Unless this winter blast prevents travel, next week my brother and I are taking a day trip to our first hometown: Lafayette, Indiana. Most people associate me with Oregon (where I currently live) or Michigan (where I previously lived). But there were seven glorious years (1982 – 1989) when I was a little Hoosier living in north central Indiana.
My brother was going into third grade when we moved whereas I was going into seventh. My oldest sister (who was going into eleventh grade when we moved) as well as my parents still have friends back in Indiana they are in contact with. Because my brother and I were quite young when we left, we did not maintain our friendships. Now in this day of Facebook, we’ve been able to reconnect with some of them here and there.
I probably have an overly romantic view of Lafayette because it was the prime of my childhood. It seems like we remember things with rose colored glasses. I know there were difficult times, but they don’t stand out as well as the humid summers of biking riding and tree climbing. We lived on a dead end street where six of the seven houses all had young families. We spent hours playing Pickle or Spud, having bonfires, riding bikes, and playing soccer. Many years after we left I reconnected with an old neighborhood friend by e-mail (pre-social networking days). He said, “Wow those were some of the best days of my life.”
My brother and I are not going to see anyone. We were just want to see “it” i.e. our hometown. I am wondering as we walk around our old neighborhood and visit our elementary school–if memories I have long forgotten will resurface. I have a sharp long term memory. I can remember certain dates and what happened on those specific days. I have somewhat meaningless memories such as what I wore on the first day of school almost every single fall.
When someone asked me about my history and the places I lived about two years ago, I got choked up when I talked about Lafayette. I was surprised because I had not been that emotional about anything from my childhood home in a long time. Honestly moving was like the end of me being “a little kid” and the beginning of an adolescence or the “tween” years which seems to be the new term. Because I was so short and scrawny for my age plus a little tomboyish (I’d rather play soccer than put on make-up) I wasn’t ready for that new phase of life. I felt like I had a left of piece of myself behind in Lafayette.
We moved on August 16th, 1989. My mom and brother had left earlier in the day. My dad, sister, and I plus the two pets (a parakeet and guinea pig) piled in the van. I remember listening to “The Dream Is Over” by Milli Vanilli (hey–they were still cool–the scandal had not broken out yet) on my walkman. We emerged into in this new world of Grand Rapids, Michigan that was drastically different from Indiana. Things changed in many ways rather quickly. The changes were not necessarily bad, but I think it was years before I stopped mourning for what I left behind.
I remember thinking right before we had our oldest how thankful I was for the seven years we lived in Lafayette. I had secretly hoped my future children would experience “a Lafayette” of their own.
I am sure Lafayette is much different now. If I ever were to move back, it would not be like returning home again. I’ve been gone for 25 years and I’ve been away from the Midwest itself for seven and a half–I don’t know if I would even fit into that area anymore.
Yet Whenever I hear a pop song on the radio from the mid 80’s or feel humidity in the summer air or see kids climbing in trees–I see that little Hoosier girl. And I’m so blessed.