Over the River and through the corn...
...to Grandmother's house we drove.
The Garmin knows the way to carry the .... Mazda?
Ok, scratch that. I don't even own a Garmin; and if I did, I certainly wouldn't need it to navigate me to a place I lived for over 18 years. I just really liked the way the 'river' and 'corn' parts worked so well so I figured I'd give it a shot. E
So here I am, sprawled out on the couch in the house I called home for the bulk of my life. Well, technically I'm sprawled out behind that house, in the lovely addition erected shortly after my parents officially achieved 'empty nest.' Presumably, the west wing of my parent's home was financed in part by the money they saved once us kids weren't hanging around spiking the grocery bills and leaving lights on and doors and windows opened while the AC was running.
'Home' (as I continue to reflexively call it, despite the fact I haven't spent more than a few days at a time there in over eight years) always conjures up a mix of emotions and erupts a flood of memories.
Dorothy says there's no place like it.
Thomas Wolfe claims you can't go back there.
Just about anyone will tell you it's where your heart is.
For me though, I think 'home' is the feeling I get when I exit I-55 and turn right. It's that and really, it's so much more.
It's where I learned to be strong and confident even as the world was telling me I was too fat and not wearing the right clothes, driving the right car, or carrying the right purse.
It's where I learned what it means to have real responsibility and to be a leader when I scurried up the Parks and Rec department ladder; advancing from 'deck guard' to lifeguard to manager with the sort of ambition it takes to top out at $12 an hour and earn the prestige of spending my summers armed with the power to turn on the slides and order troublemakers out of the water.
It's where I watched the college athletes my dad worked with start off as sports camp counselors and awe-inspiring role models and then get rapidly younger and younger. Now, I see them as they are: sweaty teenagers in spandex who must road-trip to Des Moines for a tournament instead of to Panama Beach for a week long, scantily-clad spring break bender...but still probably pretty great role models for ten-year-olds.
It's where I figured out how to climb nearly all the way to the top of our neighbor's maple tree and spent summer afternoons in it's branches with a book (nerd alert!)
It's where I filled countless journals with the sort of tortured agony and endless melodrama reserved only for teenage girls and the Real Housewives franchise.
It's where in junior high, my best friend and I simultaneously fell in love with the boy up the street and after several days of spending nearly every waking moment chasing after him, we decided just as quickly and just as synchronously that he totally wasn't worth the effort (imagine his diasappintment when the two awesomest 12-year-olds in town were suddenly uninterested)
It's where I occasionally 'subbed' for my brothers' paper route and learned that the quiet and damp early morning air can be both calming and electifying all at once.
It's where I was so desperate to be cool at age 15 (a feat I now know to be impossible), I told some upperclassman that I was adopted in an attempt to escape the label of 'teacher's kid.'
It's where I cried tears of frustration and anxiety over a volleyball coaching staff concerned more with wins than the well-being of their players. I was learning the hard way that I am a miserable head-case and this doesn't pair well with coaches who thrive on playing mind-games. Incidentally, the win at any cost attitude, plus a future Olympian will win you more than one state championship...but will eventually also cost you your job (when said Olympian makes it her mission to take you down).
It's where I spent one night in high school cruising around with some friends and a cucumber, taking photos on a disposable camera (remember those?) of the cucumber having mis-adventures all over town and laughing until my face hurt.
It's where I lusted after a boy all through high school who was so painfully gorgeous that I couldn't put a coherent sentence together in front of him. And where that same boy asked me for my number three years later when I was happily dating another boy (which is why I finally felt comfortable with the English language in his presence...and also why I didn't give him the number).
It's where my friends and I would occasionally crash college parties and make decisions that probably should have landed us in jail or worse.
It's where I could lie awake in my bedroom when the weather was right, listening to the sounds of marching bands and football games and shouts of drunken collage students float in through an open window.
It's where I became the person I am today, for better or worse.
I may not live there anymore, but I imagine it will always feel like home to me and I'm grateful for it. Tomorrow, I will pile the kids back in the Mazda and head back through the corn and over the river, happy to have gotten to taste home for a couple of days.