A Trip to Ohio and a Family Reunion

 

Going Back Doesn't Always Mean Going Home... And That's Okay. 

I have mixed feelings about Ohio. On the one hand, it's where I grew up, and I have a lot of great memories from some of my formative years and my very early adulthood. On the other hand... There are concrete reasons why I felt the need to move to Wisconsin in 2006, and those reasons persist (not that Wisconsin doesn't have its own share of issues). My hometown of Dayton, Ohio was an economically depressed area before it was cool, has an incredibly high crime rate (they go hand in hand really) and does not, or at least did not, really invest in education. Boarded up buildings and houses aren't an unusual sight and you always want to lock your car doors immediately when you get in a car (a habit that I've maintained even in Madison, Wisconsin). Beyond that, my most important life events, at least in my adulthood, have all occurred in Madison, and so, really, Dayton doesn't feel like home to me anymore. It feels like a place I'm remembering from a dream, or like a glimpse of another lifetime. Someone else's lifetime, since I don't really feel like the same person I was when I moved to Wisconsin at age 21. For all its faults, Ohio does have my family (my Mom's side, and Rob's family also lives there), Bill's Donuts, and a noticeable lack of mosquitoes going for it, all of which I enjoyed while I was in town recently. 

I drove into Ohio on my birthday, with Ben in tow, and arrived super late, after running into unexpected (but also kind of expected) construction on Interstate 70, and a particularly intense summer rainstorm. Friday morning, after I had slept off the drive, and eaten a celebratory cupcake, my Mom, Ben, and I drove to Yellow Springs, Ohio, one of my favorite places in the state! We took Ben around to the local shops, including Dark Star (my all-time favorite used comic and book store), and a number of little artist shops along the town's main drag. We ate at the iconic Ha-Ha's Pizza (known for their delicious whole wheat crust and unique toppings, like falafel), and then took Ben to Young's Jersey Dairy Farm, a childhood staple if ever there was one. Ben didn't have much of an interest in building magical childhood memories by petting the goats or cows, but he was very interested in the ice cream, so that's something. Then Ben and I visited with my best friend (friends since the ripe old age of 3) and her family, our kids staying up way past my bedtime playing video games and catching up. I don't get much sleep when I'm in Ohio, since everyone stays up so much later than me there! 

Saturday was a day of rest, at least until the evening. My Mom, a licensed massage therapist, was nice enough to spend her weekend time giving me a massage, which I desperately needed (did you know driving for 9 hours is hard on your back?) and after that she and Ben and I watched Moana (I love that movie!) and then left for the little family reunion being hosted at my cousin's house. My Mom's brother, Denny, was also in town with his wife, which was great timing, since it's been 12+ years since I've seen then, and they had never met Ben, since they're in Georgia and we're in Wisconsin. It was wonderful to catch up with everyone. I went into picture-taking mode (because of who I am as a person), but luckily I eventually ran out of camera battery so I actually put the camera away and had some great catch-up conversations with family. Ben got to run around with his 2nd cousins (my cousin's kids), and we all had a rousing game of badminton (does anyone still play that? Just us?)

It was awesome to see everyone, and I simultaneously wish I could see my family more often and also have no desire to move out of Wisconsin (or back to Ohio). Kind of the catch 22 of leaving your home town or home state... You build a new home, and a new family (through marriage, birth, adoption, friends, etc.), and you get busy, and you live your life, and it gets weird, but still wonderful, to go back to your old state, your old life, every now and again. The saying you can't go home is true in a way, because it's your concept of what home is that changes. Wisconsin is home now, and I know that as much as I know anything. I love it here, and I love the life I've built. But even though Ohio isn't home anymore, it doesn't mean I can't go back, and enjoy a little time in that past life, with people I love very much. It means I'm lucky enough to have both a past I'd want to visit every now and again, and a future I'm looking forward to. 

--Sam