She was sure that the corn makes a sound as it grows in the field: just as I am sure that I can hear the boxwoods shrugging and stretching their leaves in the cool evening hours of spring. Whether it is merely a vestige of so many Midwestern years or a concrete memory, perhaps of some Pennsylvania summer day (knee high by the Fourth of July), I can also hear–and even feel–the sound a cornfield makes. Even just the memory of a cornfield vibrates, radiating noisy, impatient greening.
The last time we walked through Aunt Eleanor’s house. I remember the cornfield there, where I walked. I bent my head and gathered something from the grooved dirt between the rows. A coin; a shard of glass. Something meaningless. But I remember it.
It seems strange to me that I will probably never live in the Midwest again. Never say never in academia, of course, but I think that we are settled here(ish), and although one of my daughters is, like me, a rare Colorado native–a coincidence of time and space that stitches together the disparate geographies of my family–my younger daughter is a native New Yorker (the state and not the city). That again is a sort of coincidence, as we could have driven to the New Jersey hospital where my husband was born in half the time it took us to navigate the mountains, the bridge, the Hudson, the haunches of deer flashing bright in the headlights.
But are you from where you are born? Where you lived first? Last? Longest? I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’m from New York, no matter how long I live here. I’ll always feel like I am from somewhere emptier, flatter–even if I don’t know precisely where that is.
384 miles from my door in Madison to the house in Missouri that was also once home; I still remember that odometer count. How different those miles were from the miles I drive here. And maybe it is the memory of those miles–and of miles across Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, the states that have been, for decades, permanently between–that leaves me standing on a porch in suburban New York, comparing the sound of boxwood leaves to the noise a cornfield makes.