You know how sometimes when you travel very, very far, you become road weary and just want to turn around and magically be transported home again? I know that feeling. The last time I took an excursion away from Indiana, on the way home that welcome sign on I-70 was absolutely the most welcoming welcome sign I'd seen on our cross country trek! Announcing our exit to the kids made us perk up in our seats! Home again! Our own beds! Our own toilet! (Seriously!)
We love the idea of world travel. Don't we all wonder what it would be like and daydream of going truly far, far away? If someone were to ask you, where are you from and what is it like there? What would you say? Would you be homesick? Even after that welcome distance could you conjure an image or feeling you associate with your hometown and desire to be there again?
If I were to tell someone what Richmond, Indiana is like I might describe it this way:
I am from Richmond, Indiana. It's sometimes described as a small town, sometimes described as a decent sized city. It's in Indiana but can hardly be pinned down as rural or "big city". It's one of those places that doesn't fit neatly into a box, but when you catch the scent of cookies wafting from the bakery intermingling with the scent of dog food from Hill's Pet Nutrition, you know you're near my home. In the daytime you hear the sounds of children playing, music blaring so loud from passing cars you can feel it in your bones and the odd passerby muttering words I was taught not to say (let along shout aloud in public), it's much like anywhere in the country. At night, you can hear the roar and wail of the trains. I used to think it was the most desolate sound and yet now it seems more insistent.
In Indiana the weather changes constantly, not only seasonally. One season passes to make way for the next, although the transition can often tease us. In summer, I love to see my neighbors on their front porches until long after sunset. In winter, I love to see the men out clearing the walks of snow and beating their chests. Someday's they are cheerful and red faced. Other days they plod on with grim determination. The ice cream truck makes its rounds as soon as it's barely thawed outside. Despite the children having blue lips in the early chilly days of spring, they salivate like Pavlov puppies at the carnival clunking sound. I love the crawdads, minnows and tadpoles in the Whitewater's creeks. I love the crows cawing autumn by the library. I love Morrison Reeve Library's books sale- the jumble joy of it! I love spying a raccoon slipping into the sewer grates like a mischievous bandit.
I love the change. It always changes, but so much stays the same.
I love the beautiful sky above it. So many different moods play out. There are fiery sunset evenings in fuchsia pink, golden yellow and oranges. There are nights that a deepest azure hangs above us with pitch black edges and dusky blues in the distance. There are the hazardous green skies when funnel clouds form, and we are lucky when they dissipate. The countryside is not too far to visit and it's soul enriching to pull over and really look at the stars and spot the Milky Way, especially during meteor showers.
I love how history hangs around us. I love the architecture of our oldest buildings, the stained glass windows and restored facades. I love our strong traditions of the arts and music and jazz. I love that although Indiana is often seen by other Americans as a stagnant place, our state also has a history of forward thinking: we were among the states that passed the Equal Rights Amendment of the 1970's and our city boasts one of the few statues in the United States featuring a woman. These are things I can be proud of.
I love the people. The seniors, the volunteers, the women who watch our neighborhoods like hawks, the teachers who really, really care and stick up for our kids despite a problematic system, the men who clear the roads, the small business owners, the kid down the street, my family and my friends. I love the people who make this city worth living in, whether they are running the companies we work for or the nonprofits and organizations that keep us going in tough times. Maybe they just happen to be the people who are there when someone is needed.
I love when my peers choose to stay and I'm proud of the peers who choose to go. As for those of us who stay, it's not for lack of brains or ambitions. Brain drain is such an offensive phrase. We contribute to the local economy while our peers at large are Richmond's ambassadors to the world. Good things come out of Richmond, Indiana. Not everyone has to stay, but it's not true to say only the best go. Those of us who stay are rewarded by our history together. There is something sweet to see our children playing together and to know that perhaps they will sled down that hill at Glen Miller park just as we have on snowy days.
Not everything is rosy. I'm describing this place at the risk of sounding overly sentimental. There are days I wake up and just sigh. There are days I close my curtains and hide at home in frustration with the outside world, near or far. Here there are streets that beg to be made over anew, potholes in roads that may never be filled, both literally and metaphorically! Either way, pot holes and all, Richmond is home.
If you look for blight here you'll find it, but if you watch for the good, you'll find it too, and isn't the good worth so much more?