Last weekend, Becky and I packed up our sleeping bags, bug spray, and bandanas and headed out for a Mom & Me weekend in the woods at Camp Myeerah.
It took us about two hours to make the drive; Camp Myeerah is on the east side of Bellefontaine, Ohio (and while it's spelled all pretty and French-like, it's pronounced simply and straightforward: bell-fountain), which happens to be home of the highest point in Ohio. The views from the hills as we wound our way through the farms on the country road that leads to camp were stunning.
When I planned our trip, I decided against taking I-75 north (it's under construction again through Dayton and the thought getting snarled in rush hour traffic just about gave me hives - impatient much?). Instead, I took the most direct route which happens to be the prettier way to go anyhow: old Route 42 from Lebanon through Waynesville to Xenia (pronounced with a Z for those of you non-Buckeyes and home to my hilarious blogger friend Andrea HOLLA!), then Route 68 through Yellow Springs (home of Antioch college), past Young's Dairy (their ice cream is DIVINE), up past the west edge of Springfield, then through Urbana (beautiful town square), West Liberty (tiny but adorable town), and finally into Bellefontaine.
It did not escape my notice that our travels would take right past the exit to our last home in Springfield.
As luck would have it, we ended up making a brief pit stop at the Meijer in Springfield, just off of RT 68. We both needed a bathroom break and as I pulled in the parking lot, I remembered why I liked shopping at Meijer when we lived there - it was both easy to get into and out of without getting stuck in the endless and messy traffic on Bechtle Avenue (where every fifty feet or so there is a stoplight or a stop sign, it seems), the main shopping thoroughfare in that area.
It was a quick stop, just in and out, but I looked around as we walked, my eyes taking in what was once so familiar. Down the hill from the parking lot and across the little access road stood the Toyota dealership where I would drop Claudine off for her oil changes. I'd pop both Becky and Huck into the big double stroller and push them up to Meijer to shop a bit or grab scrambled eggs at the little restaurant while we waited. I glimpsed across Route 40/4, the east/west road that crosses RT 68, and saw the shops that lined the way, all the same as they'd been in 2004. If I hopped back on RT 40/4, I could head into the heart of Springfield in a few minutes, cruising onto Limestone and past our old church and school.
Time was short; we jumped back into the car and headed up RT 68.
My mind flashed back to August 2004 when I first drove that particular stretch of road. Knute had already started his new job at the Smaller Corporate Company, working Monday through Friday and heading home for the weekend to our house that was for sale in Charleston, Illinois. The demand for housing in Charleston wasn't huge and we knew that we would take the corporate buyout (not knowing it would end up costing us money when all the papers were signed - gotta love those corporate appraisers). Knute had found a house for us on the northern edges of Springfield; I had dropped off the dogs at the kennel, packed up the kids, and headed out to Springfield to look at the house and hopefully sign the papers on an offer.
I remember driving up RT 68 that first time, bubbling with hope and relief. Finally, finally, after living away for nine years, after moving and moving again and again, after having two babies in less than two years without any family nearby to offer a bit of help, we were coming home to Ohio.
I felt victorious.
But that feeling was short-lived; within a year, we knew that the job at Smaller Corporate Company wasn't a long-term fit for Knute or for us as a family. We had also found out that little Tom was on the way. It was crazy, but we decided to find a new job for Knute even though it would mean selling the house and moving closer to Cincinnati where the opportunities abounded.
From June 2005, when we resolved to leap again, until January 2007, when after ten months, our house finally sold and we packed up to move, we didn't really live. We survived. Knute found a great new job just before Tom was born in January of 2006 and spent the next year driving 140 miles round trip every day to work fighting through both the edges of the Dayton traffic and the Cincinnati traffic. Tom came along and spent the next six months shrieking like a howler monkey. Becky finished preschool and started kindergarten. I cleaned, cleaned, cleaned my house, trying to make it look as picture perfect as possible every time our realtor called.
Some days, the stress was so great and my exhaustion so deep that all I could do was stand in the just-scrubbed shower late at night and cry.
Springfield was hard.
As we shot past the old exit off RT 68 that led to our old house, I pointed it out to Becky.
"Remember that way?" I asked.
She nodded, slowly looking around.
I nodded, too, glancing toward the way that used to lead us to the house, but never home. No pangs of regret or remorse or longing surfaced; all I felt was relief and certainty.
Home is now Lebanon, a place that fits all of us like the proverbial glove.
And more importantly, this truth, what I learned during those hard months in Springfield:
Home is us.