Mine was a petty purchase. Not one to break the bank. Just a small fountain drink to quench my thirst on a steamy hot day. As I walked toward the counter I reached for my wallet, but the cashier simply smiled, waved her hand, and said “You have a nice day!”

My drink was on the house.

“What a blessing,” I said to the young woman on the other side of the cash register. “Thank you so much.”

It was nothing. A small drink. But, it brought a smile to my face. Just one more of a plethora of good things – or God winks, as some call them – I experienced during that weekend trip back home.

I lived there only a few months as a freshman in high school but it was the town where both sets of grandparents lived for decades. It was also the location of my first “date” to a movie theater…with a boy! (My dad came along and sat in the back to watch the movie — perhaps to watch the boy, I don’t know?)

It’s the only place I can legitimately call my “hometown” since we moved around so much during my childhood. From Iowa to Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Illinois, and Wisconsin before we returned to Iowa when I was a young teenager.

This was our family’s “coming-home” place every Christmas. Our repeat destination. It’s where we saw cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. A place where we made memories. It was the home – Madison County, that is – of seven of my eight great-grandparents, too. My roots run deep in that dark, rich soil.

Forever my hometown – Winterset, Iowa.

And, it still makes my heart happy to return! Every. Single. Time. I don’t fully understand it – the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes over me – but I can certainly attest to it. It’s where my heart feels at home.

Thank you for the red carpet welcome, Winterset. And, thanks again for the soda, too.

It WAS – indeed – a very nice day!

I’ll be back!

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