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You can go home again
By Jeanette Simpson

Thirty-two years ago I moved away from my hometown. Having grown up in a very close-knit family where grandparents, aunts and uncles, great-grandparents, and great-aunts and uncles spent holidays together, took picnics and ate at the edge of the woods before hunting for morel mushrooms in the spring, or drove 1 1/2 hours to the Carmichael Cemetery and picnicked before decorating the graves of ancestors, moving far from family was "different." No more picking strawberries together on Memorial Day, making apple cider in Grandpa’s wooden cider press in the fall, canning vegetables and fruits with Grandma and the great-aunts, or laughter and carol singing at Christmas at Grandma’s house. Being young, I saw only the adventure in a move. And, truthfully, I didn’t realize what a wonderful family I had back then or how important that might be to me later in life.

Wherever I lived, I wanted to absorb the culture there, learn about the traditions, attend the various festivals, things that made the place "home" to those who had grown up there. I lived in Canada for 12 years and for the first time attended Scottish games and a military tattoo. The touch of British culture brought something out from the depths of me that I never knew was there. I loved my years there; my children were born there, but I then found myself in Missouri for a year then Oklahoma for 19 years. Missouri had a homespun feel with the Ozark Mountains, Silver Dollar City, and the shows of Branson in the area where I lived. Oklahoma is the Land of the Red Man, formerly Indian and Oklahoma Territories. It wasn’t open for settlers until April of 1889, so there is a somewhat "new" feeling to the State. The earth is red, the western half of the state has cactus and tumbleweed. There is a mixture of Indian culture and Old West culture with modern universities and cities too. Horse and cattle ranches, oil wells, the Chisholm Trail, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center – these tell the story of the State.

After my children were grown and moved away, I began to feel a longing for the place where I had grown up. But, my parents, knowing they were getting older and had health problems, had moved near me so I could help them as needed. My father died of cancer and I was left to care for my mother who wasn’t well either. She had a problem leaving the place where my father was buried so we stayed several years longer. Then both of my children, because of jobs, moved to Illinois within a 2- hour drive of my hometown. My granddaughters were there, and I wanted to be closer. Reluctantly, my mother agreed to move back.

We left a very nice single family home to move into an apartment here in Indiana. I love it! No lawn to keep up; no roof to fix or appliances to replace. More time to take day trips, read a book, enjoy a cup of tea on the patio, make a quilt, work on crafts, give a tea, or work on the computer. When I grew up here, we lived north of town. We now live on the southeast side of town. It’s a beautiful area and convenient for everything we need, not by the shopping mall, but close to grocery and drug store. We have had meals with my relatives here; people from our church have stopped in to visit or phoned to check on us, people who have known me since birth, who even changed my diapers! Two of my girlfriends from school days have come home to visit their parents and called and come to see me. My children and granddaughters spent the Labor Day holiday here. Some mornings my cousin has stopped by at 7:10 a.m. on her way to work and left a container of soup she made, some pralines, brownies, or applesauce my aunt made. Another cousin has stopped in with family history he has put together, and one day he came to drill a hole I needed in the back of the computer cabinet for yet another cord to run through. Another day he and I took at trip down to Greene County, where our Scottish ancestors settled, to visit two elderly third cousins, one who is bed-ridden with cancer. His wife sat with my mother for the time we were gone. We drove by the Carmichael Cemetery with its memories, past the house where my grandmother was born, and talked of our memories of our grandparents and family activities we saw from different perspectives because he is eight years older than I. He moved away before I did; and he returned a year before I did. We both loved the warmth and caring we knew we would find back here.

Today my mother and I took our first day trip. You might know they wouldn’t have one of the restaurants we enjoy, so we drove 55 miles to Bloomington, Indiana, where they do have one of those restaurants. The day began with fog – we are in the "Valley," meaning the Wabash River Valley, so we will have fog from time to time, but it’s a soft fog and soon lifts. The sun came out and the sky was a deep blue with a few white puffy clouds. We drove down Highway 46, through small towns, on a curving road with many hills. There is so much green everywhere! In some places the trees embrace over the road giving a shady tunnel to drive through. At other places their lacy fingertips wave at one another, barely touching, so there are golden patches of sunlight dancing on the road. The corn is fired and almost ready to harvest. The soybeans are turning golden. We passed Cory where there is an apple festival each year. We passed Dietz Lake where all of the teenagers gathered to swim and meet the opposite sex when I was a teenager. The sunlight glistened on the ripples the wind was chasing across the lake. We went on past McCormick’s Creek State Park, where my church youth group used to picnic and walk the trails. At the bookstore in the mall, we looked at postcards and calendars with pictures from around this part of the State – the covered bridges of Parke County and the autumn leaves of Brown County. Brown County is known for its wonderful fall colors, and today we noticed that the tips of the leaves on some trees are just beginning to change – perhaps another trip down that way is in order in a few weeks.

The stores in the mall had beautiful wool skirts and sweaters and heavy winter coats for sale. How I loved shopping for those things before the new school year when I was a teenager! Yes, we are back in Indiana where there are four distinct seasons. While sitting beside my cousin’s swimming pool talking to my aunt last weekend, a fuzzy caterpillar crawled across the sidewalk. It was either very dark brown or black, my aunt said black. She said if the caterpillars are black, it means a bad winter. She said she has seen them with light brown at one end, black in the middle, then light brown on the other end, so the winter begins mild, gets bad, then gets mild again. Today as we drove along the highway, I saw three different black caterpillars crawling on the roadway. Oh, my! I’ll need to unpack my mohair scarves I bought in Scotland! Going down the hills on a sled is going to be cold, but it will be so much fun! I wonder if I can ice skate still?

Yes, things might be a bit different now – the older generations are gone, and there is no longer a vital downtown area. My high school has been torn down and replaced with senior citizen apartments. There’s no quilting frame up in Grandma’s living room and no blackberry jelly being made, but there may be a small quilting frame in my living room this winter, and I just may make some jelly myself and apple butter too. Without realizing it, I have passed many of our family traditions on to my own children. How rewarding it is to see my daughter baking bread and cooking from scratch, making jelly and apple butter, reading to and doing crafts with her children! And how nice to see my son decorate his house, make it a real home, bake pies, and host a Thanksgiving dinner which he himself has cooked! The memories are here, the ties that bind are here, some of the same people are around, and as I drove through the trees on the beautiful curving and hilly roads, I said, "Oh, yes. I am home again," and I felt warm all over!

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