Last week when I returned from nearly a week in my hometown of Connersville, a neighbor in my building asked me if I’d been on vacation, I said no, I was in my hometown.
As I rode the elevator to the third floor, I realized that it felt like I had been on vacation, when a vacation does what it’s supposed to do. I was tired, but felt relaxed, refreshed, and happy with how I spent my time there.
Historically, that hasn’t always been the case. Until 2012 I was working and didn’t have as much time to spend there. After I spent equal time with each parent, I needed to get back to Bloomington, which I considered home, having lived there since 1965. Connersville is a small town so most everyone knew both my parents, but they didn’t seem to remember me. I was only spoken to if I went out with one of them. Even after I was introduced as his/her child, I was still looked at suspiciously. When we would walk into a restaurant, I could hear piccolos in the background as if I were in a Clint Eastwood movie when a stranger walked into town
In 2010, I spent a lot of time in Connersville when Dad and my stepmother needed care. I felt isolated from my community and friends here in Bloomington so I began re-connecting with old friends and family members I hadn’t seen in years. I began feeling a sense of place; a sense of this is who and where I came from.
Both parents and my brother are gone now; this means my time is spent differently. While my parents were transitioning, my friend since first grade, Terri Goetz Cochran, opened up her home to me, making it a safe haven where I could rest and recharge. I will never be able to express how much that meant to me and how it got me through some really rough times.
This past week in Connersville was spent with friends from school, my cousin, Connie Smallwood Bright, whom I love spending time with, my aunt by marriage, Barbara Wentz, whose company I enjoy and who I try to help a little when I’m there. It was lovely. For the first time in years, I didn’t feel like, I couldn’t wait to get back home. Another couple of nights spent with my friend since kindergarten, Sharon Neeriemer Christopher, who after many years of being away, is living in Connersville. We were talking about how the town is changing. Lately, the town is feeling more user friendly. Connersville has been economically depressed for many years now, and I don’t think that has gotten much better. Sharon says the town feels more like it did when we were kids She is right. So what is the difference? Maybe it’s because the generation before me is almost gone. There is new blood, new ideas. There’s an arts council and open mic nights at Brian’s Bookstore.
On my last morning there, I managed to very cleverly lock myself out of my phone. I went to the AT & T store in Connersville. Their newly appointed 25-year-old manager, Sean Kleany (I believe that’s how he spelled it) couldn’t have been more awesome. I’m sure when he saw an old lady walk in with her iPhone he would have liked to run right out of the building. I told him what I needed and he got on it right away. And because it was taking awhile and I was his only customer we got talking. I think he could tell by our conversation that I wasn’t a total Luddite who could only use her phone with the help of her son, so he relaxed a bit.
Turns out we had writing in common. He’s a composer. He knows Bloomington. We like a lot of the same TV shows because they are well written. It was a wonderful experience, not just because he got my phone updated and unlocked, but because it was a conversation I was meant to have. I left town with a smile on my face, a smile in anticipation of returning to Bloomington and a smile from the enjoyment of a great week.
It turns out you can go home again, not in the old way, but in a new way that feels so right.
Rebekah Spivey for the Poplar Grove Muse