This story is published in partnership with Ozarks Alive, a cultural preservation project led by Kaitlyn McConnell.

Seasons are shifting every moment, every day. As green begins to peek from beneath crumpled brown leaves, we feel the call of rebirth. Sometimes those moments are of sad goodbyes and silent reflection; at others, they bring smiles after a winter that lingered a little too long. Either way, they create a new version of our world.

It’s difficult to notice this change day to day. We’re too close to see the big picture and how we’ve evolved. But when blessed by years, looking at the past often brings a longing for what once was — or perhaps simply what we remember it to be. Nostalgia is far sweeter than a cold soda pop from the old country store.

That concept recently got me thinking: What seemingly ordinary parts of our world will we romanticize in the future?

While landmarks like one-room schoolhouses and giant, ghost-like fading barns pull at heartstrings, they’re not what I’m thinking of here — and for that very reason. Those do linger today, but they aren’t mainstream and are often already seen with rose-colored glasses.

I’m talking about examples of life that are “everyday” or perhaps taken for granted, but in the future we will equate with a quaint, simpler time.

No one can see change. But here are a few examples of life in 2023 that I wonder how we will look back on in the future.

  • Mailboxes along rural roads: Will USPS still do home delivery in the future as they do today? I don’t know. But I would not be surprised if, 50 years from now, finding abandoned mailboxes in old milk cans will feel the same as spotting an old outhouse does today.
  • Stone architecture: Beautiful, puzzle-pieced homes, barns and business buildings are still used, but it seems they’re not built nearly as often as they were in the past. As they fall into disrepair or are torn down for progress, how long will it be before these structures are prized as symbolic of a long-ago Ozarks?
  • Rural cemeteries and tombstones: Death and burial trends are changing. People aren’t staying in home communities the way they once were. In some cases, rural cemeteries already struggle to be cared for. What will happen in years to come when even ones currently active become part of the past?
  • Wide, open spaces: While I believe (and hope) these won’t completely disappear, I think it’s inevitable that people will keep coming to the Ozarks. As family farms and large tracts of land are sold for development, there may come a time when drives in the country don’t bring the feeling of peace and isolation that they do now.
  • Gravel roads and low-water bridges: A definition of progress for rural county governments is paving roads and maintaining bridges. Will there be a day when most primitive rural roads and water crossings don’t exist outside of photographs and dusty memories?
  • Legacy country churches: While I see new churches still being built in semi-rural areas, I notice others — longtime small congregations — that appear to have closed. While these tucked-away churches have survived as the world has changed around them, I wonder how many will be active in decades to come.

Change is inevitable for our world, and our lives — it is not necessarily bad. Not all of these things are important in the grand scheme of life, either, but I wonder how we will look back on them as our minds redefine the past. At least in the future, you will be able to say, “I remember when…”

Kaitlyn McConnell

Kaitlyn McConnell is the founder of Ozarks Alive, a cultural preservation project through which she has documented the region’s people, places and defining features since 2015. McConnell regularly shares her stories with readers of the Springfield Daily Citizen. Contact her at: More by Kaitlyn McConnell More by Kaitlyn McConnell