… but over the years it evolved into a coffee and baked goods shop with a few convenience store items thrown in. The building is original, I suspect built in the late 1700’s with rickety wide board floors that creek as you walk in and the scent of old wood smoke. It’s a beautiful structure in fact, so picturesque that in the early 1980’s a Bryer’s Ice Cream commercial was filmed there.

It’s one of my hometown’s biggest claims to fame!

My hometown is noted for the best schools and as one of the most desirable places to raise a family in the country. I left my hometown to find that here, in Polk County Tennessee… and yes, this is home now. It has been for 25 years and all the reasons that my parents and my husband’s parents moved to my hometown, are the same reasons that brought us to Polk County.

With a heavy heart, it saddens me to know that the world now views my hometown in a different light. You see, my hometown is Newtown, Connecticut, home of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I am watching my sweet hometown weeping on TV. I have mourned the loss of precious children, cried for their families, cried for my hometown and along with the rest of the nation praised and prayed for the heroic teachers that gave their lives to protect their little ones. Tonight our president is speaking from the stage of my high school, trying to comfort a community, the fourth one this year, that has suffered senseless loss of life at the hand of one person.

The harsh reality is that this tragedy could occur anywhere. I agree with the president. This is not acceptable. We have to find a way to fix this. My hometown was the last place on earth that this could happen and it cannot continue.

So this year, as you celebrate the holidays with your loved ones, love and hold them close and please, keep in your hearts and prayers: Charlotte, David, Rachel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeline, Catherine, James, Chase, Dawn, Jesse, Grace, Anne, Emile, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Lauren, Mary, Victoria, Benjamin and Allison.

Life is a precious gift.

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