- Wednesday, January 21, 2009
It doesn't compute with my GPS system, which I affectionately refer to as Navigation Nora (I like to think of her as Dora the Explorer's less animated, more mechanically inclined sister). Nora doesn't understand how I could want to have two separate addresses listed under "home" in her memory banks.
There's the "home" I recently visited over the holidays in Kansas City, where I grew up and where my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, and my niece and nephew live. And there's the "home" in the Chicagoland area, where I've lived and worked and developed community over the past 15 years, pretty much my whole adult life.
The fact that 526 miles separate these two homes becomes extra evident about this time every year. I've just spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in KC, enjoying warm family togetherness, and now I'm back in my other home with a long stretch of dreary Chicago winter to weather without someone to wake me with coffee and hug me goodnight, without little people to dance with whenever there's music, without the people who've known me the longest and love me anyway.
While we certainly have our quirks and clashes, for the most part I've been blessed with a good, loving, supportive family. And round about this time of year, I wonder why on earth I live so far away from them.
See, I moved to the Chicago area right after college. Back then I was simply glad to finally have a chance to put my brand-spanking-new degree in magazine journalism to use. I really didn't care where that opportunity was located. I'd graduated in May and didn't start my Chicago-based job until the following January, so you can imagine my eagerness to ditch my retail job selling clothes at a Casual Corner in Des Moines, Iowa, and get the rest of my life and career started already.
The position at Today's Christian Woman magazine was my only offer in all those months of job searching. And I thought I'd struck gold, being able to combine my education, my skills, and my faith. So I moved full speed ahead, never looking back, never looking forward to what this move would mean 15 years down the road.
Of course, back then I figured I'd have a husband and kids by now. That next tier of family to call my own, and to help make my presence here in the Land of Lincoln (and a few shadier politicians) make more sense. It's one thing to live far from your family of origin because of your spouse and kids. That feels more justifiable, more biblical—in the leaving and cleaving sense. But for a job? That can seem shallow or materialistic or selfish.
I thought it weird to still be wrestling with these geography issues at my age, to be wrestling with them perhaps even more than I did ten years ago. With my parents looking at retirement, with my niece and nephew sometimes seeming like the closest thing I'll get to my own kids, the wrestling intensifies.
But when I had lunch with my friend Tanya one day shortly after the holidays I realized I'm not alone in these internal struggles. Tanya lives about eight miles from me, and most of her immediate family lives in California. She's done the shuttling back and forth over the holidays for years as well. And as we compared notes about our geography angst, she talked about other single friends who feel the same way.
As Tanya and I chatted, I brought up the fact that my dad went on a short-term mission trip while I was home. While my family joked that I was there to babysit my mom for the five days he was gone, I wondered if I'd be tempted to do that more seriously and long-term should, God forbid, anything ever happen to my dad.
I mentioned the little flutter dance of joy my heart did when Carson, my nephew, spotted me at the airport and yelped out my name. Next thing I knew, he and my parents had me in a bear hug. I had the same feeling the next day when my niece, Luci, burst through my folks' doors (she's a three-year-old force of nature), spotted me, cried "Cam," and soon had me pinned in a half-tackle, half-embrace. After 2008 kicked my butt, these laughing, dancing, exhausting little people were a shot of cheap therapy.
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