PadLo was up and ready for an adventure! So after securing him into the back seat, we set off for my small hometown in Indiana for a weekend visit.
There was a time when my dramatic storyline-driven teen self regarded my hometown as Alcatraz Island, my house as the actual prison, and my parents as tyrannical co-wardens. I was the wrongfully imprisoned character. But those days and feelings waned long ago. As I matured (and I use that term loosely), I grew to realize how lucky I was to be raised in that little rural town and even luckier by those two over-worked and under rewarded people. I never dreamed I'd so look forward to going there to visit. Driving into town is like running into the embrace of an old friend.
I’d been talking about getting out of Chicago for a while, and finally took the opportunity to plan a weekend getaway to my home town to spend some “down” time and relax with my family. There is something strong and protected about the house I grew up in. I knew I couldn’t completely escape pangs of sadness, but I was definitely in a place--physically and emotionally--where it couldn't get the best of me.
It was the first time ever, as I left Chicago that I didn’t feel a little morsel of regret. My connection to Chicago is immutable. It’s where I “became”, and leaving it usually incites even the tiniest bit of anxiety in the pit of my stomach. But not so on this trip. I was all smiles as I slugged back my home brewed coffee and belted out the vocal stylings of whomever was playing on my iTunes play list. PadLo joined in on the verses he knew.
When I arrived early on a beautiful August afternoon, I grabbed my overnight bag and PadLo then headed inside. I was a little surprised no one greeted me outside since I arrived pretty much right on schedule. I put my things down inside and still didn’t encounter anyone. I walked to the back of the house and saw my parents and one of my sisters sitting on the deck, talking. I felt such a sense of peace and comfort that I actually stopped and watched them for a few minutes. I loved seeing them gesturing and laughing with each other. It was one of the memories that I took the time to etch into my brain.
Dinner was ready by the time my other sister arrived. One of my favorite parts of the day was sidling up to the raised bar in the kitchen where we sat and ate like we did growing up. It was the first time in recent memory that it was just the “Original Five” of us, and it was a really special. Lots of harassment and laughter shared over the table were just as delicious as the steak and farm fresh corn on the cob.
Going back to Remington was meaningful in more than just seeing my family. There is a happiness that existed within me that pre-dated Ken--well, it predated most every other part of my life since I lived there since I was two. It was important for me--and it felt really good--to connect with it.
I’ve always been nostalgic, and taken great comfort in warm memories of the past. Over the past weeks I’ve tried to connect with happy times before I met Ken--not to ignore or deny him, but more to illustrate and remind my sometimes fragile psyche that my life is full of many different kinds of happiness, and in working through my grief, there will be more happiness to come.
After my sisters left, my mom drove me around to town to show me the sights that I don’t think I’d seen for more than twenty years. In the intervening time, I’d arrive at my folks and never get out to see anything else, so I was really eager to see what other parts of town looked like. We drove past the old town park with the same curly-Q slide I used to play on as a child; the new elementary school that was demolished and rebuilt as soon as I left it (coincidence?); and of course we drove down Ohio Street (the main drag) and passed the dime store of broken dreams (pictured, now an antique store, but with the same black and white marble running under the display windows).
On this visit I spent a lot of time floating aimlessly around the pool with my mom and sisters as Dad looked on from deck. My mom and I engage in friendly oneupmanship while my sisters act as sometimes-willing targets. Mom told the stories we’ve heard over the years of how she and my dad bought what used to be a Baptist Church and converted into a home that housed five people, two dogs and innumerable visitors and gatherings. More comforting and happy memories while making new ones.
I spent a lot of time not feeling sorrow--and it felt good. The dynamic of my immediate family is undeniably funny, good-natured and ever supportive. They all take my harassment and quick wit in stride. But when the five us are together, there is something that feels so comforting and loving about it. I felt protected and cared for. And I felt free to experience whatever emotions I had, though fun and laughter easily dominated.
Everyone should be so lucky to have such a wonderful family--and one that gave and continues to give me such unbelievable fodder for blogs!