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. Fun post, Sherry! Beautiful photos! And I love the way you did the signing. <3

  2. Hello Sherry, I still live in my childhood home, so the memories of baking cut out sugar cookies with my Mom and MomMom is like coming home. To this day I still bake these memorable cookies with the same cookie cutters in the same kitchen, and think of rolling and cutting out the dough with my loving family. Thanks for sharing your homecoming in Iowa. Maureen

  3. Iowa is really a beautuful state. Home for me is Ponca City, OK. It is full of history and I hope to write a book about it to share with the world. I love your books.

  4. I just went back home this weekend to see family and had a great time. Some of them I haven’t seen in like 12 years. Love the covers on the books. Thank you for the chance to win.

  5. Great post, Sherry! Cool hotel…I would love to try playing in that bowling alley. And it was so nice that former teachers, classmates, and family friends came to your B&N signing! My hometown (Toronto, ON) is only a 5 hour drive away from where I’m living now (Ottawa, ON), but I only go there 1-2 times a year.

  6. As a Navy brat, home is a lot of different places for me. The place we spent the most time though is Mechanicsburg, PA. I’ve been wanting to take a trip back for a while. My last HS reunion was cancelled….so maybe if I get my book done I can do a signing there too!

  7. Thanks for the tour, Sherry! I’d love to go back home, and did a little bit of that a few years ago when California Crime Writers was in Pasadena, California – my birthplace. My best friend from high school drove me to my signing at Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach and a fellow cheerleader came to see me. But what I’d really like is an author event at Vroman’s, the venerable indy bookstore in Pasadena, and invite everyone I still know in the area. One of these days!

  8. My hometown is so changed that I hardly recognize it. Most of the people I grew up with are gone and the town is filled with strangers. I’m happy that it has grown, but sad too.

    1. It was hard for me to see the changes in downtown Davenport, too. It was devastated when the mall was built in 1973, but it’s reinvented itself which made me happy.

  9. Sherry, I’m glad your homecoming was such a joyful event! I’d only lived away from Memphis for six years when I returned and did a signing for my first book. But the store was on the other side of town from most of my family and friends — and it rained buckets. I feared no one but my mother would show up. But they came — we actually sold out! Old friends are the best!

  10. Great post since my adopted state is your home state! Home for me is Syracuse, NY and since I’m the only one who moved away, all my family still live there. I visit at least once a year and until just recently stayed with my parents in the house that has been in my family since 1930. So yeah, you can go home again!

  11. My husband is from Davenport and has taken me there several times. It’s fun to revisit where you grew up. I did the same thing last December when we went out to the end of Long Island where I spent my summers growing up. Always bring back lots of great memories.

  12. It looks like you had a great time! Thank you for sharing the beautiful pictures, Davenport sounds like a nice place to live. I live about two hours from where I grew up, so I’ve been able to visit quite a few times. It has changed drastically from when I lived there.

  13. What a great way to go back home – a book signing! How awesome. I was born and raised in NYC and my parents are still there so I go back often.

  14. I came home a few years ago back to the small town I grew up in nestled around a river. I love the historical district and live right on top of the 6,000 pop. Campus University I graduated from…my old College Friends are still here and we go out to eat every week and go to lectures and Club Meetings. it’s been wonderful…some of the businesses have gone but its been one of the best decisions I have ever made…thanks for the contest and I would love to read your books..

  15. Sounds like you had an amazing trip back to your home town. I will be “going back home” this year for the annual family reunion in September, making the drive from NH to Western NY. Looking forward to seeing family and friends. Congrats on your memorable return to your home town.

  16. Wished I could’ve made it to the signing. It was great to recognize lots of old friendly faces from school days. Congratulations on your great success. Here’s to many more in the future!

    1. Thanks, Bruce! It would have been great to see you! I had such a wonderful time and was certainly reminded how lucky I was to grow up in Davenport!

  17. Sherri it is beautiful!! I vrew up in Chicago and we would do a day trip kr over night to Galena. My dad liked to stay. In Davenport. I hadnt thought of that for years so thank you!!! Such great food and local color. Loved those trips!!!!!

