Summer time in my small-ish, childhood hometown is my most favorite time and place to be in this particular season. To the rest of the world, I’ll be honest, it probably doesn’t look like much. It’s tiny and there’s not much to do from city line to city line. When it’s 4-H season, it smells like cow, pig, chicken and sheep manure something fierce. There are too many potholes and confusing one-way streets. But this place, with all of its imperfect (sometimes smelly) glory, will always be home.
This place is my comfort, but I also feel a strong pull to step away from all that I’ve ever known so my family and I can truly grow from what we’re about to face in the unknown. We are leaving this place, and that brings a certain heaviness which leaves my stomach in something that resembles an advanced Scout rope knot. There’s a fear of being too secluded in all of the uncertainty and unforeseen that, at times, I’m sure the newness might just swallow me whole. But there is so much more out there than what these 20 miles worth of midwestern streets and cornfields could ever bring.
I’ve lived here in my childhood hometown my entire life. This entire city is soaked in familiarity. There are friends who would be there if and when I needed them in an instant. There’s family who I would give my own life for, and they for me as well, and there’s places I already know I’ll long to visit on a day-to-day basis after I’ve packed up and left.
But if I want to teach my kids to branch out and stand on their own two feet in the way that I so desire, then I must lead by example. However, that doesn’t mean that leaving this place, just packing up and going with nothing but my family, instincts, memories and belongings isn’t terrifying. Because it is. But in an anxious-excited kind of a way too.
I’m leaving this place, and although it is exactly that — a place — every piece of me is going to miss it.
I’ll miss driving past the log cabin country home and remembering the many days spent there from sun up to sun down with friends. I’ll miss the memories that flood back to me around Christmas when I’m in the downtown square. Thoughts of a time when I believed in all things Santa, and him, his reindeer, and Mrs. Claus never missed a single visit.
It’ll be a bummer that I won’t get to run into my childhood friend’s mom at the deli, only to find out her daughter is about to graduate with some seriously impressive doctoral degree. I’ll feel nostalgic for the local pizzeria’s thick crust pizza, and I’ll even miss this town’s crappy excuse for a street fair which is my guilty pleasure that I attend each and every year.
This place, my childhood hometown, is nowhere near perfect. It’s not some well sought after wonderland. Among all of its greatness, this place is the destination of my first broken heart. The one I’m so grateful was trampled on to this day, but swore I would never recover from way back then. Here is where some near and dear loved ones are buried who I said goodbye to on some super dreary Friday mornings. This is the place where I’ve loved and I’ve lost. It’s a place with broken pieces as well as so many mended and wholesome ones too. It is and will always be home. For me, and now for my kids for the short time being as well too.
But we are leaving my childhood hometown behind us while knowing that there is a new place for our family to call home that lies ahead of us. In this new place, we will carry our already-broken bits with us. But we also will have a clean canvas that’s ours to do with as we’re willing. Our new pieces will be ours to make a home of, accidentally break, purposefully mend and find meaning in once more.
I don’t know all of the details of my family’s near future. I’m not sure what color our next house will be, I don’t even know if it will be a house or an apartment, and I’m uncertain how I’m going to do it all in such an unfamiliar territory. To state the obvious, we are going to be taking a serious leap of faith in every way.
All I know is that change is inevitable. In all aspects of life. And it’s only those with an unwillingness to conform who are left stunted instead of growing. For us, this is what I feel we need to evolve.
But much like the heart has the capacity to love more than one person at once, I hope it possesses enough volume to call more than one place home at one. Because I believe that whenever someone mentions the city I came from, I will always remember those simpler days spent on the fairgrounds with a Lemon Shake-Up in hand in my childhood hometown.
At the same time, I hope there is space for a new place to call home, and I hope it’s anywhere that my family and I are together.