If you are reading this article, you are likely scratching your head in puzzlement. But if you are a proud Des Moines native, you recognize these landmark institutions–and are likely salivating at your next meal.
Welcome home, Matt. Have a meal at one of your favorite restaurants (while doing your best to ignore the simmering family feud).
Home, as I have discovered, is a complex–even loaded–term. Over the past weekend, I returned home to Des Moines for a friend’s wedding. Reminiscing with longtime buddies, the wedding and the after-party were a blast. My buddies and I dug into the memory vault, exchanging incredulous looks (and laughs) at some of our more outrageous stories. My visit was the real life equivalent of a Prozac–without the medication’s numbing side effects.
But as much as I love my buddies and Des Moines (and am continually amazed at downtown DSM’s transformation), the concept of home is complex–and, in my case, became that much more complex when my mother passed away some six years ago. When Mama Loeb was alive, I would return to the stately Harwood Drive home whenever I could. As soon as I entered 5228’s friendly confines, Mom and I would chat at the kitchen table–regaling each other with stories of family quirks and neighborhood gossip (of course interspersed with good-natured teasing). Yes, Mom, I can still see you throwing away–literally tossing into the trash–one of my favorite vintage t-shirts as both of us chuckled.
Fast forward six years and how times have changed. Now instead of a Mama Loeb kiss, I am circling my childhood home, parking away from the driveway, and snapping photos of the childhood yard where my brothers and I competed for every inch of sod during neverending football games. Sadly, though, the yard will be as far as I get. The house is locked; my father must have changed the security code. And after his two plus year lawsuit against me (which could have been resolved with, I believe, a little compromise and conversation), I am in no mood to reach out to him. Yes, there is a sad acceptance that–maybe, just maybe–I won’t see my childhood bedroom again. Or the kitchen where my mother and I would gossip with smirking mischievousness.
As I said earlier, home is a complicated term. I love Des Moines; it is where I grew up. It is where I awkwardly shuffled to Homecoming dances; it is where I fumbled through my first kiss. It is where I learned how to hit a forehand–and it is where I stomped off after losing a state tournament match in a pique of frustration. Driving around town, the memories overflow–some insignificant, others amusing, all a part of me.
But, and this is probably my most important self-realization, the concept of home can and does change. And while I love Des Moines (if I haven’t stated that already), my romanticized notion of “home”–the Thanksgiving dinners overflowing with laughter and ping-pong battles with my ever-competitive brothers–are an increasingly distant memory. You see, returning to Des Moines is still a Homecoming of sorts–just one, sadly, without the matriarch that put the “home” in hometown.