This weekend I drove to Ohio for my aunt's funeral. While it was a sad occasion, I was happy to reconnect with extended family, some of whom I hadn't seen in almost 20 years.
Since much of my family remains in Dayton and my best friend lives in Cincinnati, I usually drive to Ohio several times a year. And every time I cross the bridge that brings me into Ohio, the one with the great big "Ohio Welcomes You" greeting, I exhale a sigh of relief. I'm home.
It's interesting. I've lived in North Carolina for 21 years and it's still not home. The people are still a mystery to me, as are some of the sayings, habits and customs. I enjoy returning to Ohio simply because I understand the people and the land with a depth that I'll never achieve in NC, no matter how long I live here.
Driving past farmhouses or brick ranches in tree-lined neighborhoods, I know exactly what the decor looks like inside. I know they keep the Joy kitchen soap underneath the sink with an extra scrubby and that they spare key to the front door is underneath the loose brick in the front flower garden. I know how they wear their hair, where they buy their clothes, what they think is funny and just how far you can go discussing religion or politics. I know the linen closet is most likely a mess and that cans of Campbell's tomato, chicken noodle, and mushroom soup will be in every kitchen, as well as a box of Lipton soup mix which can be transformed into a killer salad dressing.
I know the importance of high school football, homecoming dances and staying up-to-date on the oil changes and tire rotation for your car. Everyone has chains for their tires in their garage in case of a deep snow and the yard will be mowed by 11 a.m. every Saturday morning without question, thank you very much.
Catholic is the dominant religion and everyone goes to their festivals whether you're Catholic or not. Casseroles are king and Jello molds with suspended fruit are perfectly acceptable to bring as your offering to a neighborhood picnic.
I'm always happy to return to North Carolina, but I was thinking on this drive back that still in my mind, North Carolina is where I live. Ohio is home.
And it's always good to go home.