My in-laws say that after you live in a place and then move on, you look back to find that time sort of just collapses in on itself.
I came home with all my boys, back to Joplin, where I grew up from third grade on to my early twenties when we moved away. There, it’s so true. Time has collapsed into milliseconds, and I barely remember anything. I’d forgotten that I actually lived there, that I loved there as much as I longed to move away.
I stood in my bathroom, and remembered that I got ready for school there every morning. I sat on a stool in the kitchen and remembered afternoon snacks and dinners, remembered what I want to take with me from those countertops, and what I have already recreated for myself in my own kitchen.
We came back to post tornado streets, still treeless. We came home to new shops and the same restaurants, to places moved up and down and all around, but somehow, it’s all still home.
I stood and looked at the I Am Joplin mural, my almost-two-years-old Isaiah sprawled across my left hip. I remembered that I Am Joplin, too, still, after the tornado, 7 years after being married, 4 years after becoming a mother. I scanned those faces and I remembered, a flood of life and friends and spaces and homes that molded me.
I wrote in Part One of this series that going home is about taking what home has made for us and given us, and re-creating that for ourselves, for our own futures.
This is my truth.
We celebrated Anna’s birthday, this beautiful teenager of a girl who loves her siblings and her parents, who knows that family is something holy and something that you hang on to for your whole life. I watched her blow out the candles and said thanks for these people who have always loved me, too, who have always held onto me in my best and worst places.
You find family inside of yourself, for better or for worse. The question is what you do with it.
I drove home from a dinner date with my best friend, and as I looked at the town I grew up in, I wanted to take pictures of everything. The ditch lilies, the Pentecostal church parking lot, the rusted fence beside that field, the stop sign that leads to the street where my parents still live.
All of this is a deep home, in the places that formed me, and now I am a woman, and I take those pieces with me.
I spent an evening with my sister, and we talked about the church, about having children, about everything that is good and hard in our lives. We’ve been separated by a few states, but being with her gave some life back to me.
We drove away from Joplin, an hour and a half south to our next stop, and we were tired and happy. We were thankful for every interaction, what it reminded us of, what it brought out of us, what it gave us for our future.
Going home is memory, tangible truth, the reality that blood runs deep and pretty wide.