I was raised in a very beautiful area of Ohio. It’s covered in storybook-like forests and rolling hills. There’s wildlife abound, countless rivers and lakes, and the leaves turn the kind of vibrant colors in Autumn that poets write about. That entire area of the United States is a magnificent place to grow up for the most part. The people are generally what they call “salt of the Earth.” They know what it’s like to contend with four full seasons and especially a winter that would make most people say “No, thank you” and run for the calm of the warmer pastures. When you get older, especially if you’ve traveled outside your own country, and you look back through the 20/20 of hindsight, you see all the things that you weren’t able to in your youth. Those are things you’re not supposed to by the very design and nature of a human life.
The area I grew up in was relatively liberal, as were my parents, but as an adult I see the “stuckness,” a term one of my childhood friends used when describing that area. Granted, the good far outweighs the bad by a chasm-like margin, and that makes the fondness of memory a very, very pleasant thing. Mostly. No one’s life is perfect and some of my growing up years were darkened by my parents’ difficult divorce. I had some pretty angsty years there. Haha.
I was born in Ohio, but we moved to Florida when I was only one or two. We then moved a total of fourteen more times by my senior year of high school. Not just state-to-state, but from apartment to house, to condo, and back to house, etc. This was in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and then back to Ohio. My dad used to joke that we had Gypsy blood. His father was Hungarian and my entire childhood, dad told us that back in the “old country,” our family were wandering Gypsies. Turns out they were actually farmers, but close enough for me. 🙂 By the way, apparently it’s offensive to use the word “Gypsy” these days, but I’m directly quoting my father, so if you get offended, please know that’s not the intent. Or you can take it up with him. He died a few years ago, so if you do talk to him, please tell him I love him and miss him every day.
From a very young age, I knew what it was like to travel and be mobile. The good side to moving a lot as a kid is that you truly understand how big and accessible the world can be, and just how important it is to see as much of it as possible. You also experience an array of different cultures, even in your own country, at an age when you’re still impressionable. I think this creates an open-minded and accepting personality in most people.
The downside, of course, is that you don’t really get a chance to set down long-term roots. You make friends in lots of places, but you don’t have the kind of relationships where you say, “I’ve been friends with this person since kindergarten, and we grew up together all the way through high school.” It’s not that I don’t have long-term friends, I do, but it’s different. Most of them live in different parts of the world, so we don’t get to see each other in person as often as we’d like.
The other big downside for me personally, is that the idea of “home” is a difficult one. I call Ohio my home because I was born there, I have family and friends there, and the eight years I lived there, from age twelve to twenty, was where I “grew up.” As a point of order, I’m not sure I’ve actually ever grown up, or ever want to, but that’s a whole different post. 🙂
I’ve gone back to Ohio many times over the years to visit with my family, but hadn’t been back in several years. On a recent visit I took my drone and decided to shoot some footage where I grew up and in my favorite park. I wanted to show people just how green and beautiful it really is in the spring and summer. What started out as a simple goal of shooting some landscape drone footage, turned into quite the philosophical experience.
They say you can’t ever go home again and I found out firsthand how true that was. The landscape was as beautiful as I remembered it. But everything else had changed. The small towns I’d grown up in were now large and had expanded easily to four times the size they used to be. A lot of the places I knew as a kid were gone. Restaurants had closed and new ones opened, my high school had even built several additions and was now twice as big as it used to be. It was like someone had built a simulation of my childhood, but gotten a lot of the details wrong, and a lot of essentials were gone.
But more than anything… the people were gone.
Even though there’s easily triple the population living there now then when I was a kid, almost everyone I grew up with either doesn’t live there anymore, or sadly, have died. I walked around the places that held powerful memories for me; The dirt road my brother taught me how to drive on, the place where I kissed my first girlfriend, the parking lot I cried in when my parents divorced… but all of them felt, for lack of a better word… empty. I wanted to reach out and grasp on to these places, but I couldn’t. They weren’t tangible anymore. The old railroad tracks I used to walk down were now overgrown, and the fields we used to walk in… were now a Buffalo Wild Wings.
Why can’t you go home? Because it’s not a place that exists in your present, it’s a place that lives only in untouchable reflections of yesterday, where too many things have quietly slipped away.
In my heart I know that where I grew up is no longer my home. It’s now home to a new generation, most of whom will one day leave their proverbial nests, and return again like I did, to realize they too can’t go home. I’m still not sure where home is, but I’m enjoying the process of seeing the world and finding out.
I’m very proud to have Midwestern roots. I’ll always be grateful to Ohio and that wonderful community for my upbringing, both the good stuff and the bad. One thing I’m especially thankful for is that because those places had so many positives, my litmus test today for many of the places I visit, is if the greens of the forests compare to those of my childhood, and… if the people are as kind.
It’s a good test.
Please enjoy this little video clip of where I grew up:
Moonbird’s Helpful Info:
Ohio (Cleveland) Metroparks
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Address: 4101 Fulton Parkway Cleveland, OH 44144
Phone Number: (216) 635-3200
Best time to visit: Anytime! The Cleveland Metroparks have more than 23,000 acres in 18 reservations located throughout Cuyahoga County and Hinckley Township.
Seasons: North America’s Seasons are: Spring: March, April and May, Summer: June, July and August, Autumn: September, October and November, and Winter: December, January and February.