I am home.
If you are a stick-in-the-mud like me, you know what a delicious joy that is.
I visited the Dekalb, Illinois, part of the family Saturday evening and Sunday morning, on my way to Ohio; we shared a supper and a breakfast and I spent the overnight and was well taken care of. Thanks!
Sunday morning, I headed east. I'd have to buy a tank of gasoline somewhere along the way and figured I might as well get it in Fowler, Indiana, which is one of my Vagabond "focus" communities. I feel a certain loyalty, you know, and it wasn't out of the way.
This year I remembered there was an hour difference in time between Wisconsin and Ohio, so I arrived at the Meschers in Celina about when I said I would, rather than an hour late, which is what happened when I visited there last February. Charlie Mescher teaches at the Marion Local High School in Maria Stein, Ohio, and for the second year is using my memoir, Curlew: Home, as a textbook for one of his senior English classes. Jane and Charlie served me a terrific stew for Sunday night dinner when I arrived, along with some bread that would win your heart, I'm sure of it.
Next morning I knew the routine, so I was up taking my shower at 5:00 a.m. while Charlie was taking his walk with the dog. Then we had Charlie's usual breakfast - two eggs, two slices of Canadian bacon, two slices of toast. This meal comes as certain as the rising of the sun, I think. Jane, perhaps the wiser, had granola and berries.
Charlie got his shower, and then we packed ourselves off to school. I accommodated myself in the teachers' workroom while Charlie taught his first class.
Soon enough it was second period, Senior Advanced Placement English. This class was studying poetry now, and Charlie had given them a copy of my "99 Propositions" to review, and to use as the basis for questions.
My greatest fear is standing at the front of the room and nobody has any questions. What if none of the students asked anything and I had to fill the whole class period extemporaneously?
Not to worry. They had read the "99 Propositions" and they had questions....
So - you're married to a nurse?
When you walk, do you always take the same route, or do you take different routes?
Why do you say to fear success and embrace failure?
When did you start writing poetry, and why?
And on and on and the buzzer sounded - the end of class. How was that possible?
I sheltered in the teachers' workroom for another period, and then met with the senior English class that is using Curlew: Home as a textbook and model for writing memoir of their own. When I walked back into the classroom, right away I wrote on the board: "Local truths that are generally true," and then talked about the need, when writing memoir, to tease out the larger truths inherent in the particulars of their lives, not in a way that makes bald and obvious statements, but in a way that connects these particulars to the lives of the rest of us. Their individual stories out of their individual lives must share something with the rest of us, so that in some deeper way "This is not my story so much as it is our story."
And then again, that split second of wondering whether these students would have questions for me, or would I have to punt?
Oh, not to worry, Tom. It was off to the races....
How did you get started writing the book?
How long did it take to write?
How did you know what to include?
Do you think you'll have any more to write about Curlew?
When will your book about the middlewest be published?
More questions, and more, and the buzzer sounded - again, too soon. End of class period.
Then I hid out in the workroom again while Charlie taught the remainder of his classes. Soon enough we were headed over to Fort Recovery and I saw and could touch the wood in the blockhouses of the old fort. The museum was not open, however. This is November, after all.
We took back roads home to Celina. When Jane got home from work, we headed to Bella's Italian Restaurant for supper, where Lynn Yates joined us; she is a colleague of Charlie's in English at the high school. I'd met her last year, and the couple of times during the day when I'd poked my head into her classroom during this visit, she was in conference with one or other of her students, so I hadn't had an opportunity to say hello yet. We talked and ate and talked some more even after the table had been cleared and the waitress had maybe started to wonder whether we were ever going to go.
Then home to bed. Up bright and early, per the usual routine. The usual breakfast. And I headed home to Fairwater, about nine and a half hours if you keep moving and swing wide of Chicago, which I do.
Home. Where when you get there you're glad to be there.
It is nice to go away, to visit other communities, see other scenes, observe the human animal in other predicaments; yet let me tell you: it is even better to come home. I see that I am more and more like my mother, who used to get "homesick for the chickens." I didn't understand it then. I understand it now.