On returning home

No matter how far I’ve strayed, I feel at home when I come back to Champaign-Urbana. It’s not the landscape, which has changed so much since I’ve gone with all the new, taller downtown buildings, and it’s not the old hangouts, which aren’t what they used to be. It’s the people I used to know, and how we still talk as if we just talked yesterday.

Jodi and I talked yesterday as to how convoluted our lives were and how intertwined the different groups who knew Les really were. I know of people Jody didn’t know who knew Les — I’m not expecting them to come to the wake or memorial, because they’ve grown away. 

How to articulate this feeling? It’s like being home.

Home is a strange concept. My family doesn’t feel like home since my mother died, perhaps because my mother died in the Christmas season. I feel home at Starved Rick Lodge, however, because it seems welcoming. 
I’m glad to be here, even if it’s for a sad reason.

Not home quite yet

Two hours into my drive, I needed to stop because I got too sleepy to drive safe. So I’m about to leave the Holiday Inn at the edge of Columbia for the rest of the ride home.

I have documents to edit (kill the ellipses!) when I get home, a small business plan to make (with help from our local small business council), a marketing plan to make,  30 pages to shoot to Marisa Corvisieri, hope DAW can let me know what they thought of my manuscript (probably a rejection) … 

They Say You Can Go Home Again …

I have a tendency not to look back. When I leave a place, I know it will change and the people I knew will leave. It is the nature of life in academia, where most of the people you know are students who graduate and faculty who find themselves elsewhere.

I went to college at a huge university, University of Illinois, with its 40,000 students. I knew very few fellow students, and it was only when I found a core of like-minded people — a couple faculty members, a few students, a few townies — that I felt an attachment to people for the first time.

When I left Urbana-Champaign for Oneonta New York, I was alarmed at how small the city and the college were. Soon, however, I grew to enjoy the artistic quirkiness of the town, and I got to know people through coffeehouse culture. I had a network of friends — not close friends, but friends I occasionally spent time with, and some who kept me sane when my marriage broke up (for reasons I don’t talk about, but it was much more dramatic than “we grew apart”)

I left Oneonta after five years for a guy. (Not the guy I’m married to). I have always been a “bloom where I am planted” sort of person until I moved to Maryville, MO. After twenty years there, I have not really bloomed. I have grown into a crabbed, stunted plant in hardscrabble soil with little nourishment. I don’t know why I feel this way — Maryville is a college town. It has activities at the university, and my colleagues are quirky. But I have not felt nurtured nor safe here.

Actually, I do know the reason why — Maryville was the town where two underage girls thought they were creeping out to meet a dreamy high school football player at a party. They were plied with alcohol and passed out. One was raped by the dreamy high school football player, who was the grandson of a state legislator. The charges were dropped by the prosecuting attorney. You might have heard of the girl — her name was Daisy Coleman, and she was 14 or 15 at the time.

The fact that some people could say “You didn’t know the whole story” when the girl was clearly underage makes me feel like living in Maryville is one lurking trigger, even years later. Bad things may happen everywhere, but the level of support the young man got, the fact that Daisy’s family was driven out of town, the condescending coverage the local newspaper gave the protestors — Maryville turned from a difficult town to find nurture in to a burg swarming with ugly shadows.

But now, finding myself back in Oneonta, I am looking back. The town has changed; it’s a little bigger and a lot busier and the signs on the businesses on Main Street could use a little beautification. The college has gotten so many new buildings I hardly recognized it. But my favorite restaurants — Brooks BBQ and the Autumn Cafe — are still here, and there’s lots of coffeehouses (I’ve already found my favorite).

I would love to move back to Oneonta someday. I may never find it; the cost of housing is somewhat higher and we’re a one-income household so we don’t have much set back in savings. Oneonta had become home to me, just like Urbana-Champaign had, but maybe I can’t go home again.

Dream House

Clapboards and fieldstone,

Perfect grey shingles —
a house as old as church bells,
as solid as a name.
A Volvo in the driveway,
a little rust on it, but still —
they say you can go home again
but it won’t be the same
I watch the story
through dime-store curtains
as you embrace your father,
take the Jeep and drive away. 
While in my kitchen,
dandelion wine
serves to remind me 
of the passage of these days.
CHORUS: (2x)
This is your dream house
you say this is your dream house,
this is your dream house,
I’m living in your dream house.
Once you told me,
you’d always lived there,
walked past the house I’m living in
and wondered what was inside.
Then you fell silent,
turned away quickly,
I thought I saw the hungry gaze
of a very quiet child.
And if you could
run up the stairs and down the hall,
look out the window
where the hayloft used to be,
would you still dream of it,
see how I’ve grown to love it,
would you then understand it,
understand me?
And in my kitchen,
dandelion wine
serves to remind me 
of the passage of these days.
I wrote this song about 25 years ago when I lived in Oneonta New York in a carriage house dating from probably the late 1800’s. I loved that house, and at one point in my life swore I’d own it someday. 
I’m now back in Oneonta, and it’s different. It’s picked up more of the tourist trade by hosting baseball tournaments — I’m assuming this is farm league, as the Yankees have a farm team here. There are more coffeehouses than there were when I lived here, and more ethnic restaurants, but my favorite hangout still exists (and is owned by someone I used to know).
There’s lots of traffic out on New York 28, whizzing by the bed and breakfast. 
In a perfect world, the stars would align and I would find a way to afford the more expensive housing costs out here. I would retire early and find a job out here, and write in the local (independent) coffeehouse and eat once a week at the Autumn Cafe. I would make new friends at the coffeehouse like I used to, and I would have the carriage house as a writing retreat.
These are dreams, though, and I know reality has a way of exerting itself over dreams.