This used to be my playground
This used to be my childhood dream
This used to be the place I ran to
Whenever I was in need
Of a friend
Why did it have to end
And why do they always say
Don't look back...
-- Madonna, This Used To Be My Playground (from A League of their Own)
Location: A few months ago in Muscatine, IA. More recently, Bridgeport, MI
We have all heard that "you can't go home again." Over the years things decay, buildings grow or disappear, roads reroute and businesses come and go. Our memories fade, too. When we don't see the changes day to day, we sometimes can't even find familiar landmarks because they're cocooned within the fragments and sediments of time. What used to be our playground is lost forever, even if it's right in front of us.
But we still want to look.
John and I decided that we would visit each other's childhood homes as we'd be traveling reasonably near to them. First to his home in Muscatine, Iowa, and then to mine in Bridgeport, MI. I will tell you about Muscatine, and then John will tackle Bridgeport.
Muscatine sits right on the banks of the Mississippi River, just a stone's throw from Illinois and a straight shot east to Chicago. Almost 23,000 people live there, and a whole lot of them farm, and whole lot of the farmers grow corn, and a whole lot of the corn winds up at huge, enormous, conspicuous grain processing plants that turn that corn into alcohol. The alcohol finds its way to various makers of libations and spirits, stuff gets added to it, and eventually it ends up on the shelves of your local liquor store. The grain processors also produce corn starch, corn oil, and a lot of other "corny" products.
When John was 10, he and his family moved to this farmhouse in Muscatine:
His parents were not the owners of the farm, so John was able to get paying summer jobs there working as a farm hand -- and he discovered that he was MORE in shape going into fall's football season (playing for the mighty Muscatine Muskies) than he would be at the end of the season!
John may be a brilliant man, but he did do a couple grades twice. No, he didn't flunk any of them -- he went to a one-room school house for a while, and couldn't help hearing both years' classes for two years in a row. His school building has been recycled into the pig barn in this photo. Don't ask me exactly which building it is -- but it doesn't really matter, now does it?
I expected to be feigning interest for the sake of politeness when I saw Muscatine (and that John would feel the same in Bridgeport), but I found it interesting and compelling in ways I didn't expect. The farms and countryside, the midwesterness of of the towns, and even the songs of the birds and the greenness of the grass reminded me of my ex-home in Michigan. I told John, "We're from the same place, just different States."
His take on Bridgeport will be next.