Home to Ohio

Two years ago I wrote this piece for my memoir class in Carmel, California before Dave and I moved back to Ohio.

It started with an open door. Ajar, I could see through the dim light toward a smoky window. The dust hung suspended and, in the fading light, it all was gray, black, and off white. Only the reflection of the medicine cabin mirror, the shape of rusted paint cans and the familiar smell of disuse revealed the forgotten garage.  Before the memory spoke, it all dissolved in the waves and tide pools.

But its voice returned. This time the vision was wider with an early spring snowmelt and seedlings pushing against dark brown loam. Then my fingers were tilling and planting pastel purple pansies against the warming garage wall. The organic familiarity of the mix of composted leaves, roots, earthworms, was all in a handful of soil and it brought me the message of “Grow with me.”

Rolling into a sitting position toward the source of this urge, the colors intensified in the coral hollyhocks by the steps, pink peony buds crawling with ants, and midnight velvet in the Rose of Sharon vine.  Humid stillness was shared with a camouflaged rabbit frozen near the escaped dog from next door.

I stood. Summer’s memory was real and vivid. There was now a tot sitting naked in a turquoise baby pool and a nearby picnic table dressed for a family of six. A grill was burning off starter fluid and chops were waiting to be cooked.

Through the screen door and open breakfast nook windows were sounds of water running and soft conversations. The squeaky porch door led to an unoccupied glider and my dark haired brother in a padded chair with a soiled and restless six year old on his lap. His spindly legs stretched across the room. I walked into the kitchen unseen.  Here is home, the voice says.

There were Mom and Martha getting ready for Christmas, bent over the red Formica counters with the Kitchen Aide mixer beating potatoes and the dining room table was leafed out and set for ten. The scent of a live tree was mixed with roast beef and a dying fire.  I stepped over the dollhouse, wrapping paper, LP albums and past the piano.

The living room was freshly painted. The breeze drifted past the lilacs and through the laundered sheers then rested on the burgundy sectional couch. Across the street were the pointillist buds of a maple ready to burst.  I approached the bookshelf and ran my thumbnail over the Modern Classics then opened the cupboard below to imagine my long gone storybook dolls.

These rooms were the scene of sex education talks, homework sessions, dropped bowls of Kool Aid staining the ceiling, peeks out the window at Tim Horton pretending to have his foot stuck in the stoop.  And whispered talks about my brother’s pregnant girlfriend, my father’s hallucinations as he was dying, my first corsage, and girlfriend sleepovers.

Come back to me, it nudges.

Out the front door to an elm lined boulevard and Victorian electric lampposts and sidewalks with “Devil’s strips” and the birch tree where two families posed for wedding photos. In the driveway was a 1964 green Volkswagen.

I drift logically over the country to small towns one block wide and one church tall every ten miles and past laden cornfields, cows standing in shade, silos, and barns and the healthy fragrance of manure. I’m pedaling over sticky roads made soft by heat and the curious curves around mailboxes enfolded in trees in the middle of the country road.  Trusting my equipment, I speed terrifyingly down big hills into river valleys and paralleling railroad tracks. I’m thankful for the breeze in my face and praying for the wind to my back.

Then brilliant colors insist your heartache with their loveliness, the scene of the redorange maple tree with a background of clear sky at the end of the hall. The dried leaves blow in the school doors on clearer air with all moisture gone.

At the last room I take a right and click on the computer, turn on the Smart Board, and see the pasts of 20 students who have sat in the first seat of the fourth row.  See their faces reveal interest, boredom, vacancy and challenge. Remember their victories, fears, and regrets and the growth of strength, vision and potential.  You belong here was their insistent prod.

Out the door now, down to the Run and on to Bridle veil Falls and chilled stream walks and clay walls, then wild strawberries, and water striders and deer in meadows.

Take to wing. Lift over the valley, above birth homes, school secrets, and all the places where you did the first of anything.

The beckoning of the rustic, the rural, the rolling comfort of Ohio and the arms of it all enfold me. Come home it commands but I am already there.


3 responses to “Home to Ohio”

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  1. Fran Danoff says:

    Lovely writing, Karen

  2. Judy says:

    So beautifully written – so evocative of your own life growing up in Ohio, and all of us in your generation. Welcome home!!

  3. Karen says:

    No matter where you go, home is best.