Welcome to my hometown

By Regina Villiers. Originally published January 15, 1997 in The Suburban Life, added May 15, 2014.

Guest speaker Regina Villers is honored during a Madeira Historical Society meeting.

Guest speaker Regina Villers is honored during a Madeira Historical Society meeting.

After all these years, I have a home town.

Now you may think that’s no big deal. You’ve probably gown up here, where you were born, and are raising your kids here. You may even assume that, someday, you will die here and be launched to your reward from here.

But I never had that luxury. All my life, when people would ask me where I was from, I’d find it hard to answer. There was no place on earth where my heart ached to return. No place called me back. I’ve never been to a reunion in my life.

Before I moved here, I had gone through many moves, many towns and cities. I wasn’t running rom the law. It was just family circumstances and occupations. But as I grew older, I started to long for some place to call home, a place “where everyone knew my name.” And when we moved here, that feeling became pronounced. We had a small child and a brand-new baby. I wanted them to grow up rooted, to the same schools, with friends they knew.

When we bought a house, the same one I live in today, it was location, location, location it’s in walking of all three public schools, two blocks from the library, and three blocks from the business district. What more could I want?

When I walked into the house that day, more than 30 years ago, I never saw the peeling paint, or the grungy sink and counter, which we replaced the next week. But I audibly said: “I love this house. I will never move again.” Maybe it was just a desperate hope, but I like to think I was like Goldilocks, that everything felt “just right.”

The house wasn’t an instant fit. For a long time, we patched cracked plaster, scraped and painted, replaced this, tore out that.

Some things never got fixed or replaced. There were two creaks in the floor, one in the hallway outside the baby’s room, one near the door to my bedroom. If anyone stepped there, the baby, a light sleeper, instantly woke up and screamed. I quickly learned exactly where to step to miss the creaks, even in the dark. I still gingerly step over them, even though the “baby,” long gown up, now lives in his own house, three states away.

The neighborhood was not and instant fit, but it grew on me. I have always loved peace and quiet. I value privacy more than riches, and I never organized street parties or backyard barbecues. This is a quiet, private neighborhood, yet the neighbors are warm and friendly.

Madeira is neither a small town nor a city. It’s small-town enough to be warm, but sophisticated enough to allow you to be yourself. Here, I am who I am. No one tries to reform me, to save me, or to mold me to what I am not.

The business section of the town was a fit from the first time I walked into my bank and my drug store. They are still my bank and my drug store. Not only do the three pharmacists know my name and medical history, but they know my family and my occupation. They give me advice. I buy everything there, including office supplies. If they don’t have it, Rita will special order it for me, even to a special size of paper. Why would I ever go to the mall?

It’s the same all over town – the library, City Hall, the convenience store, the flower and plant shop, the bookstore. I know these people. They know me, by first name.

I like first names. Hey, if it worked for Jackie, and it works fro Madonna, it can work for Regina. I love it when I walk down the main street and cars honk and people call out, “Hi, Regina!”

About a month ago, I thought about how deeply my roots and been grown into Madeira. By now, my roots must be sticking up in Madagascar, all the way through the earth.

Then something happened to prove exactly that. I was invited to be the guest speaker at the December meeting of the Madeira Historical Society.

I didn’t worry about my “speech.” It would be a core group of members, I thought, people I knew. I’d just wing it and give my best Elizabeth Dole impression.

When I arrived at Ferrari’s, for the dinner meeting, I discovered two party rooms reserved for it, really nice atmosphere, and they were already filling up. And not just with members of the society. There were many people I didn’t expect to be there – Sherry Mattes from City Council, and Mary Rozic, past school board president, influential and long-admired. When Madeira’s mayor, Mel Martin and his wife, Dorcey, walked in, I started to wish I had prepared more for my talk.

But I had little time to be nervous.  They seated me at a head table with Doug Oppenheimer, president of the historical society, and his wife Ann, along with Dr. Les LeFever, and Bob and Karen Hadden.  The food was delicious and the company exhilarating.  I was flattered that place cards with a bio of me were at all the place settings.

My talk was made easier because the vice-president of the historical society, Bob Miller and his wife, Mimi, had brought their two children, Sara, who wants to be a writer, is in the sixth-grade, and Robby in the second.  Looking at their faces, paying attention, I felt I was back in the classroom, doing my thing.

After my talk, I made my way back to my table, expecting that we’d all go home.

Instead, people gathered, cameras flashed, and I felt zapped back onto the old TVshow,  “This is your life.”

Doug Oppenheimer presented to me a beautiful lead crystal vase, from the historical society.  Then Mel Martin read a proclamation to me, making it officially “Regina Villiers Day.”  It had seven “whereases,” and he explained he had never before written one with more than five.

The whole thing had been planned as a surprise party for me.  All these wonderful people, on a winter’s night, had come out for me, and had paid money to do it.

And then it hit me.  These were my people. And finally, this was my town.  The enormity of the thought sent me home too excited to sleep.

So thank you, Doug Oppenheimer, Bob Miller, Mel Martin, Sherry Mattes, Mary Rozic, and all the people you represent – all the people in Madeira.

You have given me what I always wanted and never had – a home town “where everyone knows my name.”

And I have photocopied my proclamation, with all seven “whereases,” and sent copies to my kids, demanding more respect from them.