Ernest Hemingway wrote about Michigan from a Paris cafe. He said he could only write about his home from a distance. Like a Seurat painting or--to put a more modern spin on it?--an HD TV, the picture is only clear after obtaining a certain distance.
We've spent the last year living in Minnesota. I didn't blog much in Minnesota. It's not that I gave up blogging or that I was more busy than usual (sure, I had a baby, but there's always something), I just didn't get to it. I never felt that I had anything to say. It's not that we had a bad year--our time in Minnesota was lovely. We made some wonderful friends whom I will miss a great deal. We spent lots and lots of time with Eric's family and our kids had the incredible blessing of living very close to grandparents. We got to see parts of the country we hadn't explored before. Eric's home is the Midwest--he grew up in Madison and went to college in St. Paul where his family now lives. It was very, very good to gain more familiarity with my husband's home but I found myself, for the first time, missing mine.
I was struck, in part, by the intense loyalty to their home that I saw in people from Minnesota and Wisconsin. I used to joke that my husband's family had a religious devotion to Wisconsin but I found that his family was far from unique. I was even more flabbergasted once winter came: these people endure weeks of sub zero weather and, for some reason, do not move away once its warm enough to go outside.
Joking aside, the turning point in the year was, I think, our trip to New England in October. We had a friend's wedding and a 50th Wedding Anniversary party to attend so we went for ten days. I grew up in a very small New England town and it had been years since I'd been home in the fall which is a famously glorious time to be in that part of the country. There were many moments of nostalgia, to be sure, but there was also an acute sense of being home. My knowledge of being from somewhere was deepened. Just a few days into that trip Eric got laid off over the phone and our life felt completely upside down. Our time in Minnesota felt all-the-more temporary.
Shortly after that trip I got an e-mail invitation to my 10th High School Reunion. It was sort of out-of-nowhere and when I mentioned it to my mom she casually mentioned that she'd gotten some mail for me on the subject but had tossed it assuming I'd have no interest. Not too long ago she would have been right but I suddenly realized that I was pretty disappointed to miss seeing my high school classmates. I was intensely curious about what had become of them all.
Eric landed his full-time teaching position in the winter and we ended up spending the second half of our year in Minnesota preparing to leave. While we still enjoyed family, friends, and the sub-zero weather our hearts were already looking forward to what would become our home. My sister convinced me not too long ago to get on Facebook to keep in touch with our adult cousins and I was suddenly connected--for, really, the first time in over ten years--with people I'd grown up with. There they were, other people from that small New England town, living their lives. Some are married, some have kids. Many of them still live in our hometown or very close by. And here we are, about to move to the city that my children, very likely, will know as home when they are grown.
It seems likely that we are finally settling for good and I am so grateful for that. I am also grateful that we will be living close enough to my hometown to easily go back and visit Grandma for a long weekend. But we'll be far enough--just far enough--to step back from my home and see it and, I hope, reflect a bit on the importance of place and roots and community and belonging.