By Ryne Hancock
The great Southern writer Thomas Wolfe once saida person couldn’t go home again. If one did, they would try to capture the same childhood glory, the same old forms and systems of things that were from that place, only to see that those things as well as who they are as a person have changed.
No disrespect to Mr. Wolfe, who wrote a book about a writer who made a less than pleasant return to his hometown and died 47 years before my birth, but homecomings are not just personal quests to find what was lost.
Sometimes homecomings teach us lessons, such as the story of how it took a decade and a simple twist of fate for me to return to the neighborhood that I loved and what I learned from my trip back home.
On 23 May 2000, the day after Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP was released in stores, my three-year attendance at Fairview Junior High School concluded. That May afternoon, I graduated with 200 other ninth graders, thus, ending an era in Cooper-Young. I had mixed emotions in my fourteen-year-old heart, knowing that for the most part, this was the end. There would be no more beelines to Kwik Shop on the opposite corner of Central Ave and East Parkway and no more trips to the Walgreens at Central Ave and Hollywood east after school for candy and drinks. I now faced the inevitable task of making new friends at a new school.
I attended Melrose for two years then my mom decided to uproot from the Orange Mound neighborhood I grew up in before my senior year. I graduated in the middle of my senior class at Whitehaven High School. While Whitehaven and Orange Mound are great neighborhoods in their own right, they are not Cooper-Young.
Cooper-Young is a place where one minute you are enjoying a burger at Kwik Shop and the next a nice sandwich from Young Avenue Deli. Cooper-Young is a place where it is cool to be different, to stand out from the rest of the pack. Nine years after leaving Fairview as a skinny fourteen-year-old, I found myself back at the corner of East Parkway and Central Ave in the fall of 2009. This time, I stood on the opposite corner as a student at Christian Brothers University. Its shadows fell over the same junior high I called home for three years a decade ago.
No longer would I have to wear navy blue khakis (yes, Fairview had uniforms before MCS made them mandatory) and a white polo shirt.
CBU was my friends’ playground a decade ago. They would cut through the campus to walk back to their houses in Binghampton and even play basketball on their courts. CBU became a place where I would do a highly successful radio show.
A decade ago, my circle of friends included only half a dozen people. Ten years later, that circle of friends has nearly tripled. The other day, as I was eating lunch at Subway on E. Parkway, I looked at the intersection and realized that ten years after graduating middle school nothing had changed at this corner. The only thing that changed was me.