I didn’t grow up with one. I moved twelve times to different states and cities between birth and the time I graduated from high school. That is twelve different places that I lived life. Most of them on Army bases which are kind of small towns. If a manifestation of the industrialized military complex can ever be considered a small town...
And then I moved fourteen times to different states and cities in my adulthood. This is does not count all the times I moved within a city from one section to another in my life. The count would be much, much higher...
Somehow I landed in Ojai, left it but then was retuned to it...like the universe knew that I belonged here. I also have a habit of living in the same city or state twice. I guess I always have to make sure that something I left before really isn’t for me...which explains a lot.
So I wake up today in this small town nestled in the mountains, twenty minutes from the sea and I am grateful. I feel immensely blessed to be here and in this place that feels like the only home I have ever really known. This is where I really became who I am now. The last six years have been kind to me as I figure out a little late in life who and what I am.
Today Ojai celebrates the 4th of July. I am not sure why we are doing it today, I just know that we are. And I will go to the parade solo because I am the only member of my family or friend group that likes parades. Perhaps it is my military brat upbringing. But I love parades because they are pure, simple and just uncomplicated. In Ojai, half the town is in the parade, the other half watches. And it feels wholesome to me. It feels like small town America but with a much wider world view.
Last night I walked around our town with my daughter. We sat in the arcade and listened to my friend Corey play in a trio...good classic American music. We sat in the grass and watched the clouds roll by. My daughter was bored, but I was happy and content and could have sat there for hours. I felt like I was being hugged by the town, me loving it, and it loving me back. We walked the entire down town area and drifted in and out of pocket conversations, stores and enjoyed a cool evening in what felt like one of the only solaces left in this world, a love of a place. Love of a town.
I can see it changing. The dynamics are moving and shifting. I can see the demographic changing. And that is ok, even if it makes me a little afraid. Change is gonna come...it matters not what I fear.
I always want to be home on the 4th of July because it is a ritual for me to walk the town, watch the parade, go to the fireworks. I see people I haven’t seen in a long time. I feel a part of something that is greater than me - community. It is small enough for me to feel safe but large enough where I still feel like I have some anonymity. Perfect!
So today life carries on in a small town, and I will be so bold today to call it my hometown. I wasn’t born and raised here...but I have raised my own children here. And even though they do not appreciate it, I hope they will one day. A stable, enduring location that they can always return to, a beautiful place that has always loved them and cares not whether they love it back. I think I might love it enough for all of us...
So wherever you are this holiday weekend, I hope you wake up in a place that you love, surrounded by people you love in a town that makes you feel home, grounded and safe. And I hope that this feeling brings you a feeling of freedom. I am pretty sure this is what we fought for in 1776. The independence to live wherever we want and call it home. And I found my independence here, in this town, this tiny little beautiful town that has been the only hometown I have ever really known.