Nearly everything you need to know about my childhood can be summed up in a Mellencamp song.
(Well, not everything.)
Indiana is quiet, simple. In the summer, it bursts with ripe tomatoes and happiness, and in the winter, the sprawling cornfields rest under blankets of snow. There is space here, plenty of it.
Room to grow.
I’m often asked what I miss most about living in Los Angeles. The yellow weather, sunny and seventy daily? The endless cafes, farmers markets, warm sidewalks pulsating with opportunity?
Was it the Pacific air? Seaside cliffs? The lemon trees?
It was all as lovely as it sounds, yes.
But it was not to be mine.
In truth, I spent more time surfing radio signals on the 405 than surfing the salt water, and as young newlyweds, Ken and I saturated our weekends with reheated pizza rolls and emergency trips to the bank for laundry quarters, dimes.
(There was little to be said for farmers markets.)
But there were warehouse art galleries and evening walks to the pier. On Sundays, we’d visit the dog park, my backpack weighted with tennis balls.
When Ken’s dad became ill, when we moved back to the Midwest earlier than anticipated, when we landed promptly in the beginning of our lives like a twisted game of Chutes & Ladders, we’d expected to grieve the loss of our California adventure.
But have you ever smelled a homegrown tomato, plump with time and love and rich Indiana soil? Have you ever taken a bite out of it, letting the red juice run down your chin?
We grow where we’re planted, they say. And I was planted in the rich Indiana soil.
It’s just that we’ll always have roots here. We’ll always have a home here with the cicadas, a rhythm that announces its arrival in seasons, in cycles, in pace. In road trips and Padiddle, in euchre and puppy chow. State fairs with funnel cakes, sledding down hills on trash can lids. Blackberry season. Sitting on bleachers, wool blankets on our knees, cheering for the quarterback.
We can’t see how deep our roots are buried.
But we can feel them. When the season shifts, ever so slightly, as it is shifting now. When the skies dim earlier and blacker, when the crickets sing, when the air turns crisp enough for an evening layer – one last hurrah in your summer dress.
The last tomato harvest will be here before we know it.
But not yet. It’s still summer, still a season for farmers markets, for bare legs, for long afternoons and hammock naps and lemonade stands.
The tomatoes are still here.
(So are we.)
This essay was written for Old Navy. Here’s what I’m wearing, if you’re curious:
p.s. So, so, so honored to share my love for Indiana on People.com with my friends at Old Navy today. Click through to celebrate your own state style here!