When you decided to fly from your nest, it can get quite lonely when you realize most your family and friends are back where you grew up. You miss out on a lot. You miss the traditional holidays and family cookouts but you’re also missing so much more. You miss out on the driveway bonfires with fireworks shooting off in the distance. You miss out on the announcement of your big brother’s first baby and then the birth. You miss the first steps you niece takes on the stage. You miss the Sunday dinners with your Grandma thrusting her fist in the air over some random thing that annoyed her. You miss the political debates. You miss the way your car would bounce through the potholes that fill the old Highway that stretched between your house and your best friend’s house. You miss hugs from Dad, deep talks with Mom, and the laughs that grew up giving you comfort.
You miss all these little things you didn’t even realize you would miss, until you’re gone.
Coming from a big family, it’s easy to feel like I miss out on lots of events, milestones and celebrations almost every day. So, each time I’m lucky enough to board that plane and head back to small town Minnesota, my heart is so full and ready to burst.
My first time back to Minnesota this year was a double celebration. Not only was I going back to see my family and friends who I hadn’t seen in six months but, one of my best friends and first friend in college was finally tying the knot with the love of her life (Who also happened to be a friend since Kindergarten!).
It was a perfect weekend in June; the Minnesota summer had outdone itself once again. Fluffy white clouds polka dotted the bright blue sky that lay above my head. I closed my eyes for a moment and let time whisk away. For a moment, it was 2008. I was starting my first semester of college, unsure about the world yet completely sure at the same time. I was certain on what life would become and whom I wanted in my life. It’s amazing how much you believe you know when you are in High School and College. I met this blonde haired girl the first night of college who seemed cool. She was quiet compared to my best friend Carly and I, although she was also sober. She hung around while we danced and sang and proved to be complete fools. I was surprised when the next day came around and she was still there, willing to hang out again. From that day forward, we spent every day of freshman year together. We hung out in the dorms, studied, ate pizza, blacked out, laughed, cried and everything in between. We shared a love for Dave Matthews Band and spent the summer following the band from city to city. Without realizing it, in one semester we had created a friendship that would withstand school transfers, moving of cities, becoming roommates and moving cross-country. When she called me to tell me about her engagement I was so happy, I danced around, telling all the random people line-waiting with me and showing them her ring despite them not caring in the world. I didn’t care. One of my best friends was getting married. When she visited me in Seattle a month later and asked me to stand beside her on her wedding day, tears flooded my eyes.
I opened my eyes and was back in 2016. It had been eight years since we met but felt like only a month had passed. Suddenly, here we were ready for her to say ‘I do’ and start a new chapter in her life. Her wedding was one of the most beautiful I’ve been to. We danced the night away, celebrating love as best as any and eventually ended the night with the most nostalgic sleepover.
The second time I got to come home was just a few weeks later- July. But, this time, I got to stay an entire week, which lit up my soul. This time around I was able to show Dave the beauty of the North Shore as we celebrated another best friend’s wedding. She was the one I clung to when I found myself alone in Minneapolis, trying to make up life as I went. We quickly became inseparable at school with our other roommates. We were so in love with our life we never wanted it to end. She was my support system from home during my semester abroad, and there for me when my heart was crumbled upon my return. Now it was my turn to stand beside her as she married the man of her dreams. Their wedding was set on the shores of Lake Superior. The lake glistened behind the alter, the sun shined her light down on us and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as her new husband pledged his undying love and commitment to her and her son. Again, we danced the night away, stealing the dance floor while belting our songs from our college years and choosing to measure time with love.
Being home for a second time this summer made me the happiest lady in the land. It was my hometown’s festival, I got to fulfill some auntie duties and watch my nephew place baseball, I got to golf with my Mom and have picnic’s and wine in the park with my closest friends. And, most importantly I was again able to spend time with my family. The goodbyes this time were harder than before. My heart longed to stay one more week, one more day. I wanted to hold onto these moments forever. I wasn’t prepared to go back to my own reality but instead wanted to stay surrounded by the ones I love most. Still, as always, time keeps moving and so do we. I was back on the plane just as quickly as I exited it.
Surrounded by friends that I’ve known since Kindergarten, friends I met in college and my family I had never felt so at home. Minnesota wins my heart again and again. Each visit it gets harder and harder to say goodbye. There never fails to be tears flooding my eyes and my heart silently breaking as I sneak in one last hug to my parents before turning away quickly so they don’t see the sadness all over my face.
Being at home is everything. There is nothing that compares to the love only family and the friends you chose as family can give you.
Perhaps, if I never left I wouldn’t even appreciate home the same way. Sometimes it takes leaving to remember why you loved it. It takes loving a new city and leaving your heart all over to realize that nothing quite compares to where your home is. Nothing in this world grounds me quite like being home. Home is truly where your heart is and where your love remains.
“I always wonder why birds choose to stay in the same spot when they can fly anywhere on earth. Then I ask myself the same question.”