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  • Writer's pictureTroy Ericson

Flying over South Bend

This past Monday I flew out of my hometown after attending my cousin’s wedding this weekend.

I watched out the window, my mind full of curiosity, as it still is every time I fly.

Most of the time, it’s just a blur. You take off, and then you pull out your phone.

But leaving your hometown is special.

South Bend, Indiana isn’t the most exciting place. But when you fly above the landmarks you recognize from your childhood, it can bring you to tears. Maybe you can relate?

We took off over the south side of the airport, and I saw my dad’s former workplace. He was a CPA there for a concrete mixing company. And in the summers I’d be in the office packing invoices into envelopes & mailing them out to the company’s customers.

Across the street was the concrete mixing plant, where I’d spent an entire semester working a maintenance job while I took time off from college to make my next move.

Then I saw the neighborhood near Notre Dame, where my dad took me to hundreds of Notre Dame basketball games as a kid - just like his father did for him. Those players were my heroes. I watched them, I met them often, and many knew me by name.

I never thought it was possible to be as big or as old as they were at that time. But here I am as an adult, now older than my heroes were, reminiscing on those times. And feeling proud that I went on to be a college athlete as well, just as I told them I’d be.

Then I saw the bridge my dad & I would take on Saturday mornings to go to the YMCA to play basketball or racquetball. Or swim lessons on Wednesday nights. It looked so new & modern compared to when I was a kid.

Then we turned west over downtown & I saw the minor league baseball stadium where I got to play a ton of games in high school. I really played well there.

And I ended up working there in the training facility during minor league games in the summers, while working closely under the former minor league manager that I’d admired my entire childhood.

Then I saw the train tracks that ran through downtown, and it brought back memories of my childhood & how I forced my mom to drive me to the train tracks whenever I heard a train coming. Trains were my absolute passion at that age, and I’m still a fan today.

My eyes followed the train tracks for awhile until they disappeared underneath the plane, into the corn fields. Then my eyes locked on my neighborhood. I couldn’t quite "see my house from here" but I could see the neighborhood.

Endless memories came up of growing up in the house, building legos, crying before bed time, riding bikes with my friends, and burying my pet fish in the backyard & marking the grave with a stone.

Then I saw the Studebaker test track. Studebaker was one of the major car companies in the 1800’s all the way through the 1960’s when it went out of business. My grandfather worked there before starting the family hardware store. The trees used to spell STUDEBAKER from above. Today, they’re just trees.

Then I saw my first high school, where I grew out of my shell for the first time in a public school… Made new friends… And flopped with the girls there.

But in particular, I saw the baseball field. I could even see the pitching mound. The exact place where I tore my UCL at the age of 16, requiring a Tommy John Surgery (elbow reconstruction) that would eventually end my baseball career at 23 and literally change my life by forcing me into entrepreneurship.

That was the hardest part. I was viewing the spot from 10,000 feet up, where my childhood began to end in 2012… And would eventually lead to my new life in 2020 when I went all-in on myself, changed lifestyles completely, met my best friends, and even my wife Julia.

I didn’t know it at the time, but it was for the best.

I almost shed a tear.

Then I looked north to see Lake Michigan, where my family would occasionally take a trip to the beach & sand dunes in the summer, which felt like a whole new world to me.

In the very distance, I could see Chicago. Where my great grandfather was a conductor on the South Shore Railway that ran from South Bend to Chicago. My grandfather used to tell me stories when I was young about how he rode at the front of the train with his father, and how much fun they had. And I remembered riding it once as a child.

That was the last memory I saw.

As we flew west, there were no more landmarks for me to recognize.

No more memories for me to shed a tear.

No more to see.

Just… farm land… Likely full of other peoples’ memories.

Maybe someone else on the flight was doing the same thing?

But that’s a story for someone else to tell.

So I pulled out my laptop to write my story… To document this day… To remember my childhood fondly, and everyone who was part of it.

I will remember this moment. I will reminisce on it.

And I will create similar memories for my children one day, in a different place.

- Troy "feeling poetic today" Ericson

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