Driving down the black Florida highway, I feel the pull. Husband asleep beside me and children quietly watching a movie in the back, I have space to tune in to my insides. To this pull. It’s as if there is a string (or maybe a rope) from our minivan to our final destination. Pulling us. Hand over hand over hand, someone on the other end, pulling, pulling, pulling. Or a magnet. A large magnet drawing me, in our minivan, closer and closer. And the closer we get, the stronger the pull.
As I’m being pulled, I take in the sights around me. The gray moss, drooping from the old oak trees lining both sides of the road, adding a softness and a hominess that I realize I miss (we don’t have moss in Indiana). The open land, dotted with cattle. Black cows. Brown cows. A lone tree here and there. Palmetto bushes, short and squat and spiky. Palm trees. All kinds of palm trees ~ short and tall, straight and bent ~ randomly strewn alongside the road and in the fields. And the occasional orange grove. Not polka-dotted with round oranges yet. It’s not the right season. But orange groves, nonetheless.
And the road signs and billboards. They add to the pulling sensation. Welcome home, they seem to be saying, as I notice names of places that are ingrained in the inner being of who I am. Places that represent home. “Gainesville: 51 miles,” “Come Visit Gatorland,” “Real Florida Orange Juice, next exit,” “The Suwannee River,” “Orlando,” “Ocala,” “Tampa/St. Petersburg.” Signs for the University of Florida (go Gators!) and Silver Springs. Road names that are as familiar as the lines on the palm of my hand: I-75, I-4, 27, and the Florida Turnpike. And the funny and familiar name of Okefenoke. I’ve always loved to say that name: Oh – key – fe – no – key.
I’m sure this feeling of being pulled probably has a lot to do with cruise control. As I’m doing basically nothing to move us forward, we are moving, creating a pulling sensation. But since I’ve never tuned in to this pulling phenomenon before, I can’t help but connect it, along with the nostalgic scenery and signs along the way, to a symbolic meaning. A pull towards home. I was heading home.
As we drew closer and closer to our final destination, I could literally feel the pull and the desire to be there more than ever. If I weren’t afraid of a speeding ticket (or an accident), I would have kicked into high speed to get us home sooner. I would have taken that final stretch in a full sprint.
And then I wondered…would I feel this way on the trip back home to Indiana? As my heart and being longed for home and family in Florida, would I feel the same for my home and life in Indiana? We’d lived there now for eleven years. And I’ve been looking for signs that this was home, really home, ever since. Maybe this would be the true test. The “pulling sensation” test.
So, two and a half weeks later, I checked. On that final stretch through Indianapolis, toward West Lafayette, an hour northwest, I tried to find that magical magnetic pull. I didn’t feel it. Of course, I wasn’t driving. That may have a made a difference. But in my heart, I wasn’t feeling the pull. I wanted to feel the pull. I truly did. Maybe I was trying too hard. Nonetheless, the magnetic test had failed. There was no pull.
And then I wondered (again)…do my children feel that pull? Someday, when they are adults and are returning home to Indiana for a visit, will they, like me, feel that magnetic pull towards home? Will the Indiana surroundings evoke a sense of nostalgia and homecoming in them?
I now look out the window of my car, trying to view the scenery through the eyes of my children. What might they see, twenty years from now, that will represent home to them? Fields upon fields of corn. Silos standing tall, like huge, round, tin-man giants. Open fields dotted with an occasional farmhouse. Tractors and barns, horses and cows. Windmills ~ hundreds of them ~ spinning, spinning, spinning. Signs for Purdue University (Boiler Up!). Road names that will be as familiar to them as the Florida ones are to me: I-65, 52, 32, 231, and 43. Names of places that by then they will know well: Zionsville, Lebanon, Kokomo, and Crawfordsville.
Maybe these will be the things, amongst others, that will tap into the inner being of who they are. Maybe they will be the Welcome Home signs to them, luring them home.
I hope so. Because that will mean that the memories they have of growing up here in Indiana, more importantly, in this family, are life-giving and good. I know my own longings for home stem from how my parents poured into me and loved me. The Floridian details are merely the tangible reminders of intangible good things given to me by my parents. As much as I desire to return to them and re-experience them, I now desire even more to pass the same intangibles along to my children. And it just so happens that their setting is Indiana.
And so my prayer is for my children to someday feel that pull towards home. That Randy and I, along with all the good things represented here, will be the magnet drawing them back home. Hand over hand over hand over hand. Not in the sense that I haven’t “let them go,” but in the sense that they have been filled and poured into here.
And with that in mind…I am excited to return home to Indiana. To look for those things that are lovely and good, that will someday stir the souls of my children and symbolically make this place home to them. And to me.