My world was relatively small when I was growing up. Although some members of my family had ventured out, moved away and sometimes came back to visit with wares from their travels, for the most part, my world was in Marion, Ohio. The trouble with that was my awareness of an outside world. Those reports from far-off lands like Florida, Maryland, and even Africa were just enough to put a restlessness in my spirit that could only be satisfied by leaving this eternally dull little world.
When I went off to college everything that I had always suspected was confirmed. There was nothing special about Ohio. When my classmates would plan their holidays at home there were always special little traditions, restaurants, parks, stores and other distinctive features of home that they longed to return to. I was always at a loss for a contribution to these conversations. I couldn’t think of things that were in my hometown that were not in any of theirs. Sure we had a silly street festival, but every town has that. Our restaurants were all chains, our parks were typical and uncreative, the stores were chains as well, and few of them to boot. The best thing that I could come up with was the Isaly Shoppe, which I couldn’t even return to because it had closed the one summer of my life that I got out of that god-forsaken town.
Now I am at my 10th address in 11 years and find myself on a dimly lit porch on Church street in Marion, Ohio. My neighbor directly across the street apparently celebrates Christmas year round, at least judging from the lit grapevine Christmas tree on the porch and the painted cut-out plywood angels on the lawn this May. My neighbor directly to the West of me actually believes that the parking space on the street directly in front of her home is HERS and no one else is allowed to park in it. In the event that an unauthorized car does find its way into her spot, she goes door to door until she finds the owner of the vehicle and asks the unknowing offender to remove their vehicle. If one errs on the side of protest a long story about her bad knees is sure to follow.
This evening I finally realized what I never knew I’d always missed these past 11 years. I missed dilapidated barns that lean like the tower of Pisa and yet just as inexplicably never seem to collapse. Measuring time in the summer by the height of the corn, all the while realizing that once that sweet and wonderful treat is harvested school is soon around the corner. June bugs on your screen door and humming around your porch light. The smell of dew on cut grass early in the morning is somehow different here. There is always the sound of a train in the distance and traffic is a constant, yet unfrequent hush of a lone car passing your home at 30 miles an hour. The night isn’t quiet, but the sounds are different here. For one thing, children still play outside after dark. And since no one ever thought to spray for mosquitoes there are ample fireflies to chase and catch and wish upon until mothers drag their children off to bed. The buzzing of a saw indicates that a neighbor is busy making birdhouses or some other wooden handicraft in his garage while another has friends over playing cards in the kitchen and I can hear their laughter through open windows. In yet another house a toddler cries for his mother. They’ve never heard of light pollution here and so the sky is an ocean of stars that anyone can swim in or kiss beneath or ignore altogether never knowing what a privilege it is to actually see stars on a summer night. I never reveled at what was special or missed these beautiful experiences because I forgot about them entirely. I doubt I would have ever seen their beauty if I had never left, but now I can bask in the glory of beautiful Ohio as I never knew I would, or even could.