WHEN WE ASK readers to submit reactions, ideas or personal stories, we never know what to expect.
In the case of the two columns I wrote over the holidays about going back to my hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky, we asked you to tell us about where you grew up — and how you feel about those places with the benefit of hindsight — and like me, distance.
This week we’re publishing a selection of your responses in print but also online, in the form of an interactive map that lets you click on a hometown and read reflections written by the person who came from there.
To add to the throwback feel of this project, I asked some of you to submit old photos showing you or depicting the places where you grew up.
I was so moved by the effort you took to describe your own connections to your hometowns, as well as the values and socioeconomic conditions of those places.
A reader named Ben sent in wonderful pictures from his childhood in Buffalo, New York, including one of him and his brother posing by a huge snowman and another of them with their dad, who’s holding a line loaded with the fish they’d caught that day. Pure Americana.
A reader who grew up on Bainbridge Island sent hilarious images from her childhood showing the different costumes that her older twin brother and sister used to dress her up in. The one of her dressed as Teddy Roosevelt is priceless.
Memories of home can also be bittersweet, and sometimes dark.
Many of you left our hometowns — and feel uneasy about revisiting them — because of family turmoil or because everyone has moved on or passed away.
For some of you, it’s because you didn’t fit in on some level. Or maybe those places wouldn’t have allowed you to chase your dreams.
We leave, return or avoid our hometowns for all sorts of reasons. But there’s no place like the place that made us.
What to make of them?
That’s a question each of us has to answer in our own way.