A little over 10 years ago, I was antsy to pack up all of my belongings and move far, far away from Kansas. The busy, exciting city of Chicago was calling my name. I settled in to this new life without a hiccup. I loved everything about the noisy, fast-paced, windy city. In the afternoon I would hop on a bus or a train and get off somewhere different than before. There was so much to explore. So much to see. So much to eat!
While living in Chicago:
- I got married and instantly became a mom to five-year-old Stella.
- I graduated from college and entered graduate school.
- I found out I was pregnant with Lucy.
- I gave birth to the cutest, colicky little baby while learning Hebrew.
- I found out I was pregnant with Mabel, and graduated with a Master of Divinity.
Somewhere along the way, while I was busy doing all of these things, I started wanting to go home. It started slow. When I first got the itch, I was able to ignore it. I tucked it in the back of my mind like my stocking cap in the back of the closet after a long winter. I convinced myself I didn’t really want to go home, that I just thought that’s what I was supposed to want. I moved to Chicago for school, never with the intent of attaining a permanent address. Returning home just seemed like an appropriate next step after the degree was achieved. And then after the birth of a new baby. And then after the graduate degree was done.
Milestone after milestone, the feeling grew stronger. It wasn’t as simple as stuffing the stocking cap away for the summer. The itch turned into an ache which turned into a constant pain. Home was wooing me, calling me, demanding my return. I would go home for a visit, and I would feel like the opening scene of Gumby, when Gumby steps out of the clay and there’s a perfect Gumby sized hole, just waiting for Gumby to climb back in. It just felt right. A feeling of seamless belonging. It was a place I knew and was known.
For most of us, there is a place that we know like the back of our hand. It is the place that set the narrative of our lives. It is the place our feet first touched the ground, and our hands learned to explore. My legs wanted to be planted in that soil. They longed to be rooted deep into the land that was familiar from birth.
Wendell Berry writes a lot about place and the significance it has for our lives. He writes in Traveling at Home:
Even in a country you know by heart
it's hard to go the same way twice.
The life of the going changes.
The chances change and make a new way...
When I think about home, it’s a loaded thought. When I lived at home, someone else was in charge of cooking dinner, cleaning out the gutters and coordinating the schedule. Someone else was making sure that there was a roof to cover me, and heat to keep me warm. When I think about home, I feel safe and secure.
When I think about home, I think about the smells and the conversations and the play and it is all coated in a heavy dose of nostalgia. It was a time before responsibility and reality, loss and limitations, prejudice and pain.
The place that I long for, isn’t a place I can return to. I can’t go to the same place twice. It’s all different. It’s all changed. I have changed.
There’s no place like home.