Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Filling in the Blank

I hesitated, my hands
hovering over the keyboard,
as I filled out the form.

Hometown, it asked.

I did the same mental
dance that I've done for
over 25 years when faced
with this question.

And then I left it blank.

As I've mentioned before,
I attended nine schools
in my life, not counting 
college, due to various
moves, mainly for my
dad's career.

In November of eighth grade,
I also started my eighth school, 
in a little border town in 
northern Minnesota.
Tall, gawky, shy and fairly
fed up with being 

the new girl,


I nervously climbed the
stairs and crossed the
threshold of yet another
unfamiliar school building.

I expected to feel awkward.
I expected to feel alone.
All the normal things that
you experience as a kid 
when you start anew.

What I didn't expect was
to be greeted with such an
outpouring of interest.

In me.

And kindness.

The girls that I met thought 
I had an accent, coming from 
Oregon, and asked me to repeat
How Now, Brown Cow
many times, always laughing
when I obliged.

I laughed, too.

And even though I wasn't
able to chime in when talk
turned to elementary school
memories, I absolutely loved
living in a small town.

That said, when I graduated
from high school, I couldn't
wait to burst out into the
world, seeking new vistas
and new experiences.

So off I flew, secure in the
knowledge that I would be
returning from the big city to
my hometown for Christmas.

Where are you from?

I'm from International Falls.

Really?  Isn't that the coldest
place in the continental U.S.?
The one on the Canadian border?

Why yes, it is.

I have to admit, I enjoyed
this hometown notoriety 
amongst my university peers : )

Little did I know that when I
returned to our beige brick
house for spring break my 
freshman year, it would be for 
the last time, as my dad 
had accepted a transfer,
beginning in June.

I stayed at college that 
summer, taking classes
and working.

My parents moved five
more times with Dad's
job before retiring in the
Pacific Northwest.

As I myself moved, from
college to working girl,
wife to mother, state to
state, the question,

Where are you from?

No longer seemed so 
clear cut.

I-well-we moved a lot
with my dad's job.....

I'm not really from anywhere,

I'd say with a wistful smile.

That's been the standard
reply, for years and years.

Fast-forward to last week,
when I decided to create
a personal Facebook page.

As friend requests from
high school classmates pinged
my in-box, I felt the same
outpouring of affection that
I did that cold November
week in The Falls, when
I was the new girl.

Although I'm neither new
nor a girl anymore, but a
middle-aged woman, my
heart lit up at their kind
and welcoming words.

Over the years, when I thought
back to former classmates, a
word seemed to attach itself
to each of them.

Laughing eyes

As I lingered over pictures
on their Facebook pages, it was
evident those characteristics
were all still there.  And even
though I now know what they
look like all grown up, in my
mind's eye when I think of
Berta or Stacy, Brenda or
Taunya, it's still their maiden 
names and their girl's faces 
that I envision.

But I know that behind
the smiles, and the laughing
eyes and the warm faces,
there are both joyous and sad
moments that I cannot see.

Because that's life.

However, cloaked in experience,
they seemed even more beautiful
to me then when we first met,
so many years ago.

That's when it struck me.

Those six years my family's 
story was woven into the
bigger story of that little 
mill town were truly the 
most formative ones of
my childhood.

My son in I. Falls, 2005

So, five days after joining
Facebook, you can
guess what I filled in
for Hometown ~

on the screen,

and in my heart.

Where is your



Taunya said...

As one of the other "new girls" from International Falls, I can so relate to this! Beautifully written, my Facebook and Hometown Friend!

Lisa @ Shine Your Light said...

How sweet that you reconnected with friends on Facebook, Suzanne. So happy for you, that it brought about such a warm feeling of home for you! It must have been hard to constantly be the new girl, then make friends and have to leave them, but also how interesting to have lived all over the place and have all those experiences with your family. Sometimes I wish we had spread our wings more and lived elsewhere… we are talking about someday when we retire, experiencing living in a different part of the country. What a rich tapestry of a childhood you had!

Shelly W. said...

My husband's family moved three times while he was in high school, and the fact that he had to attend three different high schools really marked him as a person. It explains why we have never moved--we've kept our girls in the same schools and the same church with the same friends for their entire lives. It was an intentional choice on our part (thankfully agreed to by God), and we're happy for it. Now, though, that our nest will soon be empty, we're praying for a new adventure, hopefully somewhere warmer. :)

My in-laws live near Bemidji, somewhere between Walker and Cass Lake. That's a LONG way north!

Alicia said...

we never moved anywhere when i was growing up. my parents still live in the same home i grew up in. deciding to move to NC from SD was hard, because jarrod's background is exactly like mine. we didn't know if it was right. and now that we're here and we're pretty sure we're moving again, we're still not sure. BUT i think our kids will be ok. i'm hoping that what we're experiencing here and there will make up for short roots. but i am praying that our next move will come with some longer roots :)

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

So lovely, Suzanne! As a girl who moved all the time, too, I consider my hometown to be where I attended junior high and high was so formative in my being. My husband and I ended up moving back there years later and we're still here! You will love all the connections you make on FB...I've reconnected with cousins I haven't seen in 30-40 years! And my parents keep contact with their grandchildren scattered over the country! XO my friend!

patty said...

sweet, miss suzanne. i moved one time growing up, into a house my father built and where they still live, when i was 5 years old. i helped drag timber to my dad as he built it. it was in the same small town where my dad grew up, a small mountain town in the catskills of ny. it's part of the northern appalachian mtns. now, after moving every 1-3 years in my married life, we call this small southern appalachian town in tennessee home.

i'm off to find you on Facebook. ;)

patty said...

ok. so i don't know your last name to find you on fb! {i did determine from pintrest it begins with 'w'.}
i'm patty monroe christopher. ;)

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

This is what I say:

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California.