    1. I love Galena and glad this reminded you of those trips. We’d get loaded up on the train or bus and taken to Chicago every few years. I need to get back there too — I know it’s changed a lot!

  18. I grew up in Brooklyn and still live here. Of course there were some bumps in the road. Like the year we spent down in Miami (7th birthday) so Mommy Dearest could get a divorce. Brooklyn being a rather large county though I started out in East NY when it was a lovely mix of Italian, Polish and Jewish. Moved to Sheepshead Bay for Junior High and part of High School (James Madison H.S. also attended by Bernie Sanders). I finished high school and started college living in Mill Basin which was a very quiet neighborhood. Now I’m back in Sheepshead Bay with my partner/spouse of 44 years.

    I’ve read at least one of the Mattie Winston books and would be thrilled to own them and add them to my very large (2050 and growing) home library.

    NoraAdrienne (at) gmail (dot) com

    1. Living in Brooklyn always seems to exotic to me and I love to read books set there. 44 years is awesome, congratulations! And that is some library!

  19. Home will always be Northern Kentucky. I can still go home and do to visit all my favorite recipes, Frisch’s and Gold Star Chili. I love the Greater Cincinnati area. Although both of my parents are sadly gone now. I have been a transplant to Tennessee for over 20 years now. I still bleed blue for the U.K. Basketball team.

    1. Northern Kentucky and Tennessee are both beautiful places! We were stationed in Dayton, Ohio and often drove through both to visit my parents in Florida. I loved the Cincinnati zoo — it is a great city.

  20. Hello Sherry, sure sorry I missed seeing you. your blog was inspiring about the city of Davenport, I have lived here my whole life and still enjoy. Our old neighborhood still has some of the original neighbors but the trees have grown so much. I was living in the Mississippi Loft Apartments downtown when they were remodeling the Blackhawk Hotel. The Miss. Loft was the old Mississippi Hotel located next to the Blackhawk. I had the penthouse floor with a beautiful view of the river and Rock Island Arsenal. Come back and visit anytime.

    1. I couldn’t believe how big the trees are either, Renee! The one in our front yard was barely more than a twig when we planted it! You must have had a stunning view!

  21. I still live in my hometown (we did live elsewhere for a few years), but it’s not the same. As a child, there were 20k residents. Now there are 160K. I liked it best around 50k people. Thank you for the chance to win.

    1. Wow — that is a huge increase! I can’t even imagine! Davenport is still about the same size but there is a lot of development in the North part of town.

  22. How wonderful that you not only got to go home, but also got to have a book signing as a successful writer while you were there. What fun. I wish I could have been in the crowd. Enjoy the rest of your journey.

  23. Home town in Davenport for me, but have been gone from area around 20 years. Every time I come back to visit it has changes, that are sad to see, but still some of the old and lots of memories. Was wonderful to get the chance to meet the Author of some great books and catching up with classmates and friends. Continued success with many more books and hope you make it back for another visit.

  24. I grew up in the small city of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, home of Phillips Petroleum Company, and just 50 miles from Tulsa. I now live in Tulsa, but Bartlesville, although somewhat changed, is still a charming and friendly town that I love to visit. I love garage sales and mysteries, so your series sounds perfect for me!

  25. Auburn, IN. It’s in the NE corner of the state. And I can’t go home again because I’m still here. 😉

  26. Home for me is always my grandma’s house on Blind Lane in Bourne End, England. The house has been bought by someone else and completely renovated but I’d love to knock on their door and just at least see the garden in the back again. I have seriously considered retiring to England, but that particular area is expensive now due to its proximity to London.

    1. My dream trip was to London a couple of years ago and I can’t wait to go back. I’d love to retire there too! I hope you do knock on the door some day and visit your garden!

  27. I was born and raised in Painesville, Ohio. The house we lived in was the only home I knew until I got married. The house is still there but my home is now my home I live in with my husband and children since my parents have died. There are no strings tying me to the area.

  28. My Mom sold our childhood home so she could retire by the ocean she loved which I fully supported. She was a widow and raised 3 of us by herself working two jobs. She deserved a happy retirement. I discovered then that where my Mom was, that was home to me, in her warm embrace. Not place nor morter matters, it’s the family that made me feel home. I miss her. Reading helps.

