You Can't Go Home Again (ok you can, but prepare to be dissapointed)
I've just returned from the small mid-western town where I grew up.
I had not been "back home" in well over a year, which I accomplished by convincing my parents to come out to the East Coast to see us for the holidays instead of shlepping my family out west.
It was great to see my family, especially my nephews- the older one is almost 3 and just adorable and the new baby was very sweet as well. Other that that, however, I think I somehow managed to romanticize a place where I never actually enjoyed living.
True, the city itself is very nice- bright blue skys, big yards, semi-affordable housing, and lots of fun places to take the kids. The only drawback is the Jewish community which seems to have changed only for the worse.
When I grew in this small Orthodox community it was a broad mix of Orthodox Jews all davening together in one shul. When I got older the more right-wing jews split off first into a haskama minyan in the basement of the shul itself then ultimately in to a new and much nicer building taking the majority of the kehila (and the money) with them them. They hired a Rabbi who continued this push to the right by slowly making his own personal customs and stringencies the burden of his flock to the point where you can barely tell the the difference between this small town shul and one in Lakewood or Brooklyn.
Apparently his will is so strong that men who wear tefillin on chol hamoad are forced to sit at the the back of the bus, (I mean shul) on those days when their opinions differ from the Rabbi. That's just one example but I could list loads of others.
The other (original) shul has it's problems as well. The board of directed voted to oust the Rabbi but the congregation took up a seperate vote and chose to keep the Rabbi and oust the board of directors instead! The former board is now forming their own minyan. Lord have mercy.
In addition, the same brainless Telser's daughter I went to school and had nothing to say to as a kid, are now married to Telsers who work in their daddy's businesses. These women have it pretty good, and have never worked a day in their lives. They have big families and hang out at the pool club all day (fully dressed of course, with their custom sheitels on their heads) while teenaged lifeguards look after their children. I had a three minute conversation with a couple of them and then pretended to hear one of my own children calling so I could escape before I was ready to shoot myself in the head.
I used to say I'd move back there if I could but I don't think I'll be saying that anymore.
For a thinking person it would be a very lonely life.