I watched The Trip to Bountiful, a movie and Broadway play about an elderly woman, “Mama”, living with a controlling daughter-in-law and hen-pecked son. Her fondest wish is to return to her hometown, Bountiful, just once before she dies. With a little luck and a lot of help Mama finally makes it to Bountiful only to find the town she remembers no longer exist.
Watching this movie made me think of the trip I took to my hometown three years ago. My mom was asked to moderate a program at the church my grandmother attended in our hometown of Bremond, Texas, something my grandmother used to do. Our family decided to go to support my mom and also take advantage of the opportunity to revisit the place we hadn’t been to since my grandfather died in the early 90’s.
I was also excited to show my boyfriend at the time where I spent the first four years of my life and where I spent every summer until I was 18. I was excited as we headed down 35 south, thinking about all of the places I was going to show him. My grandparent’s old neighborhood, the Five and Dime store located “In Town”, Ralphs Barbeque Shack, the lone traffic light and the one liquor store. The Catholic Church where I went to my first Halloween carnival and gas station, one of the few places my grandmother allowed us to walk to. It’s the same store I went to every day one summer to buy a Sprite and a Twix, which is also the reason I hate Twix now.
It takes only two and a half hours to drive to Bremond from Dallas but as a kid it seemed to take forever. When we arrived I started to remember everything as a kid, I smiled at the thoughts and then turned a little sad remembering my grandparents were no longer here. When we got to the church we realized the service wouldn’t start for another hour so I took that opportunity to show my guy my hood.
The drive to my grandparent’s community took about three minutes, seemed longer as a kid and when we turned into the community I didn’t recognize it or anyone living there. The street that I thought was so long seemed cut in half, it took us seconds to reach the end of it and I was utterly speechless at the sight. The field behind my grandparent’s house where she hung her clothes to dry had been caged/gated whatever, and no one had grass anymore. The center that was across from her house looked abandoned and everyone I saw looked like the life had been sucked from them.
Ms. M.E., my grandmother’s best friend, who lived directly across from her, whose house I went to all the time, was occupied by some young people who clearly didn’t care about their surroundings. If my grandmother saw the condition of the home she lived in all of my life she would have taken out her switch and whooped the man living there.
After about five minutes I was ready to leave, the reality of my surroundings was too overwhelming and sad for me to continue to witness. We headed to what was Ralph’s and low and behold it was not there anymore – what the hell! So my grandparents community is gone, basically, Ralph’s is no more, I’m kind of afraid to try anywhere else. But obviously I’m a glutton for punishment and decide to keep on trekking. The Five and Dime building is still there but unoccupied, the corner store we went to was gone, the church was still in tack and so was the one stop light. The gas station was there but named something else and of course the liquor store was still in operation.
The entire trip around my hometown probably took about 10 minutes and it was the saddest ten minutes of my life. Just like the movie The Trip to Bountiful, most people grew up moved away and forgot about the place. It looked like all the love had been sucked out of the small town. The people left there looked like they’d given up on everything. I wanted to weep for the loss, for the guilt I felt for not returning for almost twenty years and most importantly for the revelation that I can’t go back home.