Jeremy Menning in Providence, Rhode Island

Cornfield Playgrounds

The cornfield I grew up playing in is gone. On a recent visit to my hometown, I looked into the early morning sunrise over a street of designer brick ranches. While walking through the development that replaced my childhood playground, I thought to myself, This isn't a street. This is supposed to be the alley where I learned to ride my bicycle, the alley that leads into a familiar old cornfield. At the corner of that street stands the brick ranch my parents built three decades earlier.

My mind lulled back to the houses standing before me, This is no longer home.

I moved away from Columbus four years ago. Ever since, that thought has been threatening to wrap its arms around me. Torn between yesterday and tomorrow, I've fought it and I've embraced it.

For 25 years Columbus, Indiana, was everything I'd known. My mother and father were there. Both of my sisters were there. My grandparents, my friends, and my schools.

On the day I left, time running short, I had to finish my goodbyes internally as I was driving away from this place. This place I've always known, no longer recognize, and may never see again.

My wife-to-be, Rhiana, comforted me as much as she could. "You're not supposed to be this upset on your birthday. I won't allow it." She was visibly concerned for me and the heartache I was experiencing.

I smiled at her as the tears began to collect in my tired eyes.

Everyone succumbs to a moment such as this. Some are unaffected, some oblivious, some never leave, and some reach out and touch "home" one last time before they say goodbye.

I had just finished reaching out my last time. As I realized this, the collected tears started to pour.

Rhiana and I arrived in Providence a few days after the fond farewell to my cornfield playgrounds.

We were excited to be back. Excited to be home. It seemed so peaceful and familiar. Our "starter home" isn't fancy, but it's ours and we love it. The welcoming visions of our own living space and warm oak walls were comforting. Cozy wood floors and our own bed to sleep in. Ah, yes, it was good to be home. Well, almost. In the kitchen, Rhiana looked at me standing motionless in front of the refrigerator. "It's empty."

We were also excited to be back to our bouncing babies. Buca and Kayla are our four- and seven-year-old rescued Labrador Retrievers. Buca weighs in at 50 pounds and sports a long sleek shiny black coat. He loves the water and has a taste for chewing fine slippers. Kayla is a land lab. She was obviously trained for use in the field. She is a 70-pound stick of pure good that we refer to as our "chocolate sweetness." It was good to be home with our dogs. And not five minutes back in the house, they were engulfed in the very same sentiment. They both curled snuggly on the couch as if not a moment had passed.

In the days following our arrival from Columbus, Rhiana and I got back to our norm, and I found myself looking away from my past and toward our future.

Our future, as in our future wedding.

For 29 years, I've been concerned with me. What I do, when I do it, how I do it, why I do it. Now I must intertwine my concerns with those of another person.

People ask me if I'm nervous about becoming a married man. I answer, "Why would I be nervous?"

They recite statistics about the failure of the modern-day marriage. I am in banking, a man of numbers, but in my head these rationales sound like "Blah blah blah."

I know the trend, but I don't buy it. I believe marriage is unrelated to numbers and rates. I believe it's a matter of the heart -- how much it can change and still be the same.

Much like my cornfield playgrounds changed and, in my heart, will always be the same.


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