You can see the moon at night from my parents’ house in Poseyville, Indiana. That’s not unusual. You can see the moon from where I live in Chicago too, but here it’s more of an afterthought, a blip in the ambient light of the city competing with the street lamps and headlights of cars that pass by no matter the hour. In Poseyville the moon is the main event, lighting up the whole town and surrounding countryside. On a clear night you can drive without headlights, it’s so bright. I know this because I’ve actually tried.
Poseyville is a farming community of 1,200 in the southwestern corner of the state. My parents built their one-story, three bedroom ranch house with a two-car garage in 1973 for $33,000. It’s the house where I grew up, the only place I lived until I went away to college. I know living in the same house that long is nothing unique either, but after moving four times in the 12 years since I moved to Chicago, it feels like an accomplishment. For me, the concepts of childhood and home have always meant that one place on Cale Street with the big backyard and a basketball hoop in the driveway.
My parents retired last year, and they’ve decided to sell the house and move north to a suburb of Indianapolis. It makes complete sense. They’re both from the Indianapolis area originally, and except for me and some cousins in Seattle, the rest of my extended family lives there too. It will make visiting them easier, turning a six-hour drive through the bleak countryside of central Illinois into a three-hour drive through the slightly less bleak countryside of northern Indiana. We could make a day trip out of it if we wanted to, and it certainly makes a weekend visit more practical. In addition to the logistical advantages it makes life easier for my parents. Poseyville isn’t exactly a commercial hub (the nearest McDonald’s is at a highway interchange 10 miles away), and their new home will be within a few minute’s drive of every restaurant chain and big box store. As my mom pointed out morbidly, “What happens if one of us dies before the other? We don’t want to be stuck here with nothing to do. At least now there’s a Kroger five minutes away.”
A few weeks ago I took my son Carter to Poseyville for one last visit before my parents move for good. He’s always enjoyed his time there so much. The big backyard where he can run in the sprinkler and the quiet streets where he can ride his bike on his own are such a treat for a kid born and raised in the city. My parents held back a stash of my old toys, Hot Wheels and Transformers that they had the good sense to save for the day they had a grandson, and he’s been very worried that they won’t make the move to their new house. For my part, I felt like I needed to see the house one last time before they go (and to reclaim the boxes of baseball cards in my old bedroom that my mom demanded I finally take with me before she threw them away). Once they leave Poseyville, I don’t know when I’ll ever go back. Sure, I’ll go back for a high school reunion someday, but one weekend every five or 10 years is a lot different than regular visits with the family.
On the last night in Poseyville I hung out with my friend Clint, who I’ve known since preschool. He and his wife just had their third baby, and I went to visit them at thier new house in a town called Blairsville about eight miles away. He picked me up at my parents’ house, and on the way out he drove me around town, pointing out where people we knew from school now lived. Nothing much has changed about the town since I left besides the shuffling of names on the mailboxes. As Clint said, “I wouldn’t say it’s dead, but it’s not really doing anything either.” He and I laughed about stories from the good old days and griped about how routine and predictable our lives had become, the kind of things old friends talk about when they realize they’ve become adults with responsibilities.
Clint will never move away from the area like I did. He doesn’t want to, nor does he need to. His entire family is there. He works for his family business running a general store in Poseyville. Just like it makes sense for my parents to move back to where they came from now that they’re retired, it makes sense for Clint to stay there. I made the right decision to move away and start a life in Chicago, but at least when my parents lived in Poseyville I could feel like it was still a little part of my life too. Now that they’re leaving that connection is gone.
The morning Carter and I left, I did my usual last minute sweep of the house to make sure we packed everything. I made a point of taking one last look at my old bedroom in the back of the house, expecting to choke up as a wave of nostalgia hit me full in the face. Instead of welling up with tears though, I felt nothing. My old room isn’t the same. After I went away to college my parents replaced most of the furniture, bought a new bed, moved the bookshelf to the other side of the room, bought new blinds. They took down all the posters of baseball players and rappers I had Scotch-taped to the walls and repainted, and threw out the Nerf hoop over the closet door. The room that would have made me choke up doesn’t exist anymore, just like the town where I grew up. Clint is right that Poseyville hasn’t changed, but I don’t see it through the same lens. It’s not the same place as when we were playing army in the backyard or driving home from football practice. I’ve moved on, and now that the house where I grew up will soon belong to someone else, some other young couple starting a family just like my parents 38 years ago, it’s fixed firmly in the past.
After I left the house, Carter and I packed up the car and backed out of the driveway, the trunk loaded down with some 10,000 baseball cards. As I turned the corner away from Cale Street, I craned my neck to catch one a final glimpse before another house blocked the view. Then we drove out of town, headed for the interstate, and made our way back north, to home.