  29. Well, I didn’t get to go home again, but a couple of people from home came to me! The former mayor of my hometown – Stinnett, Texas – and his brother came through here on their way to the Great Lakes. But could I go back? It seems the town has actually shrunk since I left (population down 500 people, and it was only 2000 to begin with!). Pretty sure it wouldn’t feel the same, but I would love to take my husband to see where I grew up.

  30. Ah, Sherry, you just made me appreciate our hometown even more. The Davenport Schools and the Parks and Recreation (where I worked) WERE great. I clearly remember your first house as it was my old stomping grounds as well. Considering how old we are, it is nice to see it still standing. HA! It was wonderful to see you and hope to see you again in two years.

  31. I am currently living in Florida. I grew up in South Philly and yes I do go back. I haven’t been back in the past three years since my brother passed away. Both my parents are gone also. I still have a lot of family still there. Two brothers and lots of Aunts, Uncles, and cousins! My brothers still live in my childhood home but it is so updated that it doesn’t look the same. My kids were young when we moved here so when we went it was definitely a culture shock. Very laid back here and quiet in Philly it is loud and everyone is in a rush!

  32. Sherry, that was a great idea to do a signing in your hometown. I moved away for a few years but when it was time to raise our family my husband and I came back to the Quad Cities because I thought it was a great place to grow up. NEVER regretted that decision! So sorry I wasn’t in town when you were here—I would have loved to see you. Very proud of you and I love your books!!

  33. Home for me is where my husband is. When we first got married we were on active duty in the Air Force, so many moves over the years. Beside him will aways be home no matter where that is.

    1. I love this, Daphne and feel the same way as my husband was in the Air Force too! But I’ll always have a connection with Davenport!

  34. Home is in Alabama, while I don’t live in my hometown, I still get to go back often enough.

  35. Hi and thank you for the giveaway. the small town I grew up in , is in northern MN, I went back about five years ago. So much has changed I thought I was in a foreign country so many immigrants, I was surprised. Now I live in smaller town in TN very quiet, laid back. But of course everyone knows everyone and has opinions. So I stay out of small town politics. Would so love t win a book. I love that you comment on what people have written. Georgia

    1. Oh, thank you Georgia! I guess we’ve always felt like our blog is a conversation! Tennessee is beautiful and quite a bit warmer than Minnesota!

  36. I’m so bummed I couldn’t get out there to see you, but it looks like you had lots of fun! And meeting Cary Grant’s ghost??? Too cool! 😉

  37. Sorry I missed the signing, would have loved to have been able to make it. Looks like the event went well and so happy for you! By the way I love your books, keep them coming!

    1. Thank you, Janet — I’m sorry you couldn’t make it! I’m so happy that you like the books because it has been so much fun writing them!

  38. Sorry that I couldn’t get there but we will meet in person somewhere, sometime! LOL Really enjoyed the post & all the photos. Would love to win this set.

  39. Grew up in a small town, where everyone knows your name or who your parents were. I only live 45 minutes away, and my brother still lives there. So I still go back, and to the old timers that are still around I am still “Joe’s daughter”. I would love to win a book. Thank you

  40. Home is wild, wonderful West Virginia. I do go back occasionally, but so much has changed. It’s just not the same.

  41. You can go home Sherry!!!! I do every year for family reunion and at Christmas time. I HAVE ALL of your books so not in it for the drawing!!!! You are one great fabulous author!!!!!

  42. I just returned from a three week long trip to Nebraska. For me that will always be home even though I’ve lived in Long Island for 15 years. I grew up in a farm community just outside Omaha. I was lucky enough to have the best of both worlds. I’m so happy you chose to share your experience. Thank you! I love the wickeds and love reading all of your stories and comments.

    1. That sounds like a wonderful trip! I’ve been to Omaha a couple of times and it seems like a wonderful city! And thank you so much for reading our stories — we love having you here.

  43. Home for me is West Point, NY. No, I can’t go back to the houses we lived in. They belong to the government and other families live there now.

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