Even though it has been 10.5 years, I still remember the first time I drove into Hastings with Ben. He was in the process of moving here to begin his first year of teaching and I was along for the ride as the relatively new but supportive girlfriend. I was 23, and about to start my second year of grad school in Lincoln. I don’t know why I remember that particular arrival so much, other than my soul must have been registering that this was the start of something big.
In 12 months’ time, we were married and living in Hastings, and I was the one about to embark on my first year of full-time teaching. I knew no one outside of work other than the people Ben knew through his work, but it didn’t take long for us to form a bond and routines with people who helped make this completely unknown place feel OK. Now most of you know, I’m from SoDak, so it’s not like I moved halfway around the world and had to adjust accordingly, but having grown up in the same house, in the same town my entire life, setting out as a married actual grown up in a town/state I had never expected to land was in fact a large adjustment.
It would be two full years of living here before Hastings registered as home. Before we had kids, B and I made trips to visit our parents all the time – monthly actually, I think, which seems wild to me now because currently we are lucky to all make it to those spots more than a couple/few times a year. So in the early years, going home meant going to see our folks. And while those places will always be home, it occurred to me one night in the fall of 2008, as I drove back into town after a long day of teaching and parent-teacher conferences in Palmer, NE (an hour away) that I was relieved to be in Hastings and I was in fact home. I can still remember in this case as well what the city looked like as I made my way toward our house that night; in hindsight, I wonder if my very being knew we were about to take another step toward home-building by learning that I was pregnant for the first time that same fall.
In the years of babies and an in-town move since, our attachment to this once-unkown place has grown. Of course it is not so much the town or the house that do that in terms of their physical presence, but the people and opportunities and connections we have made in our almost decade of married life here. We have people who ground us, support us, help us, and love us, here and away. And while we cannot know for sure what the future holds, I think both Ben and I stop on a pretty regular basis to survey the life we are leading to think, “Holy moly cow. We are blessed beyond words.”
That was certainly the case yesterday, anyway, when we returned from our very first overnight trip (to his parents’ house) as a family of six (yes, Trumy is 5 months old; yes, they only live 1.5 hours away; yes, that is lame on our part, but we’ve been thwarted by weather and illness or both on every other attempt). We had a great time seeing family and Truman turned out to be an awesome traveler (of course he did), which gives us great hope for future trips. Driving back into town this time was one of those “Man, I have four kids?! I have four kids!” moments, plus feelings of accomplishment, joy, and relief from our whirlwind trip.
So although home will always mean being with the people I love the most, I cannot help but recognize the work we’ve done and the gifts we’ve been given in making this current place our home.