“I know Ohio like the back of my hand….and it’s strange to see your story end.” Karen Berquist
I often think of my returns. I often think it is no longer home and think too much that it is home. I can relate to Berquist. I can drive the back roads with ease as I remember the summer of 83.
It is an hour from Marion to Mohican. It is mostly route 95 as its flat topography gives way to bumpy roads and little hills with little curves. In my teenage years, it was the closest I came to peaks and canyons that were common in my childhood and revisited in my adult life. The places there were never so high or low, but these places were also where I came into adulthood and such places are always ones of great height and lowliness.
Ohio was not only Mohican, though. It was the little island town with its golf carts and wineries. It was Amish country and flat Columbus with its art deco tower and it was a thousand stories of laughter and despair. It was bologna sandwiches in a town of 400 and bratwurst and deserts in a Columbus neighborhood modeled after Germany. It was where I learned the teenage happiness of knowing love and the teenage angst of love lost. It was the radius of a hundred miles from Marion, a town on the decline and the place that was home. It was the place where I was loved and it is the place where I continued to be loved.
In a little park outside of Marion I would walk through forest cover to a windmill by a pond laden with tadpoles and at Mohican I would walk a trail down to the Big Lyons Falls and stand underneath the falling water before walking to the covered bridge. I have done those things often. And then there are the things I have done once….a rumble seat ride to Cedar Point and the drive back from Miami U as “Pink Cadillac” blared from the speakers.
I am at the age now that when I go back I can be nostalgic. After all it has not been home in 25 years. I would die if I spent any time in that place now, no matter how much I reminisce about it. The teenage angst is behind me and I did leave there to escape a certain provincialism. And besides it was only a hundred mile radius all around Marion with its rural roads and cornfields. And the roads were not so many as not to know each like the back of my hand and a hundred miles in every direction is not so much space.
And not all the memories are fond anyway. After I left as a youth, I often returned as an adult. In 1993, I went to take the kids to see their grandparents. My life was coming apart, mostly my fault. I had taken the children along the lake to see Vermillion and the lakefront towns. In the car, Marina came under great distress. I was left going a hundred down the turnpike to find a hospital. The children would not see their grandparents.
After all night in an emergency room at a Lorain hospital, a doctor told me it was best to get my daughter back to the city where the facilities were better and where physicians would know about her care. I was told to go home and I did.
I don’t know how I made that drive being up all night, but I know that I’ve often made sleepless night drives. And the only way we do such a thing is that we talk to God in our most honest ways.
I don’t remember the drive back. It had no excitement anyway, only anxiety. I do not even remember the phone calls and getting to Children’s Memorial, but I do know that trip was Marina’s last visit to a state that often saw her spoiled and on this occasion there would be none of that.
And since then my trips have been rare, but they have afforded me nostalgia and some joy, but I know not all the trips will be this way. Already a few of them have not been.
Yes I do know Ohio like the back of my hand. It is so many stories. It has been lovely and brutal. It has been a geography of a constant in a world I know is wide. You can put a mark on a map in the center of the state and make a circle 150 miles in all directions and capture the totality of its geography. A simple radius, but it is more. It is more laughter than anywhere and it is also many tears for someone whose tears are rare.
Ohio….you and I know one another like the back of our hands.