You Can Go Home Again

By Sherry — who in this heat wave is contemplating a move to a cooler climate

I’m giving away a set of Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries — details at the end of the post.

They say you can’t go home again, but I did last week and it was fabulous.

IMG_9907When All Murders Final! came out I knew I wanted to do a signing in my hometown of Davenport, Iowa.

IMG_9573When most people think of Iowa they think of cornfields, small towns, and flat land. But Davenport is a small city, 100,000, in a group of small cities with a population of around 400,000. Since it sits on the Mississippi, river it’s anything but flat.

I worked in the tall building which was a bank.
I worked in the tall building which was a bank.

I’ve only been back twice since my parent’s moved away in 1991. But every time I go back I’m struck by how lucky I was to grow up in a place with great schools, lots of parks, a museum, an art gallery, and so much more.

I’m not crazy about doing signings alone so I asked my friend Matthew Clemens to do the signing with me. Matt graduated the year after me from the same high school but with classes of over 700 we didn’t meet until a couple of years ago, first via Facebook and finally in person when he was in DC doing research. Matt might not have known me, but he had my dad as a math teacher in seventh grade.

I had two other purposes for the trip: to spend time with high school and college friends, and to show my daughter the places that influenced what made me, me. Since my husband was in the Air Force, my daughter had only been to Davenport twice — when she was one and six.

IMG_9557The first part of the journey was meeting my friend Carol in the Atlanta airport. She was the one with the short turn around time and I was the one that was supposed to throw myself in the doorway of the plane to hold it until she got there. Of course nothing ever goes as planned so her plane arrived thirty minutes early and I ended up running through the airport as our plane boarded.

Carol’s brother picked us up at the airport and entrusted us with his car. He also took us to a beautiful restaurant on the Mississippi for dinner.


We stayed at Hotel Blackhawk which back in my teen years no one would have gone to. It’s been restored, is stunningly beautiful, and has a bartender that makes the most amazing dessert martini’s.

It even has a bowling alley! (And our last night there we bowled.) The next day more sorority sisters joined us and there was talk, laughter to the point of crying, and more martini’s.

A classmate told me that Cary Grant is supposed to haunt the Hotel Blackhawk. He had a massive stroke there right before he was going to do a performance at the theater next door. He died at the hospital. One of my friends and I were sitting in her room. There was a knock, knock, knock on the door but no one was there or in the hall.

IMG_9648Maybe Cary stopped by to say hello.

One of the many beautiful buildings downtown.

The day of the signing dawned. I always get nervous. What if know one shows up? What if I let the store down? So Carol and I walked around downtown reminiscing about high jinx, talking about the windows of department stores at Christmas, and how much downtown had changed.

Matt and I met at Barnes and Noble (him cool, calm, collected, me — not so much). But then people started to arrive, classmates, teachers, family friends. It was amazing. Time flew by.

We stayed longer than the two hours, and barely had time to speak to each other. It was interesting to see where our lives intersected, who Matt knew that I knew. It almost seemed impossible that we’d never met.

IMG_9856After the signing we adjourned to The Filling Station, a place I spent a lot of time in my late teens and early twenties. Lots of people came and it was like a mini high school reunion. It was so great to catch up with friends.

Sunday was the day to show my daughter around. The two houses I lived in growing up. The second one was built by my father and some of his fellow teachers.

We also drove by the schools I attended and where my parents taught, parks that I played in, and the beautiful old homes in East Davenport.

Monday morning we left to visit Kirksville, Novinger, and LaPlata, Missouri and then St. Louis but I’ll leave that for another post.

But the glow from my wonderful time is still with me so to share that glow I’m giving away a set of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries: Tagged for Death, The Longest Yard Sale, All Murders Final. Leave a comment for a chance to win.

Readers: Where is home for you? Can you go back?

176 Thoughts

  1. Nice post about Iowa from your neighbor from the North. I love MN and we were lucky enough to buy a house not terribly far from where I grew up. Great schools and lots of activities! Thanks for the chance to win!

  2. Home for me was East Longmeadow, MA. I used to go there all the time, but over the last twenty years I seem to have moved just enough away where it now takes planning to return. My Mom moved two years ago and the family home was sold. No reason to go back now except to see friends- and we try to meet halfway between our homes instead. Our beautiful little town continues to progress into commercially zoned properties. I’m glad I grew up there- riding my bike for hours without worry, feeding the horses that grazed in the field abutting our backyard, walking to softball practice with no parents hanging over me (gasp), and being with some of the best kids who are still my friends. Can’t forget the best neighbors ever- The Murphy’s.

