One thing that is always constant is change

Published 9:25 am Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My wife helped me look for a shirt.

We searched the closet like FBI agents.

Then she remembered that she’d given it to the Salvation Army.

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What she had done was a good thing to do.

The only bad part was that I liked the shirt. It was one of my favorites.

I want my shirt back.

I needed to clear a few cobwebs from my brain. A stroll helps even when I’m not wearing a favorite shirt. I walked the streets of my hometown.

Some who know it would say, cruelly, “Streets? You mean street, don’t you?”

Its population is 315, four last names.

On this particular day, all the vehicles, when I faced north, were parked on the right side of the street. I don’t believe it was an indication of the city’s political leanings, but there was and is parking available.

I love my hometown, but walking made me hungry. Hungry more for the past than for food. A past made painful by the absences. A past made pleasant by the memories.

I recalled fine foods eaten at Vivian’s, Pete’s, Gerda’s, Nellie’s and the Village Inn. The warm feeling I felt after leaving these eateries was never heartburn. Those enterprises no longer exist.

The city hasn’t let itself go, but family, friends and neighbors have gone — one way or another. I miss them.

We reflect in mirrors and memories. As we get older, we tend to spend more time in thoughts than in front of mirrors. Especially when wearing our eyeglasses.

I remember with fondness the grocery stores and George’s, a place where George Tukua not only fixed cars, but also showed us how we could fix our own rattletraps. The elevators, that helped grain prices go up and down, have been purchased by local farmers.

Einar’s provided an annual Allis-Chalmers’ Day and the John Deere Shop entertained us with John Deere Day. We were given food, shown old comedy films and given the chance to win a grease gun. We gathered in a gleeful group to celebrate community and tractor preference.

Tom’s Barber Shop, an institute of higher learning where stories and alibis were honed, clipped its last hair. My brother’s hardware store closed, as did the grade school I’d attended. Sad days for one who had relished time spent in the nail aisle or under the tutelage of Mrs. Demmer, Mrs. Sibilrud and Mrs. Bach.

I shopped locally, but I couldn’t buy enough to keep all the businesses going.

I should have taken photos. I should have had a camera.

Do I ever wish that I lived near a bigger city? No. Do I ever wish that all the businesses of days gone by were still percolating? Yes.

Some local businesses not only survive, they thrive.

Hartland has never had a mall or a college. No waterpark ever existed, other than the year of the broken water main. There have never been any traffic lights, McDonald’s or Walmart. I don’t believe we had esteem issues. We had farmers and Lutherans. Both of those populations have declined significantly. My parents never locked their doors. People do now. Times have changed.

Lewis and Clark, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Jesse James never visited Hartland — at least, not all at once.

If you lived in Hartland it was because you were either born there or you wanted to be there.

Joni Mitchell sang, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

I think I knew what I had. I probably took it for granted. That’s what we do.

Change is constant. My father told me that I wouldn’t always enjoy change. He was in favor of all changes except those he didn’t want.

We aren’t so likely to notice change in the place where we live. Change is gradual and we become accustomed to it. People who visit their hometowns after years away are astounded by the changes. They remind us of those changes. You can never go home again even if you’ve never left.

People are somewhat free range. We send our children off for an education, telling them that once they have become educated beyond their intelligence, they could come home if they want. They don’t.

They could.

We’re still here.

I came back to the present. It was a long walk. It was a narrow escape.

I want my shirt back.

I want my hometown back.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.