We usually define “home” as a building. It’s our childhood home, or grandma’s house, or another place where we felt safe to grow. However, our hometown memories also play an important role in our stories. Even if you moved frequently, chances are that the towns and cities of your past still have a special place in your heart.
As you look back, write about your hometown memories. The following are some ideas on how to capture the essence of the setting of your childhood stories.
What you used to think
Remember, you’re not so much telling the story of you hometown as telling your story of growing up in it. Your feelings about your hometown memories are an integral and important part of your story.
What did you think of your hometown as a child? Did that change as you graduated high school? Look back at your past opinions. Were your opinions more of a function of what the town was like or how you fit into the town?
For me, this is not easy to articulate. I loved my hometown but yearned to leave it. I couldn’t wait to wander further afield.
What you think now
Has the town or city changed? Have you changed? Do you still live in the area? Do you still think of it of home?
Do you ever wonder if you could go back, despite all the sayings to the contrary? Are you tempted when you visit? Or, on the other hand, is the hometown of your childhood a closed chapter of a book?
I know I have both emotions when I go back. As soon as we approach the exit on the interstate, my heart quickens in anticipation. Once there, I’m always conflicted by the happy memories of the past and the bitter understanding of how much has changed.
Give your readers some basic information about your town. What was its population during your childhood? If you grew up in a small town, was it in the shadow of a bigger town? What was it known for? For instance, was there a mill or factory, train depot, or college?
Is there part of the town’s history that is particularly telling? How did these historical events define the town’s character? These tidbits will also be particularly interesting to family historians.
Famous Landmarks of Your Childhood Memories.
Include your frequent haunts of your childhood memories, such as a favorite restaurant, church, or community center.
For instance, a story of Spartanburg, South Carolina couldn’t leave out The Beacon. It’s more than a hamburger hangout, it’s a destination. It was even featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. When I write about Spartanburg—and I will soon—I’ll have to mention that it probably serves more ice tea than any other place on the planet.
Community Members in Your Hometown Memories.
There are people in the community that serve as emotional landmarks. In fact, there are a couple in my example above. Mr. White, the owner, who never has opened on a Sunday (although he offers up the use of his parking lot for Easter Sunrise surfaces), and his long-time employee, J.C. Stroble. To order, you’d tell J.C. Stoble what you wanted and he’d “call” it back to the cooks in his wonderful melodious voice. (Read more about his story.)
The stories of such human community fixtures gives readers a true sense of what the community is like.
Maps and Images
You can help your readers visualize your past with maps and images. Check back at “Find Historical Images to Illustrate Your Writing” for tips on finding postcards, photographs, and historical maps of your hometown.