It is after midnight and I am driving through downtown Indianapolis. The city is lit up and it seems as if everyone is still out as the streets are crowded with cars. I do not know where they are going at this late hour. I am coming from the Hoosier Storytelling Festival, actually the 20th anniversary. I have told stories at all but one of the festivals. Every year we gather to celebrate stories and friendship. I love being part of this festival….telling stories…setting up chairs…hanging twinkle lights in the tents for the evening performances. My artsy friends in Indy continuously ask me about ‘home’ and ‘hearth’ in Northern Indiana. I am always proud and gush my way through accolades about my town. Alright, so I do romanticize it a bit, but why not? Charming. Quaint. These are the words I use. I talk about my small gardens and walking everywhere. They promise to visit this winter when the storytelling work slows down, and they will.
I remember that I am out of toothpaste and pull into a brightly lit CVS as the 1 a.m. hour approaches. I am almost out of my old Jeep when my cell phone rings. It is Tonya, my Florida daughter-in-law. I panic when I hear her voice at this wee hour of the morning. She assures me that everything is fine, although I find that hard to believe when she is calling me at 1 a.m. She wonders what I am doing. I tell her that I am just roaming the streets of Indianapolis heading toward my friend Ellen’s house. She doesn’t appear to be surprised or really even notice what I am saying.
I wait for her to speak, to announce her presence and her cause. She does not mince words but bluntly states that fact that she is homesick. Homesick? I do not understand what she is saying. Homesick for what? Her words pour out like sweet, smooth honey. She is homesick for northern Indiana…for her roots…family…old friends. I listen in amazement. She is my Florida girl, for seven years with a lovely old remodeled bungalow just blocks from the St. Pete Beach. She represents our spring vacations when we are mired down with the frosty edges of winter. She and Adam have good jobs, make good money. Their life is envious to most as we watch from a distance.
I am caught so off guard by her statements that I become a bit speechless and let her ramble on until my cell phone dies and I sit in the CVS parking lot unable to reach her and pondering what this will mean.
After college my three sons set off with bags packed…literally the day after graduation. Two went to the East Coast, one to the West Coast with packed U-hauls. I think about their adventures. I can’t help but laugh and think they remind me of the three little pigs leaving home with bundle sticks and going out to make their fame and fortune. The odd part is that one at a time they are packing up their own new families and coming home. First Aaron and Karen from Atlanta, now Adam and Tonya from Florida.
I think of all the advice I need to share…Angola is not St. Pete or Atlanta or Portland. The jobs are not as plentiful or as monetarily rewarding…the weather is cold and snowy in the winter. My mind spins with all the reasons they should stay where they are, but the echo of her voice reaches me as I sit in the parking lot. We miss you. We miss family. We miss home.
Home. A small rural town where my Indy friends are so envious as I tell about my neighborhood….my book club…Fall Fest…walking to the movies, the coffee shop. A small rural town where you build in fifteen extra minutes when you shop because you will know everyone. A small rural town where my neighbors come for pot lucks and plow my snow when the winter winds blow. I am in love with my town. There, I have said it. Everyone knows it. I guess my kids know it as well.
I turn on the ignition and head towards Ellen’s house. I really want to go home, but that will come in a day or two as the Festival season comes to an end. I smile. It looks as though I will be setting two extra plates for our Sunday suppers come this winter.