It’s August and it’s humid, as August in Indiana typically is. Wherever you go, your shirt sticks to your back, the AC hits you with the force of an arctic blast and focusing in class is a little more impossible than it already was.
I’ve never minded the heat and humidity of August very much. I kinda love it, actually. I appreciate the intense warmth on my skin, the eerie haze of the afternoon sky and days filled with the sirens of cicadas reminding you just how hot and endless a summer day can feel.
And I like endlessness a whole lot.
Most of my summers were spent in Fishers, Indiana — my rich, white hometown in the suburbs of Indianapolis — and they were filled with my little kid ignorance. I chased fireflies. I stomped in the creek behind my house. I played with my forever best friend, who lived five houses down from me, loving every day spent with her.
But — maybe most importantly — I went off with my family and saw what felt like the whole world.
We went to the Grand Canyon, the Badlands, the Black Hills, Shenandoah, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Antietam, Gettysburg — the list goes and goes. Those trips were some of the best moments of my life.
But so was coming home.
We’d enter the narrow, popcorn-walled entryway just off the garage that leads into our earth-toned kitchen and that smell would hit me — that home smell, unique to each house, but invoking the same feeling in each person. That smell that causes an exhale of relief, an exhale of happiness, an exhale of, “I’m glad we did that, but I’m glad to be here again.”
I remember when my mom used to say, “Love you. Need you. Glad you’re here. Always come home,” every evening before bed. That last little part was always my favorite.
Always come home.
Saying goodnight to Mom and Dad eventually evolved into “See you in the morning,” because some irrational part of myself really believed that everyone would just be gone by the crack of dawn. That I wouldn’t feel someone’s hand gently tap my shoulder, signaling to me that it’s time to wake up. That I’d walk downstairs at 6 a.m. to an empty sunroom, where we ate breakfast. That I’d peer into the living room and see no Dad watching the news for weather, traffic and overnight updates.
It's ironic now that I’m the one who isn’t there every morning, yet I feared everyone being gone the most. Or maybe that’s just growing up.
I just know I don’t always wanna come home anymore.
Just writing about this kills me. My head is swimming in disjointed memories. My throat is heavy; it’s hard to swallow. My eyes well with tears and have the trademark oh-she’s-about-to-sob donut glaze to them. I had to leave the newsroom just to walk it all off.
It’s like in “The Polar Express” when the main kid gets the bell and, over time, no one else can hear it ring anymore because they stopped believing in Santa Claus. I wish I could say I was like the main kid, always hearing the bell ring, always believing.
But I think I may be like everyone else, actually. Because I can’t hear the bell anymore. When I walked through that cavernous door into our kitchen after being away this summer, I didn’t smell… it.
That home smell.
When I came home from Europe in March, it didn’t hit me. When I came home from Cincinnati after the Taylor Swift concert in July, it didn’t hit me. When I came home from Michigan in August, it didn’t hit me. It didn’t hit me, it didn’t hit me, it didn’t HIT ME. This was one of the wildest years of my life and my home had the audacity to not share that with me. I felt like it was saying, “Oh, Ellie. I don’t care that you’re home. I have nothing left to give you.”
Maybe that’s true. And maybe I should just accept it.
I guess I just miss when my time in Fishers — at home — felt as endless as summer does. But my mom left her hometown. My dad did, too. And I never planned on staying, yet I somehow never thought my time there would end, either.
Actually saying goodbye feels much harder than the hypothetical goodbyes you dream up when you’re younger. Maybe that’s a big ol’ “duh” — I don’t know. But coming home to Fishers isn’t what it used to be, and I’m guessing I’ll never see its glory days again.
The goal of this column — which will last the semester — is to keep swimming through my head full of memories. I have a lot to say about my hometown of Fishers — good and bad. Some of it you may already (and unfortunately) know from national headlines. But I think I’m trying to say goodbye, and my head is just ahead of my heart.
We’ll just have to see.
Ellie Albin (she/her) is a senior studying journalism with a minor in environmental & sustainability studies and a certificate in rock ‘n’ roll music history.