There is nothing quite like southern suburbia. It’s filled with people who just want to sit you down and offer you a proper sweet tea, cars nearly big enough to fly to space, and monograms embellishing almost everything you own.
Like most of you readers, I was born and raised in Jackson, Tennessee. I grew up with two loving and supportive parents, a beautiful nanny whom I would come to know as family, a hilarious sister two years younger than me, and a huge black lab named Winston. (He was named this after the prime minister Winston Churchill, of course.) My childhood in Jackson was a dream. I loved my church, I loved my house, I loved my city. I was comfortable here, but little did I know that at the age of thirteen I was in for a rude awakening.
Every summer, my sister and I make the journey to Middle-of-Nowhere, Missouri, for a Christian sports camp. (If you haven’t been to a summer sleep-away camp at least once, I’ll argue that you didn’t experience a full childhood.) At this particular camp, absolutely no technology is allowed. Besides the occasional handwritten letter, there is practically no communication with parents.
I’ll never forget the day my mother picked me up from camp in 2013—one especially hot, gross, and humid day in July. After I rattled off all I had done in the past two weeks, she gave me a warm smile, took a deep breath, and calmly announced, “Kate, we are moving to New York City.”
I was shocked. I was also angry, excited, and confused all at once. I don’t think anyone could ever prepare you for news like that. She continued to tell me we all had three days to pack up one suitcase and one wardrobe box—no more, no less.
For those of you who haven’t been to New York City, here are some comparisons to put the weight of this move in perspective for you: A two-story home in a quaint cul-de-sac in North Jackson to a 900-square-foot apartment placed on the twenty-eighth floor of a high-rise apartment building. My Dad’s hip MINI Cooper adorned with rock band stickers to a subway card. About 100 kids in my class to twelve in my entire grade. A complimentary sweet tea from a neighbor to an overpriced cold brew coffee. Kroger to Trader Joe’s. Chick-fil-A to Shake Shack. Vann Drive to Wall Street.
Moving isn’t easy. Whether it’s another house two streets down or the other side of the earth in Australia, the inevitability of nostalgia keeps sweet, irreplaceable memories on the forefront of one’s mind. For me, Jackson was a town tucked away where I felt like I knew everyone, and in its absence I remembered its charm. I have such delightful memories of visiting the Wilbourn sisters with my dad to tailor his suits, exploring all kinds of state parks with my mom, and going on a Hobby Lobby run with my nanny.
Now, this isn’t to say that I dislike my life in New York at all. As a matter of fact, it’s taught me maturity, self-assurance, and independence in a way only the arguably biggest city in America could. I’ve made beautiful friendships that I wouldn’t trade for the world, and I’ve enjoyed once-in-a-lifetime experiences. My dad even jokes that we live in colonial Disneyland because most of the Founding Fathers lived in the neighborhood where my parents work at The King’s College. But living in a city like this makes you miss the little things you had in Jackson. For me, there’s nothing I adore more than leisurely strolling throughout Kroger. (I know—strange.) But I’m sure you’d understand my deep appreciation for massive grocery stores if all of a sudden your shopping experiences were reduced to an app.
Every spring break since I’ve moved, I travel back to good ol’ Jackson, Tennessee. People often wonder why I always come back, asking, “Oh, so you are going to Nashville, right?”, “I love Gatlinburg, too!”, or, my personal favorite, “You like Elvis enough to go to Graceland?” To all of those questions I smile and say, “It’s a little town called Jackson sandwiched between Nashville and Memphis, but you wouldn’t understand how cool it is until you actually live there.”
Perhaps it’s inevitable that you can’t realize how wonderful living in a small town like Jackson is until you get some space from it. Three years after from our move, I can now confidently say that distance does make the heart grow fonder indeed.
You’ll probably never see Jackson on the national news, and while that may make it feel insignificant, I like it that way. Sometimes I think it’s better to be off-the-radar from the rest of the world. From living in a city that’s constantly being advertised in the media for its influence, there’s something very rewarding in returning to a town whose history you know so intimately. Eight million people live in New York. I could find heaps of documentaries, books, podcasts, or even TV series all about that one city. But it’s just not as satisfying as knowing my little Jackson secret.
Kate Thornbury is a junior at The Stony Brook School in New York and has lived on the upper west side of Manhattan since 2013. She is passionate about ministry, dorm life, and leadership at her school and hopes to pursue joy wherever she goes.
Originally from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, photographer Katie Howerton moved to Jackson in 2011 to study Graphic Design and Drawing at Union University. She discovered Our Jackson Home in January 2015 and used it as a guinea pig for her senior design project, creating the first issue of Our Jackson Home: The Magazine. After graduating she was given leadership over Our Jackson Home at theCO, where she now runs the blog, designs the magazine, and coordinates events. She and her husband Jordan live in Midtown and are active members of City Fellowship Baptist Church.