Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cheering for the home team is not so easy

There's an old English proverb that says, "Home is where you hang your hat." As someone who has lived in 10 different places during my married life, I understand that concept.

Still it's difficult for me to point to one place on a map and say, "That's home for me."

Never before has my sense of homelessness mattered, but now it does.

The upcoming National Championship game is between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Oregon Ducks, and I have one foot in each camp. As an Ohio native and resident until age 25, I feel torn between Ohio, my childhood home, and Oregon, my home since 1997.

We've been in Roseburg for 18 years now, and for my children it is the only home they've known. But their relatives are all back in Ohio. My kids have sweet memories of visits to Ohio in the summer ... catching fireflies in jars and camping in the woods of Mohican State Park.

I call myself an Oregonian, and I refer to Roseburg as my home, but I catch myself saying, "My friends back home" when I'm referring to our Ohio pals.

I thought I might find some clarity in literature and poetry. First I came upon Emily Dickinson who wrote "Where thou art, that is home." That would be Oregon. But then T.S. Eliot had to confuse things by writing "Home is where one starts from," which would be Ohio. Thank you, poets, for once again confusing matters.

My husband, an Ohio State University alumnus, has no such ambivalence. He is rabidly anticipating the upcoming game. This year, as every year, he wears his alumni colors proudly on his car, his sweatshirts, his baseball hats and pretty much anything that will sit still long enough for him to affix the Buckeye symbol on it. Our children were sung the Ohio State fight song as a lullaby. We even have a bottle opener that plays the fight song each time we use it.

I thought about choosing my allegiance based on the merit of the people living in each state, but that's a tough call. Both states are made up of strong, resilient people. The Oregon native is known for his independent spirit, seeing that many of his ancestors were the original pioneers who ventured here on the Oregon Trail. But put an Oregon Trail ancestor head-to-head with a survivor of an Ohio winter and, I have to tell you, it's going to be a toss-up.

In fact, I remember as a child seeing Ohioans proudly wearing T-shirts that read "I survived the blizzard of 1978" like they had run the Boston Marathon. Those Ohioans are proud of living through hellish winters, and they will tell you so - anytime, anywhere. Their weather is the stuff of legends, and they love to recount the time they couldn't open the screen door "for the 4 feet of snow blocking it."

As someone who has lived in both states, I can say the Oregon Trail and the Blizzard of '78 are equally impressive and took equal parts endurance.
So what am I to do?

As much as I love living in Oregon and proudly call it home, I have to say that marriage and heritage have to take precedence here. I have to be true to my Ohio roots.
Thomas Wolfe wrote a novel in 1940 titled "You Can't Go Home Again," and I guess that sentiment is true. But I plan on cheering for my home team Jan. 12, wearing my scarlet and gray proudly.

And truth be told, I don't want to actually move back to Ohio. Why? Have you HEARD how bad their winters are?

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com.

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