  3. I grew up in northwest Iowa and have visited many times since college and marriage. However since both my parents have passed and all relatives are gone, I have little reason to return. 😢

  4. Oh Sherry, what a nice time you must have had! Thank you for sharing your journey. I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska (Go Big Red!). Yes, I’ve been back many times since I left “home” in the early 70’s, but, like many of your readers, I don’t have much family left. Three nephews, a niece & their families. They are young yet…they can come visit me! Thank you for a chance at the give-a-way!

  5. My home town was When nailed, Kansas. I’m heading back next weekend for a family reunion and hope to o catch up with some classmates while I’m there. So glad you had a good time.

    1. Winfield, KS can’t imagine how autocorrect got ‘nailed’ out of that!

  6. I always loved knowing that I could go home again, though I have never left my home area of the Southern Tier of New York. My whole family lives within an hour of me. When we bought our house it was in the little town where both my husband and myself grew up. I’m happy I never really left. I’m glad you had a great time going home.

  7. home for me is in Michigan, where you are never more than 85 miles from one of the great lakes.

  8. What an awesome trip. We live in the same metro area I grew up in but we would love to take the kids and grandkids to see where there ancestors lived. My Mother in law was from Iowa she grew up on Souix City and surrounding areas. Thanks for the trip pictures and we will have to put Davenport on our list b of places to see. Thanks for chance to win also

    1. I’m going to blog next week on the town my father grew up in. I hope you get a chance to make the trip. Iowa really is beautiful!

  9. Sounds like you had a great time while you were back. Sorry I missed all the fun – you should have picked a better week! I enjoyed the photos and of course many of your comments bring back memories of childhood. Really wish those store windows downtown would once again be filled with those wonderful displays they had at Christmas time.

    1. I wish they’d do the store windows too. When we lived in Dayton, Ohio someone had saved a store window display and they always but them back up at Christmas time.

  10. I grew up in Meriden, CT, a small city with great history and some of the best pizza on the planet. Lots of friends have moved away, but I love to visit family there. Glad you had such a great visit. I bet it was Cary stopping by to say hello.

  11. I’ve been home again several times. I always love seeing how some things never change and some do.

    1. That about sums up Davenport, Joy! My friend put TJ Maxx into her phone and we ended up in a part of town I didn’t even know existed!

  12. Home for me is Arlington, Texas…there’s where I grew up and where I still live. Most of my family also live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area so I’m close to them. I have traveled a lot but I don’t think I would ever move out of Texas!

  13. I was raised in Colorado but have resided in Texas for many years. I’d love to go back home to Colorado but all my children and grandchildren live within 50 miles of me so I’m here to stay. Thank you for this awesome giveaway and chance!

  14. Sounds like a great trip. As usual, I promise that whatever I win I will promptly read and review on Amazon and Goodreads.

  15. My father was career Air Force and we moved a lot. Home was and still is family. Where ever my family is, that is home for me.

  16. Home was a small town in North Carolina. I moved back into the house where I grew up , surrounded by some of the same neighbors I had as a child. So I think you can go home again. It won’t be exactly the same, but I’m not exactly the same either.

  17. I grew up in Grand Rapids MI and now live in the Northwestern suburbs in Chicago. My sister now lives in Holland MI and I try to visit her often. I do plan on returning to Michigan in a couple of years and live in Holland because it’s a beautiful small town on Lake Michigan. Michigan will always be home to me and I always feel comfortable there.

      1. Holland, Michigan is a great place. I spent the summer close by in a place near the town of Saugatuck. I was an apprentice at the Red Barn Theatre the summer after high school graduation. Great fun!

  18. I really enjoyed learning about your hometown. It was fun to see the pictures and she read the stories that you shared. Looking forward to more!

  19. I was raised in Napa but have lived in my house in Dixon since 1953.I still can go to Napa and see the High School I went to and the bakery acrossed the street where we would often pick up lunch. The 2 liquor stores that have kitchens and I always bring home dozens of malfatti like my mom made. The house of my parents is still there and for blocks it looks much the same. even the bocce ball court. Across the street the whole block was torn down and is now the OXbow Market a foodie heaven. when we drive up the Valley my beloved stone walls are still there but vineyards every where and traffic. But I often just wander old downtown Napa with all my memories. It’s better now since a lot of the earthquake damage is repaired. But it holds my heart.

  20. Thank you for so much for the opportunity to win! Home is in Pennsylvania, and except for the last year, that’s where I’ve been living. Unfortunately, family illness is taking me to Florida right now, and sometime in the near future, I hope to be going back to Pennsylvania. All my life I thought I want to leave Pennsylvania, and I can’t tell you how much I miss it. Thanks again, I’m looking forward to reading your book!

  21. Very much enjoyed reading this – thank you, Sometimes looking back at that perspective and that history encourages us through the tribulations which may lay ahead – thank you for the smiles Thank You, that you have provided with the wonderful remissness of the time – better times, and proud times for many.

