TPG Blog #14: Homecoming Football Games, Hometowns and the Heartland
Posted on October 12 2021
I’ve had the song "Heartland" by Hailey Whitters and her entire album “The Dream” on repeat for weeks. Written by Hailey, Nicolle Gaylon and Forest Whitehead, this song speaks to everyone from a small, heartland town and if you’re from one, you just know:
“Take it down a fast lane
Right back to your last name
To remind you where you came from
You're still shinin' in the same sun
In the middle of nowhere
Oh, you gotta let your heart land”
The gift of music – we lock arms and dance and sing in unity with fellow fans at music festivals and concerts; we both laugh and cry within a song’s 3 ½ minute span; and we remember how we felt or where we were or who we were with when one comes on the radio or your Spotify shuffle. Powerful stuff.
Last weekend was homecoming at my high school in California’s heartland. We gathered as a class for an organized-at-the-last-minute reunion, meeting at a bar and grill in the neighboring town to catch up before heading out to the high school football game. I brought name tags and pens (well, yes!) but no one was interested – they just wanted to sit and visit and tell stories and harass each other. We talked about each other’s parents, brothers, and sisters and paths from high school to now. Someone told me that my mom was pretty, and I heard a story about my sister that I hadn’t heard before. We had more questions than answers when we parted ways, vowing to not let such a long-time pass between visits as is always done. To those of you who missed it, don't next time - I'm telling you. No excuses!
People who have known you your whole entire life are priceless. There are so many things that don’t have to be said as they are just understood. Growing up in a small town, we were given permission, actually expected, to be our best selves and everyone was either cheering or watching with crossed arms saying, “This should be rich.” That was the gift that we were given – get along with everyone best you can, show respect, work hard, and be yourself. And in return, you were to represent them well in the world.
Tranquillity Union High School. Tigers. Class of 1981. Senior class totaled 93 from 5 neighboring towns. Located in a small town of 800 people. In trouble before we got home, taping coins on the envelopes if we didn’t have stamps, cooking big, snow skiing on a school day with our high school ag teacher, driving to the lake for driver’s ed so our teacher could fish, having the same 15 kids in class from Kindergarten through 12th grade, cropduster lights in my bedroom window in the middle of the night, casseroles, sheet cakes and large pots of beans when something really good or really bad happened – new baby, cancer diagnosis, death in the family. (Honk honk) “Here’s a ______ because I don’t know what else to do but cook and sit with you.”
The heartland – my hometown.
To this day, I stop and look up whenever a plane flies over to see if it's a cropduster. When you see a chicken tortellini casserole and I’m holding it while standing on your porch, you know something really good or really bad has happened to you. Maybe it’s time for a visit back to where you grew up – with the people that grew up with you.
“It don't matter how high
You've been floatin' in your blue sky
You gotta let your heartland”
Hailey Whitters "Heartland" on Spotify (Link here)
Now get out there, play “Heartland” with the volume on full blast and go live your great big life! Call a long-time friend from your hometown – better yet, call your arch enemy from the 2nd grade and be a better friend this time around. I'm going to work with mine remembering the names of the faces in this class picture - he's 2nd row, 2nd from the left and I'm bottom row, 2nd from the right. If you're in this class picture, comment below and let me know! Be grateful for your beautiful story and for the fact that you've been a part of so many people’s stories. Reminisce, be diligent about labeling pictures and tell your kids so your story lives on through them. You may even find yourself along the way. Although our paths to here may be messy, they are ours. Let’s cheer for the messy and each other - it’s what we do, you know.