In the places you go, you’ll see the place where you’re from

 

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Driving through the night was worth it to not see Nebraska. Semis lit up like suburban neighborhoods on Christmas Eve and exits claiming towns that may or may not exist guided me back to Iowa—home, where I hadn’t been in nearly a year and a half.

Growing up in the Midwest I often pretended the low-lying clouds were mountains in the distance. I figured kids that grew up near mountains, or ocean, or any landscape different from cornfields must be the luckiest kids in the world. But, I’d remind myself, I was the one who had the secret cornstalk playground in my back yard every summer. It was common knowledge among the neighborhood kids to follow a row to its end in the event of getting lost. One time I walked the length of my block through the six feet stalks—thrilled, frightened, happy.

When I’m home, I get to ask things like, “Who made that?” instead of, “Where’d you get that?” I like this. I like that the woman at the bank remembers me and even pronounces my last name 90% accurately. I like that the local jeweler still does my repair work for free. And the doughnuts…Sorry Winchell’s, Waltons, Lamar’s, Donut House, Voodoo, Glazed and Confuzed, and Dunkin Donuts—Page’s Bakery wins, hands down.

However, as is the case with all places we leave behind, there are also things not to like. Things like hurricane-level winds strong enough to realign car doors and bend trees to their demise. Curvy one-lane highways bordered by deer-littered ditches. And cows like scorch marks dotting the parched earth, their smell enough to turn any good carnivore into a temporary vegetarian.

Interstate travel never fails to make me wonder: Who are the people buying fashion accessories at gas stations? Sunglasses I get, but faux-leather studded purses? Quandary.

On the drive back to Denver, while for miles passing nothing but farmhouses and gas stations with only two pumps, a scene from the movie Big Fish came to mind. Karl the giant says to Edward Bloom, “I don’t want to eat you. I just get so hungry. I’m just too big.” And Edward replies, “Has it ever occurred to you that maybe you’re not too big? That maybe this place is just too small?”

To me this makes sense. The life I get to live in Denver wasn’t possible in a small town. And despite the underwhelming confections, I’ve come to take city life for granted (e.g. “What do you mean, no local cage-free eggs?” Or, “Why aren’t you flipping off that asshole who just cut us off?”). The mountains have a pull on me and always will. They ground me, and for this Denver is the first place I haven’t dreamed of leaving.

I believe it is good to be with family and connect with one’s past.

It is also good to be home.

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About Amanda Eike Koehler

I write to live. I love when I can love life; sometimes it's hard. View all posts by Amanda Eike Koehler

3 responses to “In the places you go, you’ll see the place where you’re from

  • Sherryk

    For anyone who has moved away from home and then gone back for a visit, you present an insight that we have all experienced. Things we romantize only to discover a new reality in returning for a visit. Things we had never thought about that cause us a moment of happiness. Thanks again for sharing I learn much from reading your stories.

  • Amanda Mills

    Thank you, Sherry. This one took me awhile to write.

  • J Eike

    I’ve never experienced moving away from a town I lived but I can still relate to the feeling of returning to a place you grew up. I do have the thoughts of happiness and closeness to family when I return to the cabin at the Lakes or when I see cousins that I spent my summers with at the cabin. It’s such a warm feeling that when things are going array it’s a place to go to if not physically then in your mind. I love your comment about the semis. I was surprised you didn’t put something about the lake, you always enjoyed going down there and sitting. Interstate travel always makes me wonder where everyone is going. thanks for a story that brings me back to a happy time.

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