Sunday, January 20, 2013

Knapsack 1-24

Notes From My Knapsack 1-24-13

Jeff Gill


Calculating Where I'm From



Somewhere in the last few weeks I crossed a subtle, but significant (for me) dividing line.


I was born in Elmhurst, Illinois, part of what's known as "Chicagoland," and my parents moved to a different corner of that region when I was six weeks old, across the state line into Indiana.


So from not long after I was born to just before my seventeenth birthday, I lived in Valparaiso, Indiana, the place that for most of my life I've called my hometown, and even my birthplace though not strictly true on that count.


When I moved into a dorm at Purdue University, I began seven years of residence in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, five in West Lafayette and two on the other side of the Wabash in Lafayette. At the end of that time, I got married, and the Lovely Wife and I moved to Indianapolis after a last summer at Scout camp in Michigan.


(Another odd calendar note: I spent seven to eleven weeks every summer for ten years at that camp, meaning I lived a total of a year and a half in Michigan, but never outside of June, July, & August!)


We lived for four years in Indy while I was in seminary there, and then in 1989 we came for the first time to Licking County, Ohio. For four years we lived in Newark, then departed in 1993 for West Virginia where we spent the next six, returning to Hebron in 1999. We lived in Hebron for five years, moving to Granville in the midst of the infamous ice storm closing out 2004.


So what all that chronology and math means is that I have now lived longer in Licking County, Ohio than anywhere else I've ever been. In our marriage, we've been through what was, at one time, a shocking number of addresses (seminary and grad school and associate pastor positions all add up to a whole bunch of moving), something like ten moves in twelve years. But we had six years in Fairmont, West Virginia, and six Christmases in one home (a parsonage, but a nice one), a welcome change of pace – and now, here in Granville, we've had eight, a level of stability new for us all, but now what we're used to.


And altogether, I've lived just over seventeen years in Licking County. I've never lived longer in any other place. My childhood memories, and sense of "home" are still powerfully shaped by Valpo, and the presence of Lake Michigan just to the north (ah, lake effect snow), not to mention Chicago always in the background . . .


But this is now, and continues to be ever more so, home. We hope and pray for a ninth and tenth and many more Christmases with the tree in the same spot, and decorations hung on nails and hooks we put in place ourselves, and expect to use again and again.


Someday, around 2021, I will have lived in this one town as long, and then longer than the place where I grew up. By then, I suspect it won't even matter that much, other than as a number. Licking County as a whole, and Granville, Ohio in particular, is where my family and I are . . . from. We're from here, because at a certain point we've been here, and it's "from" this place we go so that in time we can come home, to here.


We haven't yet bought funeral plots here, but it has crossed our minds. I guess that's when you really know where you're from.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him how you know where you're from at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

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