I have to say I was a bit reluctant to move here four years ago. I liked the university and all, but I couldn’t help but think of all the Boston schools along the Charles River I had neglected in favor of this university in the dead center of flattened cornfields. It was a little off-putting the first few weeks when strangers held doors for me and waved at me on the street. I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out what they wanted. It felt strange and a little uncomfortable here and I felt like I stuck out in my Red Sox cap walking faster down the sidewalk than everyone else.
My freshman and sophomore years I spent time at school and found communities on campus. On occasion I would venture into downtown Delaware. Over time I gained an appreciation for the diners, the historic movie theater, the antique shops, and the conversations with the men on the stoop on Spring Street. Slowly but surely I started to look forward to my time spent “downtown”: getting popcorn at The Strand, an omelette at 1 a.m. from Hamburger Inn, and shuffling through the antique shops and Beehive Books on an afternoon off.
My junior year, I felt a slight inkling that I might love it here. I took any excuse I had in the afternoons to walk down Sandusky. I brought my car back to campus after winter break and explored Columbus while working at the Ohio Historical Society. I drove through interesting towns on the way to work each week: passing the OSU stadium along the highway and a life-size lighthouse perched on top of a building. Ohio never ceased to amaze. And for the first time consciously, I began to appreciate just how big the sky is here. The ground is so flat and expansive, the sky visually becomes fuller and broader.
I carried that admiration for the breadth of the sky into my senior year when I traveled to India. I was so surprised to find that while I was there I missed you, Ohio. Who knew that half a world away–surrounded by food I love, bright clothing, warm summer air, and the whir of rickshaws in the city–I would miss the kindness, warmth, greasy food, and antique shops of Ohio. I shook it off then, it seemed insane to miss Ohio from such an incredible country.
When I returned in the spring I noticed that things had begun to change in our little town of Delaware. The Beehive Book store where I’d spent so many hours browsing on my rare afternoons of freedom was closing for good. There were a finite number of times I would walk through those doors again. On their final day, I signed my name in the guest book and picked out my last book. I made my peace with their absence and celebrated all of the memories I’d had there. Beginning with Beehive, I believe Delaware was making its peace with me, saying goodbye and wishing me well.
The name of the little coffee shop downtown has changed from my first year at Ohio Wesleyan, restaurants have come and gone (Fiesta Mexico, Nova, that Italian place with the gluten-free pasta?!), and while Delaware feels comfortable in many ways it is also changing and morphing for the next generation of students to spend time in it. And I welcome that, they won’t know Beehive or Mean Bean, but they’ll make new memories and find new places to walk to on their afternoons of freedom.
Recently I’ve realized how much of Ohio I have yet to discover outside of Delaware. Earlier this week, a friend and I went exploring in western Ohio about 2 hours from Delaware. We drove through expanses of farm land where the sky looked like it went on forever, we drove through a county filled with picket signs protesting and encouraging new wind turbine, and we drove through small down towns alternatively bustling with life and eerily quiet. We spent the day in Lockington exploring the locks once a part of the Miami and Eerie canal system and walked down a narrow path in the forest that overlooked a lake.
It was lovely to get out for the day and see a new part of Ohio. It’s very easy to forget how diverse this state can be: from Akron and Cleveland, to Columbus, to Lockington and Delaware. Each place has something unique to offer. Sometimes I wish I had more time here to explore. I know I’ll be back someday soon to do just that.
Because, it turns out, I really do love Ohio. And now at the end of my senior year I will say that confidently to anyone who is willing to listen.
So, thanks for the memories Ohio. I couldn’t have picked a better state to spend these last four years.