Libby is a jack of all trades, master of… well, you know how the saying goes. Media consultant by day, mommy by night, you can usually find her with a glass of wine in hand, provided the kids are in bed!
My bags were packed; the car was loaded; the directions – obtained via a map from our local AAA office – were on the dashboard. The four most transformative years of my life were mere moments away; I was headed off to college, and I sure as heck wasn’t coming home.
I’m from Cleveland, Ohio; my parents are from Cleveland, Ohio; my grandparents – all four of them – were from Cleveland, Ohio. When my great-grandparents stepped off the boat in New York – one set coming from Wales, the other from jolly old England – they headed straight for the rust belt, straight for Cleveland, Ohio. I have roots here, but at 18 years old, those roots didn’t matter. They didn’t matter four years later when, after graduating from college, I stayed as far away from my birthplace as I could. And even when I started a family in my late 20s, I still didn’t see any reason to come home.
And then something changed. I found myself reading the local newspaper – The Cleveland Plain Dealer – even though I lived hundreds of miles away; I started cheering for the local sports teams – the Browns, Indians, and Cavs – even though they were all mired in decades-long slumps; I found what others might consider superfluous reasons to visit my family and friends who still lived in Northeastern Ohio on a more regular basis. Then one day, somewhat out of the blue, I told my mother – who still lives in the house I grew up in – that we (at this point my husband, myself, and our two young children) were coming home; I hadn’t even discussed this with my husband. I just knew my time away from my hometown had come to an end. I didn’t just want to go home; I needed to go home.
Understanding Lebron James
When LeBron James announced his Decision 2.0 a few weeks ago, I knew exactly where he was coming from – literally. I know the area he grew up in (not a great part of Akron, Ohio); I knew where he’d gone to school (a friend of mine was his 12th grade English teacher, his second year out of college); I knew the home he still kept in Bath Township (literally a stone’s throw from where I live now).
But I identified with King James on a deeper level, too. I knew what it was like to grow up in a part of the country that outsiders consistently look down upon. I knew what it was like to take advantage of the first big opportunity to get away, and to look back on that place that had given you life – and so much support – with nothing but scorn. I knew what it was like to vow that I was never coming home.
And, perhaps more than anything, I knew what it was like to realize that the very same place I couldn’t wait to leave was also the place I couldn’t wait to return.
LeBron is right: in Cleveland, we work hard for everything we have. We endure long, cold, miserable winters, just for an opportunity to bask in the sun. This summer, the sun started shining a little brighter. This winter won’t be so unbearable. We’ve recaptured a little bit of Heat from South Beach.
Our prodigal son – like so many of this city’s sons as daughters, myself included – has come home.