But I grew up in Massachusetts.

I live in Minneapolis

and wherever else God moves my spirit.

Transitions are difficult, but sure help you develop a view on not just your life, but that of others. There is no place like home, wherever you are!! Anita

Jill Hinson said...

This is just one of the many reasons I felt so comfortable with you right from the start - someone who shares my experience with moving around so much as a child! I definitely always find myself explaining where I am from! I am from so many one really 'home'. And isn't it funny that both of our transient parents chose to make their retirement home in the PNW?

Hindsfeet said...

Oh Girly, I can *so* relate to these feelings......I always figured I was from the Island of the Misfit Toys, as that's about how I've felt, most of my life. Even now... family moved a lot too...a lot of upheaval, a lot of left turns at stay in any one place so ephemeral that "Belonging" never had a chance to sink in....

...I suppose the place I felt most at home, even though I was born in San Diego, was Richmond,Virginia. That place just felt like a warm blanket around me from day one of my twelve years spent there.....

I returned to California on Christmas day, a couple of months ago, and have been experiencing nothing less than *mourning* for my Virginia.....I hope to return for good one day.... the mean time, thanks for the perspective and the permission slip to call Richmond, Virginia my "Hometown"....That's been a blank spot for me too, for far too long....

much love m'dear,

Jemsmom said...

Wonderful post!!! I am originally from Nashville. Heck, I lived there for 14 years, but my hometown is Sparta, Tennessee. It is where all my family lived and where I went with my dad after my parents' divorce. Sometimes I think we harken back to those high school years as they are filled with so many memories!

Did you really have to pick the coldest place?!? :-)

Sandy at You May Be Wandering said...

Suzanne, Your words are lovely as write so beautifully.

I also moved a lot as a child and for years hometown was where I went to high school. I have lived in the same place now for twenty years (longest time ever by about five times) so like it or not, I call my hometown, Greenwich, Connecticut.


NanaDiana said...

Suzanne, What a beautiful, poignant post. You put your heart and soul into this one. I grew up in the same place but my kids moved with us many, many times. We lived in 15 different houses- 12 of them when the kids were living at home. I think I have one more move left in me. I wonder which house they associate with home- xo Diana

elizabeth said...

I loved this post! I lived in the same house in the same little town until the day I left for college. Quite a different experience than yours. What a rare and beautiful experience to have those girls, now women, reach out to you like they did. Lovely.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

As you know, I recently did a similar post about this a few weeks ago - I got so many responses and emails to it, that I hope to have a follow up post. I am fascinated as to where my kids will call home/hometown. Intl Falls sounds like a wonderful place. We always dream of small town living :) And you look so much like your son in that photo!

Leslie said...

Hi Suzanne! Wow! That's a lot of moving around. There is goodness to be had regardless of the path we take. Having deep roots .. or being able to pick up and go .. and make new friends along the way. I think home can be anywhere .. whenever your heart would like it to be!


Sandi~A Cottage Muse said...

Love visiting and reading what you are sharing from your heart!

Jeanie said...

I'm one of those people who has always lived here in Lansing (or East Lansing). It's home. Although, my cousins and I always call the cottage up north our "ancestral home." For them, it really made a difference, for like you, they moved frequently. But the cottage was always there.

susan@avintagefarmwife said...

My goodness, you poor thing, it must have been very, very, hard to move so many times. I'm glad that you can now confidently claim a hometown! I can just imagine the lessons you learned along the way. Thanks for sharing! I bet your words were just what someone needed to hear.

Stitchfork said...

Pittsburgh - and after living many different places, we ended up back in the 'burgh. Isn't it great to reconnect with friends?! Last weekend I saw a good college friend for the first time face-to-face in 27 years. But thru FB I've kept up with all her adventures and now grandchildren!

Tricia said...

I can't imagine what it must have been like for you to have moved around so much during your life, since I've always lived in the same town. I think the choice of your hometown sounds like the right one...a place filled with some wonderful, accepting people. xo

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Thanks for stopping by dear friend, and yes, I do know why......

I took the plunge and it feels good.


Kris Olestad Johnson said...

I loved your Blog about our hometown. After confirming your friend request on Facebook, it got me thinking that you were the one that trained me as the "Mail Girl" in the mill. It was at the end of the summer before our senior year. I can remember the smells and the drips and dark short-cuts. You look exactly the same as I remember !

Palomasea said...

A beautifully written post, dear Suzanne!! I have yet to drive farther than Duluth, but someday! ;)
Your family is very courageous to move so many times...and I know how difficult this is for the children. Makes us more flexible, resilient, open, I think.
And how wonderful that you are re-connecting with your high school girlfriends!!
Brought tears to my eyes to read this...I was kind of in the same situation...I guess my home town is inside of's the collective memories of each place that helped shape me into who I am now, and who I'm becoming...
Love to you,
- Irina

Katherine said...

Funny reading your words as I often say I'm from no where really. My father was in the Air Force so we moved lots throughout my childhood. My roots now seem to have found a home finally after forty plus years, here on the south coast of England :-)

Carmen said...

You sound a bit like me when I talk about Scotland. I'm not Scottish but my Dad's job had us moving there when I was 6. We moved back to England when I was 16 (again because of my Dad's job) but in my heart of hearts I'm Scottish now. I miss it so much.

Popping by to say hello from Jo's (Fiddlesnips) blog. Actually came to see what Happify was all about and started nosing through the rest of your posts :)


I am so grateful that you had those six years and found loving friends.

And, welcome to facebook.