When I turned 18, I couldn’t wait to escape the confining, small-town life of rural Wyoming. I applied to college at a small liberal arts school in Minnesota – Gustavus Adolphus College – got accepted, and never turned back. Since then, I have married, followed my man out to his home state, Indiana, and lived in three other states, none of which is Wyoming. We are all over the map, in fact: Minnesota, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, and now the one most foreign to us: California. In the five years my husband and I have been married, we have endured five moves. One move per every year of our married life – that’s how it works out.
All of this transitioning and traversing across the country continues to beg a crucial question for me: What/Where is home?
It’s not a new question. It’s just that as life keeps happening, I revisit the question in many different ways.
This past week, I returned to a former home of Kansas City. Our dear friends there and the cold punch of a Midwest winter gave me all the welcome I needed to feel like I was in a cozy comfort zone. I thought of southern California, so many miles away, and my stomach knotted up. Save for the one gigantic family that my family is there right now, I didn’t want to go back. The thought of returning actually made me a little sick.
Why? I asked myself.
Because right now, California embodies everything unfamiliar to me. Nightmare traffic. Sunshine in December. So many languages spoken you hope your hairdresser speaks English. Plastic surgery. Christmas lights on palm trees and blow-up snowmen on sparkling green lawns.
Being in Kansas, I craved what was familiar. Longtime friends – the kinds you can share poop stories with. Peacoats. A basic knowledge of the layout of the city. A first snow.
Being there drudged up that huge and looming question once again: What, or where, is home? I missed my family fiercely in the week I was apart from them. My family – son, Will and husband, Bryan and dog, Gracie – is home. My gracious and compassionate friends – the Coles with a brand new baby boy, the Pranns, and the Macleods with a boy who just turned one – are home. And Wyoming, where I was born and raised and where my mom and dad have lived practically since it was declared a state – will always be home.
I was overwhelmed with a type of homesickness I have never experienced. I started to think, is it possible to be homesick for more than one place at once? The answer came easily. Of course.
*Stay tuned for Part 2, coming Tuesday, 12/20/11