When the plane my father and I were traveling in from New York City to Des Moines, Iowa touched down, my life was about to change.
My uncle, my father's youngest brother, was there to greet us, and to drive us to where he lived in a small town called Fairfield. When I visited Fairfield, Iowa that first time in 1968, I never imagined the future of this small town of around 9,400. in southeast Iowa. Nor did I realize the connection I would have with Iowa for the next few years.
I wish I had pictures, but I haven't been there since 2003, and may not return for a long time. But, allow me to visit by traveling through time and space....
My uncle was a college professor, my aunt a stay at home Mom.
My relatives lived on an elm tree-lined main street - except it was in the process of losing these trees, as they were dying of Dutch Elm disease. But, the experience of hearing trees being chopped down daily didn't ruin what else I was experiencing. I was plunged from an urban world of just me and my father to a boisterous family of five (my cousins were ten, eight and four when I arrived) plus a male exchange student staying with them.
I loved that small town. I loved walking on the tree lined streets and visiting the Carnegie library up the street.
I saw a picture online, and was amazed - I believe my young cousins took piano lessons in this house.
When I visited next, in 1976, the college my uncle taught at had closed, and then had reopened under new management (more on that in a minute). I lived in Fairfield with my family for two months, while my spouse underwent military basic training. I remember walking almost daily to the library, still in the Carnegie building, and nighttime trips with my cousins, by now all teenagers, to the local ice cream stand.
My uncle was working out of town by then. The marriage to my aunt did not survive. Eventually, both moved away from Fairfield - my uncle to Illinois, my aunt to Iowa City, where her job moved her.
Still, many happy memories remain of the days I spent with them in Fairfield. Days, in a way, of carefree youth. And heartbreak, as I came to realize that my cousins, once grown, barely remembered me and the days I spent with them. Those days still seem fresh in my memory. Another life lesson learned.
I've been on this town square many times, the most recently in 1995, when I took my then young son for a visit.
And now about the college.
The college (well, the buildings) my uncle had taught in was purchased by followers of the late spiritual leader Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and became Maharishi University. Townspeople were split between the traditional residents and the meditating students and faculty of the University. The townspeople didn't quite know what to think of these students, especially after they built a dome where levitation was said to regularly take place.
I ate, with aunt and cousins, in one of their food halls several times; I still remember how good the fresh butter tasted. Real food!
In writing this post, I found (searching online) the University (now the Maharishi University of Management), is still alive and well. And the people the townspeople once called "meditators" have changed Fairfield forever.
Near Fairfield is Maharishi Vedic City. Fairfield, now, is a way different place than what I remember in 1968.
International food. An art colony. Meditation. The place to be in Iowa if you are interested in starting up a business. Forbes Magazine has even written about Fairfield several times.
Never underestimate Iowa.
And, although I haven't been back since 2003, I have been feeling Iowa calling. Perhaps one day...
"I" day for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.