I started writing this after the first good night’s sleep back in our house in Minneapolis while the cross-country drive was fresh on our minds and the familiarity of home felt like a warm embrace.
It was warm that week – the kind of warm that made one believe true spring had actually arrived early this year. With the first gasp of weather in the 60s and even 70s, Minnesotans were out in force and in shorts running around the lakes and biking the trails.
Life has intervened in the past month – boxes have intervened – and since then I’ve experienced the ups and downs of spring in the land of the north coast. Blustery winds that chatter teeth then produce overcast skies – day after day – and actually lead to rain.
And so the initial glow of return has become more like life itself. A lot of hard work resulting in satisfying outcomes mixed with intermittent flashes of joy at reunions with old friends and family
Ah yes – we are home.
When I was a kid, home was the house where my mother and father lived and the town where I grew up. It was Mansfield, Ohio.
That sense of “home” continued through college in North Carolina and persisted through life in four cities, three states, marriage, and children.
When we went home, it meant going to my childhood home in Mansfield.
But the magnetic pull of “home” that brought us back from a happy adventure in California was not the pull of Ohio. It was from the city where we have built the bulk of our adult relationships. Home is where we raised our children within a supportive and expansive village of help and care. Home for us is no longer defined by the location of our extended family, as our relatives are spread across the country and around the globe – some in places we will never again return to visit.
Home for us is now Minneapolis. It took that move to Southern California, the land of perpetual sunlight, warm breezes and palm trees, for me to realize what only my bones truly knew.
We came to Minnesota twenty-five years ago – newcomers by some standards. I was convinced we would only stay for a year or two because there was no reason to believe otherwise.
Instead it became a life.
We lucked in to renting a house in Linden Hills, a sweet neighborhood tucked between two of the city’s lakes that has become a tony enclave. Although we arrived in December – a very cold December at that - we were greeted with the warmth that makes Linden Hills so very special. It started with two little girls ringing the doorbell.
“Do you have any kids?” they asked.
At the sound of those voices, our two children ran towards the door shouting, “Yes, we’re here!” And lifelong relationships were begun.
A day or so later, there was another ring of the bell.
“Hi – since you’ve just moved in you probably know where your potato masher is,” said a warmly wrapped woman from across the street.
Indeed I did, and offered it up for her use at her holiday family gathering.
Another lifelong friendship began.
That first summer sealed our connection to the neighborhood, with children roaming between yards, always featuring a ready and watching mother on a stoop, and a weekly porch gathering to celebrate the continued health of our kids and our neighborhood.
Within ten months, we purchased the house on the corner across the street and that has been our home ever since. But I didn’t think of it as “home” until recently.
Yes – despite the Polar-Vortex-Horror-Inducing-Winter-of-2014, we found ourselves missing the warmth of Minnesota.
Don’t get me wrong. We have made some wonderful friends in Southern California, and there are amazing cultural aspects to life in LA. But it’s not home.
Despite access to the Pacific, we missed the lakes. We missed the well-groomed and easy public access to our natural resources in Minnesota. We missed the vibrant restaurant scene that’s remarkably adventuresome. And we missed the accessible arts community that percolates and launches great performances in music, theater, and literature.
We missed the well-earned confidence of Minnesotans in politics as the art of getting things done. People participate in government here because – despite arguing over size and scope – governing in Minnesota is recognized as a valuable service to a higher quality of life.
Mostly, though, we missed our community of friends. We missed the easy camaraderie of those who helped us raise our children through sports at the parks and school plays and performances. We missed the friends who bring potluck hot dish at the drop of a hat whenever there’s a call to gather. We missed the deep relationships that only come through years of shared experiences – including winters – that strengthen bonds of understanding.
And so we’ve come home to Minneapolis where the faces and smiles are warmly familiar and each season has a distinctive character.
We also now know that there are warm wonderful faces waiting in California, and already have plans to run away to the sun and warmth of the left coast when its time for respite from bitter and brutal weather on the north coast.