Adrianna Collins is the vice president of Blue Byte Technology Solutions, is the editor-in-chief of WayBetterBlog.com and is working on her first novel. She’s lived in Elkhart for 18 years and is one of The Elkhart Truth’s community bloggers. You can read more of her work on her blog, Just Go With It.
Thanks to The Wizard of Oz (either book or movie) the phrase “there’s no place like home” is etched into the collective psyche of the general population. It isn’t just a nice sentiment like “Keep Calm and Carry On.” It’s a truth that resonates deep within us and pulls at us like a siren’s call. There isn’t anywhere you can go in this world quite like your hometown. There is no place as familiar and comfortable as the corner where you grew up. It’s like an old worn out T-shirt – comfortable, yet no longer quite right.
I have made Elkhart, Indiana, my home for the past two decades. I have raised my children here. I have good friends and a thriving business here. I really like living here.
But it isn’t my home.
When people ask me where I am from, my answer isn’t Elkhart. My answer is a little place on the west coast, smack dab in the middle of wine country. My answer is Lodi, California.
This past weekend my husband and I traveled back to Lodi to attend a family event. I’m always so happy and excited to go home again. As much as I love Elkhart and all of my friends and loved ones here, it doesn’t exactly compare to how I feel going home again. Somehow there, I just fit. And little things, like the smell of Oleanders in the air or my sister’s rose garden, speak to me and evoke memories of childhood, both happy and sad.
The downside of going home is that things change. As my husband so quickly found out, I cannot navigate through the streets of my hometown anymore. Landmarks that existed 20 years ago have either changed or are no longer there at all. Where there were fields of table grapes, there are now subdivisions. Buildings that were once there have been either renovated or knocked down, and a new building now takes its place. The old farmers market is now a winery. It wasn’t until we were leaving three days later that I felt like I knew where I was again.
The benefit of going home is that some things never change. I had dinner with some friends I have known since the first grade. We have shared childhood experiences, and although we are such different people now that we are all grown up, we are still friends. There is something to be said about time and distance and friendships that can sustain themselves through that. At the previously mentioned family event, I was showered with love from my crazy aunts and cousins and various family members. The love of family never changes. We may not see each other often, but when we do, it is like no time has passed. My cousin and I will still laugh over something that happened when we were teens. We will tease one another and forget that we are now responsible parents and adults. And we will hug one another so hard our ribs will hurt.
When you go home, you are forced to remember who you are, where you came from and what really matters. On Monday, before we left for the airport, we visited the cemetery to honor two people who were the best grandparents the world has ever known. You can lose a lot of things in this world: jobs, money, your favorite watch. But the people you lose can never be replaced. They write words on your heart in a language only you can understand. As I stood there looking down at the gravestone, my only thought was that there are two people that I will always desperately wish were still around. They are irreplaceable, and I would give nearly everything I own for just five more minutes with them.
I don’t get home as often as I would like. I have a business to run, and my own family has to come first. But it is important to try to go as often as is possible. Going back to California reminds me of who I am and the people who have helped me become who I am today. Seeing the place I grew up in and how different it is helps me appreciate living in Elkhart. Talking with my old friends reminds me how much I have become a Midwestern gal. The old t-shirt is soft and well worn, but it doesn’t fit me quite right anymore. And that is OK. There is no place like home. I just happen to have two of them.
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