What is the boomerang art about? We will get to that in a moment.
One of the nice things about being back in the Hills of East Tennessee is that I am living in a part of the world in which newspapers devote quite a bit of ink to the lives of ordinary people, often when they are doing rather ordinary things that still have great meaning.
Yes, part of me misses the daily snark of The Washington Post Style section. I am also struggling to get used to living in a zip code in which SEC football is pretty much all that matters in sports. There is a rumor that an NFL franchise exists in Tennessee, but you have to dig into the back pages to find that out. Oh, but the Lady Vols are a big deal in the hoops world, which is good.
I have lived in East Tennessee before -- teaching for six years at Milligan College up near the Virginia line -- and I get the rhythms of all of this. I have also read The Knoxville News Sentinel for a long, long time, since that is the newspaper that first asked the old Scripps Howard New Service to start a weekly religion news column. So 26 years later, it's nice that the News Sentinel is the newspaper that lands in my driveway each morning.
So the other day, the editors in the Life section there ran a very interesting and touching story about something that used to be normal, but is very unusual today -- members of several generations of a family going out of their way to live right next to each other, right there in a normal neighborhood.
This story is actually downright countercultural. Here is how it starts:
Boomerang kids move back home because they have to. But in a small neighborhood off Emory Road, kids move back because they want to.
One at a time, about half the kids who grew up in Imperial Estates have moved back from places like San Francisco, Australia, Kenya and New York City. They decided that life along Beaver Creek couldn't be beat. They bought houses just down the street from their parents. They want to raise their children as happily as they were raised.
Imperial Estates was laid out in the 1970s by developer John Price. He sold extra-large lots -- about an acre each -- bordered on one side by the large Butler farm and ringed on three sides by Beaver Creek. Price built a house in the neighborhood for his own family, as did his brother Larry Price, who is one of several original homeowners who still live in the neighborhood today. Out of the 45 homes, about half are or have been occupied by related homeowners.
Here is the bottom line, apart from lots of shared memories, the love of fishing in the shared creek, some ties to nearby farms and common DNA in the local schools.
But stop. Read this simple sentence and think about it.
Overall, eight extended families with three generations have lived down the street from one another in a bond of shared history.
The names of the families just keep popping up in this story in a way that would have been common in small-town America late in the 19th Century. You have the grandparents and the aunts and uncles.
But I am writing about this at GetReligion, so you know there has to be a religion angle in this somewhere. I also have to admit that I kept waiting for the church shoe to drop, since we are talking about Knoxville -- a city that keeps showing up in list of America's most religious locations to live.
Here is the key passage;
Bob and Glenda Bailey bought a house on Regency Road in 1976 and lived there for 15 years with their two sons. They moved away in 1991. In 2005 not only did they move back, but their son Jason bought a house down the street for his own family.
"About half the kids who grew up here ended up living here at some point in time," said Bob. Now Jason is raising Josie, 10, and Jake, 8, in his old stomping grounds. ...
"I believe in living where God predetermined you," said Jason Bailey. "A lot of kids take the grandkids away from their parents and move across the country."
Now sadly, that's that.
There is no real follow up on the religion angle, which struck me as very strange In a part of America in which one of the first questions the locals ask to newcomers, as in total strangers is, "Well, where are you going to go to church?"
All those families. All of those young parents making career decisions shaped, in part, by a hearing for family and culture.
You think that there's a good chance that some shared faith and common pews factor into this amazing story of these multigenerational ties that bind? Catholic? Baptist? I don't know. But did anyone with the newspaper ask about that, after that amazing quote about people wanting to grow where God had planted them?
Just asking. I think the odds are 100-1 there's a strong religion theme in there somewhere.