My mom still lives in the sleepy little Michigan town where I grew up.
Within an hour's drive of Detroit and mere minutes from Ann Arbor, yet surrounded by lakes, rivers and infinite woods, our tiny berg was a perfect mash-up of metropolitan convenience and country charm.
Times, however, have changed. Since my formative years, suburban sprawl has come to my hometown in a major way.
Of course, I've been back to visit countless times over the years, and I've kept up with the transformation. On one hand, I'm glad to see the place prosper and grow.
But I must admit that there are times when I feel homesick for the way my hometown used to be.
I miss the wide open spaces.
I miss the untamed forests.
I miss the place that it used to be.
I miss the way my childhood stomping grounds used to make me feel.
Wild and free.
Now, there's no way to un-build all the new neighborhoods, un-pave the exponentially expanded parking lots, or de-yuppify the countless trendy restaurants and taverns that line Main Street in this new millennium.
But I have found a respite.
Much to my surprise, many of the old unpaved roads that criss-crossed the countryside back in the day and brought countless adventures to my youth still exist in their pure form. Sure, the busiest sections have been paved over, the more treacherous curves straightened out, and there are an awful lot of McMansions tucked here and there among the trees, massive subdivisions hiding just barely out of sight.
But last week, as I explored those good old backwoods trails, I discovered something pretty cool. If I squint my eyes and hide my iPhone, I feel almost as if I have been swept back through the decades to the hometown that I knew and loved. The place that made me who I am today.
Wild and free.
That's how I feel when I'm driving on my hometown dirt roads. And that's when I feel like I've truly come home.