As I am currently traveling, one of my wonderful sisters has been kind enough to write a thoughtful guest post for Unquiet Things. Read more about this brave, sweet, sensitive soul over at Under The Shadow Of The Mountain.
“You’ve haunted me all my life
You’re always out of reach when I’m in pursuit
Long winded then suddenly mute
And there’s a flaw in my heart’s design
For I keep trying to make you mine…”
-Death Cab for Cutie
“Where do you come from?”
It’s a common enough question, and simple enough, too. So why don’t I have a simple answer? “I live in California,” I tell people. “But I was born in Ohio, and I grew up in Florida. But I’m FROM Indiana.” Why do I tell people that, when I only lived in Indiana for two years; when really, it’s my mother and her father and his father and so on, back to 1820, who are from there? How can I be from there?
I’m from there because, quite simply, Indiana has haunted me since I was a child. It haunted me each time I asked my grandparents to tell me about the “olden days” growing up on the farm in the Depression. It haunted me when I looked out at the humidity-choked Florida summers and wondered what it was like to experience seasons. It haunted me when I gazed up at at the popcorn ceiling in our 3 bedroom-2-bath Florida ranch-house, and imagined what it would be like to live in an old farmhouse or bungalow. It haunted me as I told people we came from “Good Midwestern farmer stock.” It haunted me and it never quit, until, when I was 24, I made the decision to move to Indiana for grad school and to stop wondering, dammit, and start living. And of course, I fell in love.
What wasn’t to love? I was besotted with a Hoosier boy, who was agreeably besotted back. I was enchanted by the silent, eerie glow of fireflies on summer nights. I got excited by cornfields, for god’s sake. I dragged Hoosier Boy around to just gawk at old houses. The often-dilapidated barns–hundreds, maybe even thousands of them–across the state never failed to impress me, the way they endured neglect for decades and still stood, quietly dignified. The unreal, vivid green of springtime dazzled me, even as the thunderclouds from potentially deadly spring storms roiled overhead and the tornado sirens wailed their weird warble across the countryside. The absurd county fairs, notorious for deep-fried anything, bemused and beguiled me in equal portions. Our family history began to intrigue me, especially when I found out that my great-great grandparents were buried one county over. I eventually made the cheesy remark to Hoosier Boy that I was “exploring the land of my past with the man of my future.”
But of course, love is complicated. And there has always been enough of the academe-trained liberal in me to know that there were parts of Indiana that would never, will never, sit well with me. The work ethic and the courtesy of Middle Americans are no myth, but neither is their stoic reserve–and for an in-your-face, say-everything kinda gal like me, I never felt like I fit in. There are strong conservative elements (I’ll avoid other, more judge-y terms) in Indiana that have definitely presented themselves on an embarrassingly national stage recently, that made and make me feel uncomfortable at best and ashamed at worst.
But I never stopped loving Indiana.
Not even when I had to leave to nurture my career and nurse a broken heart. That was almost ten years ago now, and believe it or not, my heart is still broken. Or perhaps it just yearns for what it can’t have–a settled, anonymous kind of life, in Middle America, in an Indianapolis suburb.
The late and great David Foster Wallace once said, Every love story is a ghost story. And in its most basic, broken-down form, this is truth. When you love someone, you give them the power to haunt you, should you ever lose them. And if the people we love can haunt us, can linger and haunt places, I think it stands to reason that places can haunt people, too. Indiana certainly haunts me.
I wonder, will I haunt Indiana someday?