In September, it will have been 12 years since I moved to Iowa. However, by September I will be living in Chicago, so I have been a resident of the state of Iowa for a little less than 12 years, which is too long.
When my family moved to Iowa about a dozen years ago, we moved to Waverly, which was a tranquil town located about 30 minutes north of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area. Waverly also happens to be home to Wartburg College, a small, private Lutheran college.
For the first half of my life in Iowa, I resided in Waverly. It was in this town that I developed my strong disdain for school theater and this was the town I left because I loved theater too much and my family was tired of the 30 minute commute to Waterloo.
Yesterday, I was going to Waverly to take care of some business there. After being confused by the detour route signs that were not very clear, we drove on Highway 218-27, where we noticed an orange water tower on the outskirts of town. It had been painted orange, with the image of the Wartburg College knight in black in honor of the college’s colors. It was gawdy, but at least it’s visible. As my mother and I drove into town, we noticed that the Red Fox Inn on highway 3 was now an America’s Best Value Inn and Suites, but the Red Fox image was still on the sign. When I moved to the town, it was a Best Western, but I believe that it’s changed hotel chains multiple times.
We continued to drive down the main street, Bremer Avenue, when I noticed so many changes. Waverly Child Care and Preschool had opened a large facility next to the public library, which I used to ride my bike to when I was younger, a trip that was not exactly short. I remembered the old facility because the bus I rode to school would go there to pick up a few students. But I can’t tell you where it was. The Hardees that used to be on West Bremer Avenue is gone, replaced by a Family Video. The church I went to has moved, as did the church that used to be on the block I lived on. Where a sub shop and the bus garage for the Waverly-Shell Rock School District used to stand now stands a Wallgreens, which hasn’t opened yet and might not even be finished yet. The city now has a Wal-Mart supercenter and where the crowded Wal-Mart was now resides the True Value hardware store, which used to be on Bremer Avenue next to the watertower. (Which is not the one that is now a very ugly orange.)
Some things haven’t changed, though. The grocery store, Fareway, is still where it always has been and doesn’t look like it’s changed. Neither does the offices for the newspaper, the Waverly Independent and Democrat. The house that I first lived in is still there, looking unchanged by the massive flood that occurred last year. It also looked like my piano teacher was still teaching, which surprised me a bit.
Several of these changes were changes that had occurred since I was last in Waverly for a relative’s wedding. But what is more surprising are the changes that have occurred since I was last in Waverly for a bassoon lesson in ninth grade. I found myself nostalgic for the quiet, simple town I once knew. Sure, Waverly hasn’t changed like the Waterloo-Cedar Falls are has in the time I’ve lived there (mainly Cedar Falls), but I still found myself missing how much it felt like a small town. When I lived there, many people in Waverly believed that their city was a nice small town, the kind where everyone knows everyone and everyone’s business. I never felt this living in Waverly, but it seemed like a small town and that charm that it once had was gone.
I never thought I would actually feel nostalgic for Waverly. By the time I left, I had grown to dislike the city. What was it that made me pine for the city that once was? I certainly love big cities, but sometimes, the quietness of the small city can be so beautiful.
I sat there and wondered if someday, if I returned to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area, if I would feel nostalgic for the city I once lived in. In the six years of living in the area, I have seen a beautiful old library be torn down. (I still miss the musty smell of the old Carnegie Library that housed the Cedar Falls Public Library and the large wooden shelves that held the New York Times.) I have seen crime rise, charming local businesses close as the downtown area of Cedar Falls has become overrun with shops selling purses, shoes, and other female oriented fare. I have seen the downtown area of Waterloo come alive and become anew.
Would I ever feel so nostalgic for a city I have grown to have such an animosity towards?