It was family meeting time, and the news wasn’t great.
At the end of the school year, my parents contritely informed me and my siblings we would be moving from our home in western New York to the wilds of Indiana.
Seeing little chance of upward mobility in the Swedish-owned company for which he had worked his entire professional life, my father had gotten a better, higher-paying job in a place called Terre Haute, Ind.
A quick glance at the atlas gathering dust on my bookshelf showed Terre Haute to be hundreds of miles from the lives we had built in Jamestown, N.Y., a bucolic lakefront community near the Pennsylvania border.
In the months that followed, the thought of actually moving seemed nebulous as my family and I went about our remaining days in Jamestown.
Soon, school ended and the moving trucks arrived. This was happening.
The day we left town was unremarkable.
I don’t remember crying as I said goodbye to my friends or as we pulled out of our driveway for the last time.
None of us cried on that eight-hour drive across parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana toward our new home, choosing instead to spend our time making fun of Tippy, the family dog who had hilariously been given some kind of sedative to prevent her from getting sick along the way.
That sense of frivolity lasted right up until we pulled off Interstate 70 and arrived at the apartment complex where we would live for a few days until our new house was vacated.
It wasn’t until I stood in that apartment that the reality of what we had done landed on me. I lost it. We all did. It remains the hardest thing I’ve ever been through.
But it was worth it.
What I didn’t know on that night about 12 years ago was that I would fall in love with that place, charmed by the banality of life in the Midwest and the area’s resilient, generous and genuine inhabitants.
Since moving to Terre Haute, I’ve become a defender of “middle America,” bristling at any implication that people who live there are small-minded rubes or simpletons.
Is Indiana an undiscovered and underappreciated utopia? I’d be the first to tell you it is not, but that strange place we moved to more than a decade ago has afforded my siblings and I the opportunity to attend Big Ten universities for next to nothing, introduced us to some great friends and brought us closer as a family.
Not bad for “Middle America.”
As you read this, I’ll be preparing for a trip back to Indiana to spend Thanksgiving with my family. In honor of our adopted home, this week’s playlist features great songs from natives of the Hoosier state.
I am proud to be a Hoosier, just don’t ask me what that word means.
• Cole Porter, “Begin the Beguine” — One of the great songwriters in our nation’s history. This song makes me want to slick my hair back and grow a thin, Clark Gable mustache.
• Guns N’ Roses, “November Rain” — The band’s last hit, and still one of the most ridiculous music videos ever made. So wait, Stephanie Seymour was killed by acid rain? Founding members Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin are fellow Hoosiers.
• Michael Jackson, “Man in the Mirror” — A little overwrought? Sure but still an incredible song from Indiana’s greatest contribution to the world of pop music. Sorry, Babyface.
• Blind Melon, “Tones of Home” — If you think “No Rain” was this band’s best song, you are mistaken. They have any other great songs, including this one. Former frontman Shannon Hoon, who died in 1995, was from Lafayette, Ind.
• John Mellencamp, “Authority Song” — I don’t think I’d be allowed back into the state if I didn’t include at least one Mellencamp song.
• Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, “Me and Mia” — Ted Leo is a South Bend, Ind., native and he rocks. That is all.
• Van Halen, “Runnin’ with the Devil” — No offense to Eddie Van Halen, one of the greatest rock guitarists of all-time, but Van Halen is nothing without “Diamond” David Lee Roth, a native of Bloomington, Ind. I mean, have you seen his high kicks?
• James F. Hanley and Ballard MacDonald, “(Back Home Again in) Indiana” — You know you’re a Hoosier when the singing of this song before the Indianapolis 500 makes you cry.
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