Ever since my husband, Kenneth, and I moved back to our home county in late 2015, I’ve been thinking about where I grew up and how I ended up coming back. I prefer to take back roads to get to work… or anywhere, really. So I spend a lot of time thinking about coming back home when I’m driving through Miami County. I have a backlog of essays and blog post ideas related to coming back home — how certain parts of town can make me feel like a kid or teenager again, or how driving down some familiar roads can fill me with hope and inspiration while others bring to mind painful memories.
To be completely honest, I didn’t plan on living in Miami County as an adult. I didn’t really have a town or area picked out, but I didn’t expect it to be where I grew up. I certainly didn’t expect to live in the town that was my high school’s biggest rival, either.
I think I felt that I had outgrown my hometown. I had graduated high school and was going on to do big, exciting things in college and, then, who knows where? My boyfriend (now husband) and I lived in a small college town for four years, then we moved to a big city for another four. That’s really all it took for me to want to come back home: being away.
I loved living in Athens. It is the most interesting place I’ve ever called home. Athens is a unique blend of rural Appalachia and the international community via Ohio University – it’s a cultural explosion in a lovely little area of Ohio. Columbus took me a while to get used to. I quickly discovered that big cities are not my thing. I didn’t like how long it took me to drive to work, or how noisy and smelly the city could be, especially in the summer. Big cities are an assault on my senses; they overwhelm me easily. I did end up falling for Columbus, about a year before Kenneth and I moved. The gorgeous metro parks, amazing restaurants, fantastic library system, and numerous museums did it for me in the end.
We lived in a little town near Cincinnati called Harrison for a year and a half. While I found things that I loved about Athens, Columbus, Harrison, and Cincinnati they were not somewhere I could call home. I couldn’t put down roots there. The 3-hour drive from Athens to visit family or for school breaks started to feel like it took forever. Then when we were only 1 1/2 hours from home in Columbus and Cincinnati, we wondered how we ever managed the 3-hour drive (with cats in the car too!).
Kenneth had an opportunity to take a job in Miami County and we jumped at it. We were both ready to be closer to our family and to really, finally, be home. While I thought that I had outgrown Miami County, Miami County had been growing while I was away.
While many things look the way they did ten years ago, Miami County has been changing. New businesses and community events have been popping up in our absence. Old underused buildings have been or will be renovated. We have farmer’s markets, delicious restaurants, music festivals and half-marathons! Miami County is still the place where I grew up, but it’s becoming so much more.
One of the things I think about a lot when I’m driving to and from work is the sky. You can see so much of the sky here. In Athens and Cincinnati, the gorgeous hills and forests took up a lot of the horizon. In Columbus, the skyscrapers and miles of suburbs surrounding the city filled the view. In Miami County, I can see the sky and it’s huge. Fantastic red sunrises, stormy gray mornings, bright blue afternoons and clear night skies. There’s so much room here, room to grow. Room to put down roots.
Which I am ready to do.