Sunday, January 25, 2004

Back home - always - in Indiana

Your voice: Judy C. Keeney

Several years ago, there was a photograph in the Cincinnati Enquirer of the Methodist church in my family's "home town" of Galveston, Ind., burned to the ground by arsonists. My brother and I had our hearts broken by the news. How could this little building mean so much to us - a church where we'd never been members in a town where we'd never lived?

I thought about this church I loved. Services there celebrated the lives of my sister, father, uncles, and grandparents. It's the church of the "events" of our lives - where family gathers not only in sorrow but also in joy. I thought about this town I loved. In addition to regular family visits, my brother and I would ride up on the train to spend a few weeks with our cousins each summer. Visits to the homes of various relatives allowed us ponies to ride, kittens to love, cows to milk, haylofts to climb. It never occurred to me that not everyone had such a special place to go. Years passed before I realized how lucky I was.

Many of my ancestors are buried in the small cemetery west of town. It's a place where Memorial Day is still referred to as Decoration Day," where during the later weeks in May the flowers appear, lovingly planted year after year. Walking among the headstones gives me a sense of my history. It's where my brother and I sang "English Country Garden" after our sister's funeral. It's where the fire truck led us when my uncle, the firefighter, was buried. It's where my body will spend eternity.

We moved from Indiana to Milford in 1956, but I'm a Hoosier at heart. It's where my favorite people live. Hearing Jim Nabors sing "Back Home Again in Indiana" prior to the Indianapolis 500 makes my heart skip a beat, and watching Gene Hackman drive through Indiana in the introductory scenes of the movie Hoosiers brings on waves of homesickness.

The yellowed Enquirer photograph of our church burning hangs above my desk. It's a reminder of how things can change quickly, and I know I need to go home more often. The re-building of our little church is finished. The things that are important haven't changed, that it's my home, and the same favorite people still live and attend church there.

Now I realize why that little place, barely on the map, is "home" to me. It's because it is true that home is where the heart is.


Judy C. Keeney, who has lived in Milford on and off for the past 47 years, graduated from the College of Mount St. Joseph, will soon celebrate 29 years with AT&T, and has two adorable grandchildren.


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