I still remember the day I left home, the day I left for Arizona. I was on the threshold of adulthood at 19. It wasn’t particularly hard for me, when I packed up my Hyundai Accent, whom I appropriately nicknamed “Barney” due to it’s deep purple hue. I’d known since I was a little girl I’d leave my hometown of Salem, Oregon. It wasn’t my forever home, and maybe Arizona wasn’t, either, but I knew it’s where I needed to be. My boyfriend was my proverbial gateway drug in, the one who beckoned me into the valley of the sun. If we didn’t pan out, I would try everything I had in me to make it on my own before I’d potentially return to Oregon, with my tail between my legs.
I loved Arizona, with it’s sunshine and warmth. The people were in plenitude and everyone had their own agenda, just like I did. I didn’t mind the intense heat during the summer. I didn’t mind the way the back of my thighs stuck to Barney’s pleather seats or how I’d needed an accordion-style windshield cover to block out the sun. Even when the sun did it’s damage to the Beanie Baby beaver I kept on Barney’s dashboard, it didn’t matter much to me. I felt it came with the territory.
The boyfriend-turned-husband-turned ex a few years later joined the Air Force, and we received our first official orders for (drum roll please): Nebraska. I never imagined and couldn’t fathom Nebraska. Nebraska was a state I’d learned about in school, or heard referenced while watching Full House reruns. Becky (played by Lori Loughlin) wanted to go to Nebraska to visit family for the holidays, but Jessie (played by John Stamos) wanted to stay in sunny California, and who can blame him? Who in their right mind would want to go where it’s always snowing and always cold? I never thought *I* would someday become a Cornhusker by transplant. I wasn’t looking forward to the move.
Nebraska turned out to be a wonderful place. It’s where I’ve grown the most; my relationships by trial and error, the birth of my sons, the eventual progression from an awkward, fumbling 20-something to a more grown-up (albeit still fumbling) version of myself. Sure, the winters suck, but the ambiance and the people more than made up for it. I was barely in my 20’s when I moved to Nebraska, and here I am, 14 years later.
Here I am.
My parents live in Arizona. Dad always knew he, too, wouldn’t be an Oregonian forever. His dream had always been Tucson, so when he retired, that’s where he went. I think about giving my boys the opportunity of having a relationship with their grandparents. I had that experience as a child, and it’s still a cherished memory of mine.
It’s been a transitional year for me, one of reflection and honesty. As much as I value the friendships I’ve made in Nebraska, I feel as though it’s time for me to move forward in my life. For years I’ve stayed in one place because of the many catalysts surrounding me. I’ve wanted to do the right thing, not to rock the boat or make waves for myself or anyone else. In the process, there’s been no evolution.
So far, leaving Nebraska has been too easy, from a tactical standpoint. My husband found a great job, (in one day). We found a rental home close to great schools and a great neighborhood. Selling our home was our biggest concern, yet it sold within 4 hours. Just when we feel like we’re up against a gigantic hurdle, there is no hurdle.
Well, unless you count the surmounting sadness of leaving the wonderful people we’ve grown up with and become very attached to over the years.
Nebraska has been my home. I’ll miss my morning encounters with various wildlife creatures during an impromptu run; watching the seasons turn, waiting for the flowers to finally open up after what’s felt like an impossibly long winter; meeting up with friends for play dates at one house or the other; Vala’s pumpkin patch and the little apple orchard we visited every year since the 10-year old was a preschooler; the Early Childhood Center; all of the memories, good and bad, that I will hold onto and treasure and never forget.
In a little over a week, we’ll be on the road. Barney is long gone, I’m afraid, replaced by my husband’s Toyota Camry, which has no nickname but a very impressive bell on the dashboard (a story for another day). In a way, I’m returning to a place I never really had much time to get to know. My life is so different now, much different than it had been when I was just a young girl, wanting to find a place for herself in perpetual sunshine. Even though I’m up for the adventures that are in store for me and for my family, I will never forget where I came from, or the state that took me in during a time in my life when I needed the most guidance. I will never forget you, Nebraska.