by Jayne Anne Phillips
For me， “hometown” refers to a small town， home to generations of family， a place whose history is interspersed with family stories and myths. Buckhannon was a town of 6，500 or so then， nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains of north-central West Virginia.
I left for college， but went “home” for years to see my divorced parents， and then to visit their graves in the rolling cemetery that splays its green acreage on either side of the winding road where my father taught me to drive. I know now that I loved Buckhannon， that its long history and layers of stories made it the perfect birthplace for a writer. My mother had grown up there， as had most of her friends， and their mothers before them. People stayed in Buckhannon all their lives. Despite the sometimes doubtful economy， no one wanted to leave， or so it seemed to me as a child.
Buckhannon was beautiful. Main Street was thriving. Local people owned the stores and restaurants. We lived out on a rural road in a ranch-style brick house my father had built. My father went to town early on Sundays to buy the 2）Charleston Gazette at the Acme Bookstore on Main Street. The Acme smelled of 3）sawdust， where Id replenish armloads of borrowed books under my mothers watchful eye. Shed finished college， studying at night while her children slept， and taught first grade in the same school her children attended.
I looked out the windows of Academy Primary School and saw， across South Kanawha Street， the large house in which my mother had lived until she married my father. My mother had graduated from high school in 1943， and my father， nearly a generation earlier， in 1928， but he wasnt a true native. Born in neighboring Randolph County， he was raised by three 4）doting 5）paternal aunts. Each took him into their families for a few years， and hed moved to Buckhannon for high school， winning the 6）elocution contest and giving a speech at graduation. This fact always amazed me. My father， 7）masculine in bearing and gesture， was not a talker.
Women in Buckhannon told stories， and men were defined by their jobs. He attended the local college for a semester， then went to work， building roads， learning construction. His first name was Russell； for years， he owned a concrete company： Russ Concrete. My brothers and I rode to school past 8）bus shelters 9）emblazoned with the name. We seemed to have lived in Buckhannon forever.
The town was truly a rural paradise； even into the 1920s， some 2，000 farms， averaging 87 acres each， surrounded Buckhannon. Such small， nearly self-sufficient farms survived through the Depression and two world wars. Miners and farmers kept Main Street alive， and the town rituals， seasonal and dependable， provided a world. Everyone knew everyone， and everyones story was known.
My father would be cooking fried potatoes in the kitchen， “starting supper，” the only domestic chore he ever performed. I knew hed learned to peel potatoes in the Army， cutting their peels in one continuous 10）spiral motion.
My dad， who was past 30 when he enlisted， served as an Army engineer and built airstrips in New Guinea throughout World War II， foreman to crews of G.I.s and Papuan natives. He came back to Buckhannon after the war and met my mother at a 11）Veterans of Foreign Wars dance in 1948. During the war shed trained as a nurse in Washington， D.C. The big city was exciting， she told me， but the food was so bad all the girls took up smoking to cut their appetites. A family illness forced her return； she came home to nurse her mother. My grandmother was still well enough that my mother went out Saturday nights； she wore red lipstick and her dark hair in a 12）chignon. My father looked at her across the dance floor of the VFW hall and told a friend， “Im going to marry that girl.” He was 38； she， 23.
Hometowns are full of stories and memories rinsed with color. The dome of the courthouse in Buckhannon glowed gold， and Kanawha Hill was lined with tall trees whose dense， leafy branches met over the street. The branches lifted as cars passed， 13）dappling sunlight or showering snow. Open fields bordered our house. 14）Tasseled corn filled them in summer. Cows grazing the high-banked meadow across the road gazed over at us 15）placidly. They sometimes 16）spooked and took off like clumsy girls， rolling their eyes and 17）lolloping out of sight. Telephone numbers were three digits； ours was 788. The fields are gone now， but the number stays in my mind. Towns change； they grow or diminish， but hometowns remain as we left them. Later， they appear， brilliant with sounds and smells， intense， suspended images moving in time. We close our eyes and make them real.