    Its a true kaleidoscope of life and our small world which why we are who we are today…. Proud!

    You have in part helped shape that world -and thank You for your efforts !

    Thank You – Keep up he good stuff – May your God Bless You, and yours

  22. I grew up in Nebraska and have gone back there a couple of times. The last time wasn’t too good so I have not returned. My dad has passed away and my mother is in a nursing home now with Alzhemiers and doesn’t know who I am, so I am not going back there anymore. I only went back there for them, now there isn’t any point. My 2 sisters have never been where I have lived in the past 16 years so I have seen the way they want it. We talk only on the phone.

  23. Wished I could have made it to the book signing had prior commitment. Glad you enjoyed your visit home because Iowa will always feel like home. I was a military wife also wouldn’t have changed a thing. I haven’t read your books yet but t am going to. Former classmate 1973

  24. I am so proud to be from Davenport! I loved seing it with you, through you and your camera. Love you Sherry! Carol

    1. Ha, now the camera is okay! Yes, folks I drove my friends crazy snapping pictures. I love being with you, too! Even if I did have to run through the airport!

      1. But remember…I may not have run to the gate, but when I saw you I did run to you….like a great hallmark commercial!

  25. It was really nice to see all your messages and pictures you posted on Facebook while you were back home in Davenport. I grew up there as you did and never thought I would leave my roots either. I live in Arlington, Texas now with husband and our two sons, but Davenport, Iowa will always be home! We go “home” every October for a family wienee ~roast we hold at Blackhawk Park in Rock Island, Illinois . I also spend time with old friends and classmates while there.It’s something I look forward to every Fall. It’s pretty awesome you’ve become so successful in your writing adventure and I know all of us Iowans are proud of you! And yes, we can always go back home😊

    1. Oh, thank you, Karen! How nice that you get back every October! It’s a beautiful time to be in Iowa! I’ve been to Blackhawk Park but we spent more time at Wildcat’s Den.

  26. Davenport is and always will be home for me. After being gone for 30 years, I have been back home for 8 years and love it. It has been fun reconnecting with classmates. It is a great place to grow up. Thanks for sharing this information about our hometown.

  27. Sherry! What a wonderful tribute. I wish I could have been along for the walk down memory lane and seen it thru your eyes. I’ve driven the streets of Daveport and done it myself! I just hope you had a pork tenderloin for me! And please tell me you introduced your daughter to MaidRites! Can you tell it’s all about the food for me??? Thanks for sharing your journey with us. Now get the next book done. We’re ready. 😁

    1. I wish you could have been there too! We drove by both of your old houses. A tenderloin was a must. Unfortunately, my daughter wasn’t there long enough to get a MaidRite — we will have to go back.

  28. Home for me is one half hour from where I live now. I keep in touch with a hand full of high school friends. I taught special ed. in my home town too, and I still know a lot of the teachers!

  29. “Home” for me is always Tottenville, Staten Island, though I’ve lived in this house in Central Maine for 41 years. This summer I’m planning on returning for the first time since … well, 20 years ago when we sold The House.
    I always feel we betrayed the house and all my ancestors who were born and died there (like my mother and her mother). The place, I know, has changed. It now has not only Italian Mafia (they built a little enclave at the end of our beach during ‘my time’ there) but, now, Russian Mafia.
    I dunno. It may not seem like ‘home’ anymore. I’m rather chary, actually, about returning.

  30. Hi Sherry – I enjoyed your post about Davenport. I lived in the Quad Cities for 30+ years, met Matthew Clemens at one of the QC writer’s conferences. I love finding fun new mysteries to read, and I can’t wait to read yours!

  31. STL born & bred! (Go Cards!)
    Living in Kirksville which has always
    been my other home.
    Always back to STL for family!
    Almost like I have 2 homes at same

  32. You can always go back; alas I can’t relive it…

    I too grew up in Davenport . Many fond memories. I didn’t know it then but those are some of the best times that make up a life. Especially high school. I remember a very special girl in high school who was beautiful, friendly, was a blast to be around and had a talent for writing. She was so talented; in fact, she rose to Editor-in-Chief of her 1973 high school yearbook, as well as being one of the head honchos in the “Pub”. Not surprising she grew up to be a world class author. I’m so happy for her success and having known her in those formative years.

    Can’t relive those days, but I can always relish the memories.

    P.S. What happens in the darkroom stays in the darkroom 🙂

      1. Sigh…I thought those clues would be hard.

        Yea, 43 years is a long time. A lot of lost brain cells and hair, but the good times/memories stick – I wish I could remember them all!

        Can you see the email address? Use it if you dare…


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