Saturday, September 08, 2007

...and his lovely wife

I've been reading Connie Schultz's book about her campaign adventures with her husband, Sherrod Brown. I felt a kinship with Connie. Like her, I was a divorced single mother for many years, who remarried in her mid-forties to the love of her life. I'm a member of the United Church of Christ. She's close to my age. She's a feminist who believes that women ought to have choices, even a choice to stay at home. So am I. I'm a Democrat, and I voted for Senator Brown. We're both Ohioans.

There are a few differences between us, though. I will never be a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist. I will never be a politician's wife, although I sympathize with the anonymity she discovered once they hit the campaign trail.

I found her book very enlightening, entertaining, and touching. Stories about her mother and father and how they shaped her life were sprinkled throughout the book, and she talked about the values they helped develop and that she shares with Senator Brown.

I took exception to one paragraph in the book, though. She was discussing her childhood in Ashtabula, Ohio. She said "Small towns seem to grow two kinds of kids: those who can't imagine leaving, and those who can't imagine staying. I was the latter...It was the land of limitations to me, the place where the big dreams of childhood were crushed under the weight of grow-up life. As in most small towns, many of the kids in my high school were afraid to leave. I was afraid not to. "

Ms. Shultz missed a third kind of kid - kids like me. Kids like Dorothy Gale, who dreamed of travelling over the rainbow, and actually did it. They went to Oz, had a lot of adventures, and made new friends along the way. The whole time though, they knew: There's no place like home. That's what happened to me - I've lived in Manhattan, I've lived in Spain, I've lived in Detroit. I was successful in those places, and made lots of friends. One thing I learned, people are pretty much the same all over, and it's the people you meet and the people you seek out that make a big difference in your life. But there's no place like home. Home is where my family is, and home is where my traditions are.

(It might help to sing a few bars now of Buffy St. Marie's I'm gonna be a country girl again...)

I've wandered in the hearts of men looking for the sign
But here I might learn happiness, I might learn peace of mind
The one who taught my lessons was the soft winds through the pine
And I'm gonna be a country girl again

Oh yes I'm gonna be a country girl again
With an old brown dog and a big front porch
And rabbits in a pen
I tell you, all the lights on Broadway
Don't amount to an acre of green,
And I'm gonna be a country girl again

I know people like Ms. Schultz - most of my friends from high school are now all over the globe. They're scattered to Kentucky, Maine, Texas, California, Venezuela, and Japan. I have a close relative in Florida who took off for Puerto Rico while in her twenties and won't come back, even though it might be to her advantage. My own sister has travelled from Texas to California to Detroit to Pennsylvania to New Mexico. At least she's come back to Ohio, albeit it's Columbus.

I also know people like the other ones she described - those who never left home, maybe because of fear. I remember one friend from an even smaller town telling me - "at least you got out. I'll never get out." She was referring to the fact that I had moved 7 miles away! I can't imagine what she thought was trapping her in her small town. Money? The rents aren't all that different. Family? I don't know all the circumstances, but I can't imagine that her family was keeping her from moving to the next town.

I have lamented the "brain drain" out of this part of Ohio for a long time - since I realized my friends weren't coming back. There aren't enough career-enhancing jobs here to keep our best and brightest here. Even now, when we look for potential employees at work, we have to advertise in Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo and further afield to get candidates. The available qualified people have left town. The ones who are working here are afraid to take big risky career moves, just because of the lack of other opportunities here. We have great quality of life here, and the cost of living is one of the lowest in the US. We have no traffic jams, and we're just a smidge over an hour away from cultural opportunities in Columbus and Cleveland. (I spent an hour and a half commuting every single day when I lived in Manhattan...) So it's mostly the career opportunities.

So, Sherrod, I hope you are working on improving the employment opportunities here in North Central Ohio for our best and brightest kids! I hope you are working on improving the education of those kids so they can succeed here when we do get those jobs back. I know you're working on it - I googled this quote from the American Chronicle:

Even Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said that in his state, which struggles with high unemployment, business owners have told him "they just could not find the engineers or computer scientists they needed to run their business." Of course their answer appears to be: "Just put a Want Ad in the New Delhi Times"and we'll get plenty of response."

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