Grass was always a little too long in Salt Creek. People worked too much and weekends were reserved for overtime, errands, and family activities. It wasn’t uncommon for yards to look overgrown in the summer or to hear the mowers going early in the morning. I woke up to the sound of grass being cut so many times in my youth. But the neighborhood was silent when we drove away yesterday. The sun was coming up, earlier than it does in Arkansas, and a light fog settled between the rows of houses. Those houses that featured in so many of my memories. Houses I’d walked pass, run through, laughed in, hid behind. Those houses that hold strangers now, families creating new lives and new memories.
I’m no longer a part of the neighborhood, just a visitor. Soon my parents will be gone as well and the life I lived will only exist in my memory. My time in that neighborhood seemed to last forever when I was young, but now it seems as though I only visited for a moment in my life.
As we drove away, I knew I was saying goodbye. I won’t be back to Salt Creek for a long time. We have no plans to visit Indiana again this year. My parents are trying to sell their home and move. Soon Salt Creek won’t have a home for me. I don’t live there any longer. The tears I cried leaving my parents’ home stung more than they had in the past. Our entire trip to Indiana was emotional for me. As we drove around to places I’d been a hundred times before, my memory failed me. Was it this road? Was that the turn? Hell, I missed the turn. Because I don’t live there anymore.
My certainty in being home again was washed away within hours. My place in Indiana was gone. The people I couldn’t live without were still living and so was I. The places I frequented still stood even though I hadn’t walked through the door in over a year. I watched the world I swore I couldn’t leave keep on spinning and I realized, I don’t live there anymore.
As we drove away, my heart ached. I missed home. I missed the comfort of knowing my place in the world, of being able to see and touch every place that held special memories. I missed not having to try, not having to work, not having to struggle to have a place in the world. I missed home in all its misery and glory. I cried for so many reasons. I cried because goodbyes kill me every time. I cried because I wanted to stay. I cried because I hadn’t cried during the wedding. I cried because I didn’t want to leave my mom. But, mostly, I cried because I didn’t live there anymore.
I will never not love Indiana. I will always consider it my home, my safe haven, my touchstone. Salt Creek, especially, will always be dear to me. But I think now I understand something… I think now I’ve accepted that I wasn’t meant to be there for the rest of my life. That doesn’t make it easier to leave and it really doesn’t make it easy to stay away. Nothing about being states away from you family is easy. Nothing about starting over is easy. Nothing about letting go is easy. But I have. Or, at the very least, I’m starting to.