Mug - Amy Gillentine

Amy Gillentine, Publisher and Executive Editor 

You really can’t go home again.

I visited my hometown for my father’s birthday. I grew up in Sardis, Mississippi, an teensy dot of a town that doesn’t even make the map of a state full of small towns.

My parents live in the countryside among green rolling hills. Even in the fall, trees full of persimmons and the very last of the muscadines are ready to be picked.

My parents rarely “go to town” these days. It’s a 10-mile drive (easily made in 12 minutes when you are rushing to meet curfew, at least that’s what I’ve been told). Plus, Mississippi folks have been reluctant to get vaccinated and my mom has rheumatoid arthritis, which puts her at elevated risk for COVID.

But we did take a drive while I was there. It’s the first time I’ve been in town in years. And the disrepair was evident. It’s clear that there are few opportunities in a burg that size — the young people grew up and moved on. They have opted, mostly, to raise their families in a more prosperous, more progressive city (if there are any of those in Mississippi, anyway).

The wide street into Sardis, known as “the four-lane” because it’s the only four-lane road in town, is still lined with huge trees, spacious yards and tidy homes. But here and there, homes are empty.

Main Street was derelict. So many closed stores, empty stores, going-out-of-business businesses. Even the Dollar General moved on to bigger cities. The two grocery stores were empty, casualties of Super Walmarts in nearby towns.

And some people might say good riddance. The town of my youth certainly wasn’t kind to everyone. And those same attitudes still linger, I imagine. When I was living there, I couldn’t wait to leave and see the bigger world, to find a place with larger ideas and with people who didn’t cling tightly to the past and its prejudices.

But it’s still a little sad to drive by what used to be the drug store — once full of penny candy, china, greeting cards, knick-knacks and just about other sparkly thing a 10-year-old girl could want — and see it empty. It was disconcerting to realize the hardware store, which also was home to guinea pigs, a parrot and a couple of hedgehogs, was closed. And even the feed store – in a cotton-growing community – has seen better days.

You can’t go home again. But you can remember the good 'ol days — and be thankful you’ve outgrown that place and time.

— Staff notes originally run in our daily email newsletter, Indy Now, along with news updates, photos of the day, a weekly poll and more. Sign up below.